Allison, a dear friend of mine/avid traveler/fantastic mother, wrote a guest blog about her adventures in Nepal pre-kids. If you’d like to read about her laugh-out-loud adventures post-kids, visit her witty and hilarious blog.
So I did the 5 year plan in college. At a time when my peers were focused on getting by and getting out, I was biding my time. Namely, I knew that the concept of the semester abroad, would never present itself to me again. So I did 3.
This is when I went to Nepal and my mind was blown. It was 1995 and I was 19. It wasn’t my first trip overseas, but this was my first encounter with a world apart. I knew I wasn’t in my proverbial Kansas anymore on my first day in Kathmandu when both of my shoes were stolen, right off my feet. I had to buy them back. One at a time. The left one cost me more. Ho.Ly.Cow.
I spent 2.5 months in Nepal, most of the time in remote villages and even more remote mountain passes as we hiked up to the first base camp of Kanchenjunga. I remember each day thinking that I had to burn it into my memory because it was likely to be the best day of my entire life. Each morning that I woke up in Nepal I had to pinch myself. I was really in the Himalayas. The first time I caught site of Mt. Everest I felt like I had stepped into a storybook. It’s one of those places you hear about, but never actually see. Akin to Neverland, Middle Earth and Atlantis as far as I was concerned. And there it was in front of me.
As a hiker, I was of course wearing the very best leather hiking boots which provided me the best possible foot and ankle support and protection for the elements. These boots were often the center of attention for locals. I’d be huffing my way up an incline, left completely in the dust by the Sherpa who was actually carrying all of my stuff (who, incidentally, wore flip flops). People would stop and tell me helpfully that if I took the weights off of my feet it would be easier to walk.
A day’s hike would involve the most spectacular views I could ever imagine and encounters with curious and friendly people – mostly giggling children who liked to follow me, then scatter if I looked directly at them. Sometimes we’d happen upon a shop. When I say the middle of nowhere, I mean it. Not like the middle of nowheres you can get in this country. This is THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. Everything in the shop was carried in on someone’s back. And you can get a glass bottle of Coke or Fanta. I always opted for Fanta and as I drank the warm, orange, sugary treat I marveled at the idea of someone strapping a basket full of these glass bottles onto his forehead and carrying it over miles and miles of rugged, mountainous terrain. Amazing. And more than a little humbling.
Aside from the views and the mere idea of being in such an exotic place, I was struck constantly by the friendly people we encountered. These people were incredible to see. Old men and women whose faces were impossibly criss-crossed with creases and lines, with the brightest smiling eyes shining through. Children’s smiling faces and sheer wonder at my clothes, hair, silly boots. Men and women carrying gargantuan loads in hand-woven baskets on their backs, strapped across their foreheads. All barefoot or in flip flops. The villages and homes and schools – not a single straight line to be discerned in any of the buildings, which all looked on the brink of collapse. The only access a scraggly walking trail. Miles and miles (which means days and days of walking) from any sort of convenience or hospital. But the people were so warm and kind and generous. All I wanted was to help them in some way. But I had no way.
It’s been 15 years I still think of my trip to Nepal as a highlight of my life. I’m so happy I went. My life now is complicated by being a grown up and having kids. I can’t pick up and spend a few months having a life altering adventure anymore. Lucky for me my awesome friend can and does. I’ve travelled fairly extensively since my Nepal trip: Thailand, Kenya and Tanzania, all over Europe, Australia and New Zealand. I’ve lived abroad. And still nothing is like Nepal. There is magic there at the top of the world. And if you haven’t been, go. Just go.