Life after school; a time to reflect on twelve years of friendships; made and lost, of hard work and unquestionable bouts of procrastination, and what felt like prolonged drudgery in those last remaining months. High school is a truly memorable stepping stone in the paths of our lives; it helps shape who we are.
So wouldn’t we want to celebrate our past dedications and achievements, 12 years of our lives, with something merely more than “YEAHHHH let’s get pissed dude!”
‘Leavers’ and’ Schoolies’ originally started in the 70’s, and ever since has become almost a rite of passage for Aussie adolescents. Excessive binge drinking, a blurred count of vodka and lemon lime shots, and the forced thought of ‘I’m having great fun!’ when you wake up the next morning. Repeat times five.
There are better ways to celebrate the beginning of freedom and a life of your choosing; ways in which you will actually remember.
In late November I travelled to Nepal with a group of seven other schoolies. We trekked and traversed our way over mountainous terrain, volunteered our physical strength and love to a remote school in the village of Dhampus, and were lucky enough to fly over the Himalayas- an experience that actually touches the soul.
We did this with an organisation called World Youth Adventures; a company that offers truly unique experiences in different destinations around the world- a rewarding alternative to more traditional schoolies.
One of my many favourite moments; the final day trek to Ghandruk:
Upon walking up to a grassy ledge above Dhampus camp, we watched the shades of the mountains turn from black silhouettes to dappled misty greys; the rising sun a ginormous ball of pink light. The scattered huts and rice paddies etched into the mountainside slowly became clearer. Dhampus awed us with its raw beauty.
The first section of the trek was through lush jungle, off the beaten path and up quite an incline! We were a bit worried the terrain was going to be like that for the next few hours, however eventually we reached the top of the mountain and were welcomed by a seat at a teahouse with a clear view of the Himalayas; Mount Pistol and South Annapurna. They were always moving in and out of our sight along the trek.
From here it was down and up stone steps. You had to remind yourself to look up every now and then to fully acknowledge and appreciate the view, pinching yourself that you were trekking in the Nepal mountainside. After our legs had almost turned to jelly from an infinite amount of steps up and down mountains, we walked along a flat dusty road for about an hour; seeing other trekkers and taking in the village of Landruk; local Nepali kids playing volleyball in their schoolyard and women beating millet (a harvested grain) outside their homes, a true atmospheric embodiment of a community.
We stopped for lunch further across in Landruk, down below a teahouse we perched ourselves on the grass, the chefs and porters utilising village huts and the open space to cook up their magic. The mountainside view we were blessed with was absolutely astonishing. We grabbed a bench chair and perched it on the edge of the slope, our feet lying underneath on the grass. We had a clothesline of patterned Soris and sheets over our heads, looking out into the haze of the mountains. The rice paddies and small local villages outlined in the distance.
Indra, one of our humble Nepali guides, served us pineapple cordial and for lunch a chapatti with small sliced sausages, vegetables and a bean mix with hot potato chips on the side; a mix of Nepalese and western cuisine. Safe to say we never went hungry! Also some of the best meals I’ve eaten. *Note: popcorn and soup together work wonders (this is no trickery!).
In the distance we could see the village that we needed to trek to for arrival at camp; Ghandruk. It was sitting above us on the opposite mountain, at a much higher altitude and a good length away. We were a little overwhelmed by what we had to accomplish in the next few hours; a knee wobbling descend and an intimidating incline, yet we hadn’t realised the great distance we had already achieved.
This experience really does make you grow as a person. And the amazing thing is you grow with other people, making lifelong friendships through some of the greatest moments you’ve ever shared. I’m visiting two of the girls who are from Byron Bay in the upcoming months; after only a few days of meeting each other we were already planning our next adventure! We couldn’t wait to be reunited with such like-minded souls.
I have become so grateful for the places I've grown up in around Western Australia and come to not only appreciate, but love the simple things in life; after all, those are what truly what make us happy.
This is a mere snippet of my schoolies experience. And I think it was done right.
I hope that after reading this, more people can open themselves up to these kinds of opportunities; celebrate schoolies the right way. It doesn’t have to be climbing a mountain either!