I’ve become an avid podcast listener. I’m not sure if this is a side-effect of getting older, or a repercussion of my move to the Silicon Valley, but I’m constantly listening. I listen when I drive to work, when I’m going on an evening walk and even when I’m getting ready for bed.

I’ve now accelerated my ageing and have subscribed to Oprah’s Super Soulful Conversations. As much as listening to this podcast makes me feel like a middle-aged housewife, I actually really love and relate to the topics.

Sometimes, I relate a little too much.

A guest recently came on the show and spoke about his experience surviving the 2004 tsunami. Now some of you reading may know this already but I, too, am a survivor. I don’t talk about it much to anyone really, mostly because I find it hard for anyone to be able to empathize. When I do open up about it to someone, I sometimes see nonchalance in the listener’s eyes; this is fair, because how can I expect anyone to truly understand how traumatic a near-death experience is?

I listened to the guest explain the same sequence of events that are burned so deep in my memory—the rush of the first wave, the confusion and chaos that sprung up right after, the sheer terror after realizing a second wave is rapidly approaching, the feeling of literally running for my life through waist-deep water, the overwhelming dread that my life may end this very instant…

Big, blotchy tears started to blur my vision; I paused the podcast, unable to listen to the rest of it. I turned off my car and sat in silence, unable to move.

The lucid memories from that day all bubbled back to the forefront of my thoughts, and to this day, it is hard to look back on December 26th, 2004 without overwhelming emotion.

Survivor’s guilt is real.

It’s still very difficult for me to comprehend why my family, who was on the beach and sprinting to higher ground while the second wave was crashing on the shore, survived but 250,000 people lost their lives that day. “Luck” can’t even describe our fate that day. It is very easy to start questioning why you deserved to survive…even while writing this, I need to stop myself from going down that dark and convoluted hole.

The only “scars” I have from that day are mental ones: a reoccurring dream of a gargantuan wave crashing over me and a sporadic fear of the ocean. However, I essentially survived unscathed.

Seeing the prospect of death so tangible and immediate probably has influenced how I appraise my time now. I have yet to go back to Sri Lanka, and return to the beach that has a slew of memories, both positive and negative. However, I do hope that one day I can finally make that transition from feeling survivor’s guilt to embracing survivor’s gratitude.

Finding Freedom on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro has never been a life-long dream of mine. I think the idea sprouted in my mind only back in April. I spent a few weeks convincing my friend, found a tour operator and voila, we were scheduled to climb Africa's tallest mountain in 3 months. 

But on summit night, when my hiking guide asked me how badly I wanted to achieve my goal of summiting the 19,341 ft volcano, I felt as if I've wanted to climb Kilimanjaro my whole life. Each day that passed by on the trail, I became more and more obsessed with the image of us standing by the lopsided sign, above the clouds, and on top of the (African) world.

Our amazing crew who encouraged us with their smiles, stories, singing and dancing made me want to make them proud more than anything. I wanted to do this for my parents and closest friends to show them what I can achieve with their support. I wanted to make myself proud.

We started our summit attempt at 12 am June 29th under the most beautiful full moon. After trying to chew down 2 biscuits, we turned our headlamps on and started our 3 mile uphill trek with 4,000 ft of vertical gain. In the sub-freezing night, my fingers were screaming from the pain, my legs felt incredibly heavy and my nose lost all feeling. I felt my mental clarity withering fast as I saw several hikers being assisted back down to base camp with their guides. All I wanted to do was lie down and fall asleep. Since my phone (and therefore, music) could not work in such cold temperatures, I had to keep sane and awake by counting my steps and repeating to myself "I can do it I can do it I can do it". 

Step. Step. Step. Breathe. "I can do it I can do it". Repeat. 

As I saw the first orange rays of the sun appear over the African horizon 6 hours into our trek, I couldn't help but feel hopeful. No matter how long it took, I will reach Uhuru ("Freedom") Peak. No matter how mentally challenging climbing up to Stella Point would be, I would keep moving forward to get to that summit. There was no option to turn around and quit. 

10.5 hours later, I found myself crying uncontrollably as I took my final steps to Mt. Kilimanjaro's summit. I was crying because I was oxygen deprived and delirious...and also overwhelmed with every emotion possible. I remember feeling the purest form of joy I've ever experienced. I can never forget the euphoric feeling that I had done it. If it was even possible, I felt an elevated sense of joy once I saw my friend, who is one of the strongest people I know, make it to the summit with me. 

My moment on top of Africa was short-lived. After 10 minutes we had to get down to a lower elevation immediately. Despite the 7 hour downhill journey, I was on a high the entire time. My mind could not process much at this elevation, but I could register that I achieved a feat that I could have never dreamed of achieving a few years ago. Determination is power. 

For once, I felt like I was living up to my name's meaning; I feel limitless. 

A Night in a Treehouse

So it's been a while. I'm not going to go into details, but there's no real good reason for why I haven't written for a few months. I typically write when I feel compelled to do so, and I guess there was no itch to type about my life for a while. It doesn't mean I've  just been sitting on the couch watching TV for 2 months...or maybe it does (#jk, I haven't watched TV in years). 


The last few months have felt like a lifetime. I watched TWO college friends get married,  backpacked 40 miles with my best crew through Catalina,  took my family skiing, and spent a night in a tree-house in the woods. 


That last event actually was a surprise. I got on a plane, landed in Seattle with no idea where the weekend would take me, and ended the night in a tree-house suspended in the Canadian pine trees, feeling like I'm in a fairy-tale. Actually scratch that. I felt like I was in a perfectly staged Instagram post (the modern day fairy-tale book).



 I don't think I've ever been speechless until that day. Spending the night enclosed in a little capsule under the canopy of trees and stars was an experience I could never dream of having. I'm used to sleeping under trees and stars, but that's called camping...this was a whole other level. On top of that, we were the only ones in the area that night, so there was this unusual sense of peace. We spent the morning waking up with the sun, eating pastries, and hearing the birds get on with their morning routine.


I felt like a Buddhist monk at one point, walking among these ancient trees and forest critters. I started thinking like a Buddhist monk too, but we won't get into that...but I will share a quote on a rock that was placed on a nearby walking trail: "In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks". 


I'm not sure why, but I felt compelled to share a snippet of this experience. It was magic in its most tangible form, and I hope as many people as possible get the chance to have that. 


Credit to: My travel partner, who knows how to plan a pretty good surprise.