Nepal is a magical place that has captured my imagination since I was a teenager.  After traveling there already once, I am counting down the days until I can return with Max, Rob, and le bebe! Do ya think you can trek with a 3 yr old and a 1.5 year old?

Last week, I said that I was going to reflect about a long trip I took, and what I learned in each of the countries I visited.

Lets start at the beginning.

The year was 2007 and I was living in beautiful Victoria B.C.  Following a breakup, I decided it was time for me to do what I had always dreamed of doing.  Visit the abode of snow first hand!

I booked the cheapest tickets I could(via Taiwan/Thailand/Bangladesh – on that note, do not take “Biman Bangladesh Airways), I scrounged as many days of holidays as I could gather, and headed for the mountains.

Prayer Wheels

Nepal amazes me for so many reasons: ancient history, riveting and diverse cultures, sheer beauty, geography (within the tiny country is the greatest range of altitude anywhere on the earth.  The Terai is only 100m above sea level, and of course, at 8848, the top of Mount Everest is the highest point on earth).  The hills are alive with stories of bravery and stupidity, men and women pushing themselves to their limits, and beyond.

The people of Nepal have had to adapt to their extreme conditions, and they have thrived.   Many groups are recognized around the world for their strength, perseverance, loyalty and skills. “Sherpa” which Westerners often use to refer to any of the porters, actually refers to an ethnic group living high in the mountains of eastern and central Nepal. The word “Gurkha’ is synonomous  in many people’s minds with some of the world’s best fighters.  The climbers who tackle the mountains too have had to adapt, just to survive or else the elements overtake them.

A Wise Face

I learned a few lessons in Nepal, and the one I brought home and carry with me is to first adapt, then thrive.  What else can you do in a country where geography dictates life?

I arrived in Nepal with high hopes of reaching Everest Base Camp.  Ignoring every rule in the book, my first day I hiked twice  the distance I should have.  Having run my first marathon the day before I sat on a plane for two days, I could barely move my knee.  I had planned to carry my own bag during the trek, but given that walking was going to prove difficult, I ended up hiring a porter.  The first day we arrived in Namche Bazaar from Lukla, and I tucked myself, exhausted into a tea house.  Within an hour, I was sick, puking the rest of the night.  The next day, I woke up completely weak.  I knew I had better stay put in case the sickness was related to the altitude.  I resigned myself to a second day in beautiful Namche Bazaar (rough) and to the fact that loosing this day would put my ambitious plan of reaching Everest Base Camp out of reach.  During my Namche wanders I had my first clear view of Mount Everest.  Spellbound by the sight that had so long captured my imagination, I said to a fellow wanderer “Nice View Eh”.  Little would I know this small comment and the friendship that was struck would change my trip and my experience in a way that I could not have imagined.

Light and darkness at the Monkey Temple, Kathmandu

I rested in Namche Bazaar. The next day, I walked to Tengpoche Monostary. Having arrived in a snowstorm, I woke up to young monks in their crimson robes laughing, smiling and learning to ski on the fresh snow. The thought of this scene still puts a smile on my face.  It was a scene of beauty and a scene of pure joy. I attended a ceremony and ran into the climber who the day earlier I’d said “Nice View Eh” to.  He was helping lead an exhibition to climb Ama Dablam, and invited me to join the team for a night at base camp.  An incredible offer and an experience which I remain so grateful for to this day, and will never forget. It kicked my original Everest Base Camp plan in the butt!

Ama Dablam

After a few weeks of being in awe at some of the most beautiful sights the world has to offer, interacting with the kindest, friendliest, and kind-hearted people, what did I learn? That life had changed, and I too needed to adapt like those in the Himalayas had carved out a life which had them smiling despite the harshest of conditions.  I left Nepal with the confidence that whatever I chose, whatever I did, I would adapt from my past life, and thrive in my new one. I quit my job my first day back.   The rest is history.