I had always wanted to visit Nepal. I had always wanted to see Everest, even from afar, as a majestic peak slipping up through the clouds at sunrise. Whatever of it I could get, I wanted. To me, Nepal was only Everest, and Everest was this, a symbolic notion of dreams coming true, challenges taken on, missions accomplished, beaming a life of victory, passion, nature, fulfilment, and simplicity, of navigating successes, manifestations, and happiness. And so I wanted to go. Because my life was all of these things. But I never did. As an expedition guide just across the border in the Indian Himalayas, I cannot explain my reason for never discovering Nepal. But now I know that it was because my life was not ready. And then I had a baby.
Finally this year, my life was ready, and I decided my dreams were worthy of Nepal, so I finally decided to make this dream come true. But one clincher, if I was now to travel to Nepal, I would have to bring my young daughter along. This would of course mean that I would not be climbing Everest, but would be feeling and seeing, from afar. And as I told myself before, that was okay. But I would still have gotten to Everest, and succeeded in a fair amount of my dream, now altered by love.
To me, Nepal was only Everest.
So one day last March when I was living in the South Pacific, I purchased 2 air tickets from New Delhi to Kathmandu for July, after my Indian expedition would end. I would arrive in Kathmandu, and travel to see Everest. I didnt know where or how, but this was my plan. And I wanted to get there by my baby’s birthday, so that she could celebrate the beginning if her new year gazing into the eyes of the most majestic mountain on the planet, by my side, as we accomplished our dreams together.
And then there was the earthquake.
Should I have immediately canceled my plans to go to Nepal? Should I have figured that it would now be dangerous to go, or that I wouldnt be allowed entry, or that Everest would not be the same, or that I should turn away from a country in need because my touristic plans would be affected? No.
As scheduled, we arrived in Kathmandu on July 19th. But now we did not arrive to see Everest. We arrived to see Nepal. We arrived to feel Nepal. We arrived to help and heal and share and love and grow, from Nepal, and for Nepal. After the earthquake destruction, my Everest dream transformed and vanished, and I centered my thoughts and attention on my desire to be there and help, and not be a tourist, but be a heart, at a time when a human heart was needed more than ever. I wanted to do anything I could, and any shallow desire I would have had to still see Everest, was forgotten, as I felt that would have been selfish. For now, I wanted to know the people.
To me, Nepal was now no longer Everest. It wasn’t a place, a thing, a trek, a mountain, an adventure. Now, it was a people. It was stories, lives, families, loss, and love.
For a week I traveled and saw the destruction. I made friends. I listened to stories. I asked questions. I felt, I grew, I learned. And I loved. I saw smiles and felt warmth. I saw perseverance and strength, determination, spirituality, culture, and pride.
I saw homes fallen to rubbled ashes, and families standing with smiles. I slept in a tent. I saw piles of bricks, and villagers working together. I saw peace and support and victory. I saw a country of people, and hearts, trying to survive, helping each other, and saving their smiles. I saw the power of the beautiful human spirit, and for once, I was proud.
I was so affected by this that I made a promise to rebuild one of their schools that had been destroyed. After my short week in Nepal, I was forever changed. I was forever taught lessons of humanity and the human spirit, of strength, hope, and love.
To me, Nepal was now people.
And I promised that I would always be there for them. And so did my daughter.
I left Nepal after a short week, forever changed. Priority, perspective, surprise. Nepal is, first, a country of amazing strength, fascinating history, and beautiful hearts. Oh yeah, and second, a mountain. An adventure wonderland of awe-inspiring landscapes and historical faith, fascinating monuments, happiness, and dreams.
Do yourself a favor and go to Nepal. Experience first-hand this incredible example of human spirit and strength. See a nation of smiles. Help a nation in need. Remember that it is so much more than a beautiful mountain, but beautiful people too. Beautiful triumphs and hearts of gold, beautiful desire, h
ope, and unwavering l
NepalNOW to me, is way, way more than just Everest.
And I am so thankful to know.