I have been wanting to write about my trip to Nepal for the last 8 months. It sucks that for the trip I was most excited about and probably one of the most significant, I was hit with writer’s block and I was simply left staring at my journal and monitor for days, which turned to weeks. I finally gave up thinking about it after a few tries and left drafts unfinished. Yet here I am months later, trying to start an article about Nepal again and I am not even sure if I can finish it this time. Anyway. . .
This is the question repeatedly asked by friends and family since I started planning my trip up to this date. And I would tell you this: I have no effin idea. Before, Nepal was not even on the top of the list of places I want to see.
It was just that random day in the first quarter of 2015 when I was daydreaming of a vacation, clicked on a Skyscanner promotional link, and had to answer which places I would want to go to with a short essay as to why. That time I had one sure answer: Tawi-Tawi, a province at the southernmost tip of my home country, the Philippines. For a second option, I looked at the world map, trying to assess which other country I want to visit the most, glanced at this country bordered by India and Tibet and that was it, plain and simple, Nepal was chosen. From then on I haven’t stopped daydreaming about this place.
More than a month after that random, somewhat insignificant moment in my life, a strong earthquake hit Nepal and I was heartbroken. Instead of wanting to pick another country to go to, I had this strong urge to continue with the trip all because of the quake. What help could I offer if I was there? I do not know.
As if the universe is pushing me to continue with the trip, a few more weeks later, mountain guide/photographer Uzol Rai randomly found me through Facebook and I just took that as a sign that I truly should go. He was the first Nepali I ever knew in my entire life. I did not exactly enjoy looking at his feed as he posts gorgeous images of the Himalayas every single day, convincing people that it’s okay to visit their country after the quake, and it frustrated me that I cannot go yet.
With a lot of plans already laid out for the remainder of the year, I postponed my trip to a later time – 18 months after I first thought of doing it, to be precise. The long wait should have given me ample time to prepare for the trip but because I let myself be distracted by things that should not even matter, I did the trip in my worst condition physically, mentally and spiritually.
So why stay there for a month?
Here’s one truth: When I planned this trip, I did not intend to go back home. I booked an onward ticket and only an onward ticket until I was at the airport in front of the immigration officer who was searching for my ticket back home. I booked my return flight right there and then, while he continued with his origami project in the booth.
For years I have been constantly bothered by the thought that I was still working for a company I no longer want to work in and I act like I do not have a choice but to stay. I clock in and out everyday doing something that no longer makes sense to me. I would usually be praised as one of the best people for the job but instead of it being flattering, it became frustrating that I am good at something I don’t find any meaning in. So this trip was to give me time to decide whether to continue with it or do whatever I am passionate about except that, at that time, passion for anything has left me. And that’s the trouble. This trip was like a transition but not knowing what I want to do after the trip meant that I was going to stay in that transition endlessly if I ever chose to resign.
On September 30, 2016, I finally arrived in Nepal after a short trip with my friends Nitu and Paula in Phuket, Thailand. I was to stay for three weeks in this country based on my flight tickets – enough time to visit a few tourist spots, go trekking and do a lot of contemplating. I was anxious and excited as this was my first trip alone to a country neither I nor my family/friends have been to.
For trips abroad I almost always have a detailed itinerary – complete with what time to leave, where to go, entrance fees, fare, etc. But this time, I didn’t have any itinerary except for a planned trek with Uzol. I honestly didn’t think much about what places I needed to see, I just wanted to be some place far away where I could think clearly.
A lot of colleagues and friends thought this was simply one of those crazy adventurous trips I have been making for the past year. What a lot of people do not know is that this trip almost made me not want to come back home.
Why do I love Nepal so much?
Maybe because I was 4,200+ km away from where I grew up in, yet I felt like I was finally home the moment I stepped out of Tribhuvan International Airport.
Maybe because this trip was more about the people I met than the places I saw and took a photo of so I could post something in Instagram, Facebook or wherever. This was the only trip I didn’t anymore bother getting a local sim and subscribing to mobile data 24/7 as I wanted to immerse myself in the world and not in my phone. Months later, I still vividly remember a lot of things about this trip: from the moment I was fetched by Hem and greeted me with warm smiles; to when Binita welcomed me when I first arrived in Dormitory Nepal; to walks around the city with my dorm mates Maria, Tanja and Matthew; to that barbecue night with everyone in the dorm arranged by the only two Iranians I know, Mamas and Hemad; to meeting Monica, one of the most awesome human beings I’ve ever met; to daily conversations with Sameer about anything under the sun; to a very memorable trek with Uzol, Tyler and Mark; to almost getting a tattoo in Thamel with Fatema and Ali; to that day I was happy I was finally able to talk in Tagalog again with Sheryll, the only Filipina I met during the trip; and to getting lost with Hendrik while trying to follow Lonely Planet’s guide around Thamel.
Or it could be because this trip opened my eyes to a lot of things. I learned that I am stronger than I always thought I was. Many times during this trip I was reminded that you are only as strong as you think you are, and it’s true. “Mental strength is more important,” as Uzol and Sameer reminded me.
I learned that at some point we all get lost and it’s okay, because every so often this is what directs us to things more beautiful than we ever planned or imagined. At times, being lost gives you enough courage to follow paths you would not have known existed for you if you were not diverted by life’s circumstances.
I loved this country because I was surrounded with positivity and kindness even at 5364 m above sea level. Locals lived simple lives yet they are happy and rich in things not even money can’t buy. And isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?
So why did I eventually come back home?
I terribly loved being in Nepal. So much in fact that I actually extended my stay for another week to maximize my visa. I eventually had to take that flight back home to formally talk to the company and submit my resignation. If it wasn’t for that reason, I would have stayed in Nepal indefinitely.
On my last day, I was dragging myself towards the cab that would take me to the airport while Sameer helped me with my luggage and I wanted to cry like a child. It was heart-wrenching that I had to leave but it was after all right to just face reality, face your fears and deal with it like an adult.
I came back home, cut my ties with the company and spent some time still in transition. I dealt with what’s keeping my heart heavy, helped myself find peace (as someone in the mountain once told me that peace is only found within yourself) and I was led to a path no one ever imagined me taking. And you know what, I am happy. I have not been genuinely happy for the longest time. Well of course, that’s another story. . . 🙂
See you soon, Nepal ❤