Written By Mindy
Doing a bit of throwback to finish up Nepal. While Chris has been good and getting posts up in a prompt matter, it has taken me a bit to catch up. (Hopefully I can do so eventually!)
Over the last 10 years of moving around pretty constantly, I found out that I can really feel at home anywhere. While I definitely like some places more than others, Denver has always felt more me than California and I am definitely more Californian than East Coaster, for the most part every place I visit I could find a way to live there.
It’s happened on the trip as well. I felt very comfortable at Lake Malawi, loved the quietness of the Andes in Ecuador, and absolutely could have moved in at the Charles Darwin Tortoise Research Center in the Galapagos. The only place that was a definite pass was Panama City and even then if it hadn’t been for the heat/humidity, who knows.
However, nothing prepared me for how quickly and deeply I would fall in love with Nepal or how right we both would feel there. While this is definitely a cliche, Nepal was us and if it wasn’t for Chris’ practicalness, I think we would be living in a little mountain town called Kagbeni and helping young monks in training learn to speak English.
Chris and I are obviously not the only ones who feel this way. There are probably (maybe?) 200,000 western foreigners living in Nepal and maybe a million more that visit each year. (These may not sound like very large numbers but Nepal is tiny.) It was almost comical how often we would run into older couples and have them tell us how this was their 20th+ visit to Nepal and how they come every year because they just can’t stay away. Nepal definitely has its share of downfalls, poverty is a serious issue and the relaxed pace of life becomes very frustrating when you are trying to do things like mail a package or plan ahead, but overall, for whatever reason, it is a place that made us feel welcome and just plain good, something that was a great relief to us after being away from home for so long.
I keep looking back and trying to figure out what it was that touched me and I am guessing most other people who visit, so much. The simple answer is that the Himalayas are majestic in an unparalleled way, the people are incredibly warm and absolutely charming, and it’s got a lovely pace of life, that is a true relief after living in places where “I am so busy” is a sign of status. There is also an underlying endurance and steadiness that I think comes from living and surviving in such a harsh place for centuries and a tranquility that seems to permeate the culture as a result of their spirituality. Both were things I felt and while I can’t exactly explain them, it gave me a level of peace I haven’t found in any other place.
As Chris mentioned in an earlier post, we spent most of our time in Nepal walking. We try to take long walks everywhere we go as it is really the best way to experience a place but this was the first time where we just walked for weeks on end, through towns, the countryside, and everything in between and all I can say is it was beautiful.
Walking gives you a chance to see and feel things you would completely miss if you were just driving by. It also gives you a chance to absorb them instead of just rushing off to the next thing. You can start to feel and take on the energy that flows through a place, whether it’s the craziness of Kathmandu or the simple joy of sitting in the sunshine in a village. You also often get the opportunity to be a part of place as well as just an observer. We walked beside Monks as they went out to collect alms, chatted with children as they headed to school (and by chatted I mean answered what is our name over and over again as most only knew a few sentences inEnglish), and even got to experience a bit of Diwali as children went around and sang for candy.
Since we did the Annapurna Circuit, which has been the most trekked place in Nepal, it was very much a tourist loop, especially on the first side. This definitely had its pluses, as we had access to many services, met lots of other travelers, and had a variety of food, but also had its downfalls as we met lots of other travelers, had to contend with the road, and definitely missed a lot of the actual culture of Nepal.
The second side was definitely more meaningful (even if we did have to say goodbye to some great friends) as we spent most of our time on side paths, walking along farms and through tiny towns, and we were often on our own as most backpackers take a bus or plane down. One of the greatest experiences for me was just sharing a Namaste (a greeting in Nepal that roughly means I bow to the divine within you) as he was herding his goats down the side of the mountain. It was just a minute but it has stuck with me for how amazing it is that two cultures who couldn’t be more different were able to share that moment and a smile. I also have to say that most of the Nepalese I met have the most beautiful smiles. Their smiles feel genuine and their happiness and peace seems to radiate from them. (I now attribute that to Buddhism as Thais also share this trait.)
All of this is obviously my feeling about a country we really only saw at a glance. It takes much longer than 6 weeks to really know a place and I’m actually not sure that I believe a westerner can ever truly understand most eastern cultures. There is a longevity or permanence and different way of viewing life, death, and everything in between that seems almost impossible for most of us to grasp. Reincarnation alone creates a whole new way of looking at the cycle of life and a whole different mentality towards the future. As one Jain explained it to me if you think there is a possibility of you or your deceased mother coming back as a grasshopper, you are going to treat that grasshopper much differently.
So while Chris and I only got a taste of this amazing country, we do know the warmth and beauty we experienced has made it a place we definitely want to go back and experience more of. After all, how can you ever pass up the opportunity to be here?