NYAA Outdoor Appreciation : Ladakh 2019!

In the summer of ’19, I went to Ladakh – a beautiful region in North India – for my Grade 9 Expedition, and also for my NYAA Outdoor Appreciation trip. My trip was around 19 days long, and it was a really hard trip. I learnt a lot from that trip, and I feel like that trip changed me for the better.

My research question for this trip was “How do the residents of Ladakh sustain their culture for their future generations?”. After my trip to Ladakh, I realised that Ladakh is not that Westernised, it still follows its traditions, therefore allowing the younger generations of Ladakh to learn and follow them. The school which we visited in Ladakh, Lamdon school, is an English medium school, but the teachers and students all communicate in Ladakhi. The students also have a mini monastery in their school, which is almost like a mini heritage of Buddha. These things will allow the younger generations to embrace their culture and carry it forward to future generations.

Before going on this trip, I was very excited, and I thought that I would find this trip really fun and easy, but I was wrong. There were lots of things that I found easy and fun in Ladakh, such as socialising with the students of Dover and the students of Lamdon School. I also found it easy to get used to Ladakh and not get that homesick, mainly because of the beautiful scenery in Ladakh. But despite all of that, I found the most important thing of the trip hard, trekking. Trekking was the main activity we did during our trip and I found it really hard. I think the main reasons for that was because I didn’t train enough for the trekking. I also fell sick during my trip, so that made trekking pretty hard for me as I was very tired and sick during the trekking.

Despite being sick during the trekking, I still continued to trek, I never gave up. During the trekking, I went at a slow pace and took lots of breaks, but I never said “I can’t do this”  and that was because I knew I could do it. One of the members of Snow Leopard told me: “Every step you take brings you closer to your destination, even if you take a break after every 10 steps.”. After hearing this, I realised that I should never give up, and I should stay resilient, or else I would never get to where I wanted to. During the trip, I became so much more resilient, and I think that my resilience is the skill that I developed the most. Usually, if I end up not being able to do something, I would immediately give up and not try, but since coming back from my Ladakh trip, I became much more resilient and I still try to do things I find hard instead of simply just giving up.

On our second last day of trekking, we had a reflection session, where we sat by a rock formation and just spent some time to reflect on our trip. In our reflection, we had to write about our thoughts, and I wrote: “I’m so happy and proud that I managed to finish the hardest parts of this trek without dying, but more importantly, I’m really happy that I figured out I’m stronger than I think.”. This is definitely my biggest learning from Ladakh. Learning that I’m stronger than I think has given me a sense of confidence, and now I know that I can do anything as long as I am determined since I have the strength to do it.

“You can achieve anything, as long as you have a good attitude.”. One of the teachers on our trip told us this during our group discussions, and this became one of my mottos during the trip. Despite finding the treks hard, I still managed to finish them. This was all due to my resilience and my good attitude. I always tried to stay as positive as possible, and it really helped me to finish my treks and prevented me from giving up.

In Ladakh, I also did so many skills that I haven’t done that much before, for example, I took initiative to start an advanced group for the students in our trip. I told Amy, our Outdoor-Ed teacher, that I was finding the trekking hard, so I asked her whether we could form a group of students who left earlier and travelled at a slower pace than the rest. This helped a lot of the students on our trip as many students found the trekking hard, so they joined the advanced group.

Since coming back from Ladakh, I’ve started to appreciate the small things that I have in life, such as 100% Oxygen in Singapore; the exposure to other cultures that I get by living here in Singapore; the connectivity to all places in Singapore; schooling; clean water, and many more. During my trip, I realised that if one of these were taken away from me, I would be able to live such an easy and convenient life. The main reason for this realisation is because Ladakh’s Oxygen levels are much lower than that of Singapore’s. Due to the low oxygen levels, I found it hard to do little everyday things, such as walking, packing, and even eating. I would need to take small ‘breathing breaks’ every minute or so while I’m doing these activities due to the lack of Oxygen.

To conclude this reflection, here is a list of my main learnings from this trip:

  1. I am strong, I have the power to do anything.
  2. With a good attitude, one will be able to lead a good life.
  3. Every step you takes brings you closer to your destination, wherever that may be.

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