To which I replied, "I'm not coming back."
To which he gave me a blank, "whatever" sort of stare. "Serious la..."
I replied, "Seriously, the person that will be climbing down the mountain won't be the same person that climbed up."
I've known for some time now that travelling changes you like little else can. Yet somehow, it still catches me by surprise every time I travel and change, grow, and stretch myself a little bit more.
Someone once wrote that "no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within."
The past five days in KK have done just that.
I climbed to the peak of Mount Kinabalu, the burden of my backpack weighing down on me, carrying also the burden of past mistakes, people who have hurt me, and things I needed to let go of.
I trudged through pelting rain and cold winds, knowing that as cold and miserable as the rain was it would wash away the dust and dirt of everyday life and leave things fresh and new again.
I watched the landscape and weather change as we trekked through dense tropical jungle, through rocky, temperate hills, and finally, over massive bare granite slabs, as I thought about how the landscape of my soul has changed as I journeyed through different seasons in life.
I battled with my mind telling me, "you can't make it", to push through the last few stages of the climb, where the peak felt so close and yet so incredibly far. I fought with my heart against giving up on hope, love, and second chances that felt so close and yet at the same time, so impossible for someone like me.
I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to do the very last things I wanted to do, things that scared the crap out of me, like ice cold showers and being vulnerable.
I depended on others - to guide me, support me, encourage me, inspire me, motivate me, walk beside me, and tell me that it's okay and I'd make it through when I doubted myself.
I let go. Of expectations, of things that weighed me down, of excuses, of the fear of things changing.
I embraced the change.
Five days away, and I came back a different person - skin a little tanner, legs a little more sore, one more item checked off my bucket list.
But beyond that, I've come home a little bit more satisfied, a little bit stronger, and a little bit braver.
I conquered not just a physical mountain, but also intimidating mountains in my soul. And I've learned not so much that I'm stronger than I think I am, but that I have a Source of strength I can draw from that is more than enough to compensate for my fears, my weaknesses, and my doubt.
I've learned that journeys are meant to be shared, and that it's okay to need others. I've learned that I can say, "I don't know if I can do this," and not be judged or criticised for it, that there are plenty of generous people willing to lend a helping hand or an encouraging word, and that travelling is a lot more fun in good company.
I've been reminded that although this journey through life is often difficult, long, and arduous... it is also so heart-breakingly beautiful. And no matter what discouragement or setbacks you may face, everything is worth it for the moments that come and steal your breath away along the way.
I'm learning to live a little bit deeper within myself. To chase after my goals and dreams, even if I'm not sure I have what it takes to reach them. To always stay open. To hope, to life, to love, to change... to new beginnings.