Lessons from Nepal

A few days ago, I was carrying too many groceries and bitching to myself about having to walk from the grocery store to home in this sweltering heat. I complained to myself, all 500 meters of the walk. “It’s too hot, I might die, why are these lemons so damn heavy? Are they on steroids?” As I’m slugging along grumpily, I passed by a lady from the neighborhood nail salon I frequent. Apple smiled jovially and waved while yelling “Hey ma’am Chelsie!!!” She was carrying a grocery bag and some personal items, while en route to the crowded bus she takes home into the city. Apple is from the Philippines and she has a 10 year old son. She hasn’t been home in over 2 years. She sends her mother and her son money every month. They have a better life because of her. She lives with 6 other women and works 12 hour shifts 6 days a week. And she smiles. She sings along to the 80s music playlist every time she works on my nails. She is grateful and never complains. I carried my groceries without complaint the remainder of the walk, and had a word with myself.

As cheesy as it may sound, she reminded me to stop and reflect on the clarity and grounding that my recent trip to Nepal had provided me. I thought it would be a good time to take my mind back to hills of breathtaking Nagarkot and revisit and share some of the lessons learned.

1. Appreciate the things you do have, not what you don’t have.

I have heard this my whole life. But it is easy to get caught up spending more time desiring the things you want and not appreciating the things that you have. I find myself encountering the one-upper type quite a bit. People who spend their time trying to prove to the world that their life is better than everyone else’s- when really they are just hiding their insecurities and unhappiness. I’m not going to lie, sometimes they make me think- am I not good enough? Should I have these things? Should I be unhappy? Should I be living a different life? But the truth is, there is no right life or way to live. We are all on our own path. Comparing our lives to others is a waste of time.

Nepal reminded me in a striking and humble way, that my problems are small. Many people suffer greater pain, turmoil, poverty, and tragedy than I could ever imagine. At the end of the day I know…quit your bitchin and be thankful.

2. There is a difference between travel and vacation.

For me, travel is for growth and vacation is for rest. If I’m traveling, I don’t expect to be comfortable the whole time and I’m compelled to explore as much as I can in the time that I have. If I’m on vacation, I expect to relax and be comfortable. I had a few questioning looks and responses of confusion about our hiking trip to Nepal. “Ew why would you want to do that?” “I bet your hotel is going to be gross.” “Isn’t that a poor country? Why would you vacation there?” While I wanted to explain, I said I wanted the adventure and left it at that.

Hiking 8-9 hours a day with a giant pack on my back from small town to town, while following a stranger, not speaking the language, and having no idea of the accommodation conditions does not initially sound appealing. But I’ve never grown without being a bit uncomfortable. Fortunately, we had an awesome guide that helped us through some of the difficult parts. We still had our share of awkward cringeworthy moments and miscommunications. With travel, unlike a vacation, you know those moments are coming and you accept the discomfort as part of your growth as a human. It’s humbling to know that you don’t have all the answers. Yes I will awkwardly exchange 12 thumbs ups with a shop owner for what I think is an approval of my broken Nepali, and I will learn to love every minute of it.

3. Be fit for the sake of adventure.

I was not in shape when we arrived to Nepal. The ‘easy to moderate’ American hike is not the same thing as the ‘easy to moderate’ Nepali hike. The people of Nepal walk more on a daily basis. There is no complaint, it’s just life. The geography and economy impact the activity level of a place, and theirs calls for movement all day erry day.

As I struggled to carry my 15kg pack (full of a lot of unnecessary shit) up the terraced hills, local women and men comfortably strolled by me with large baskets full of produce, comfortable enough to sing while they worked. Breathing heavily, I was so annoyed at myself for not being functionally fit. I was able to get through the hikes, but my mind went to some dark places (full of snickers cravings) as we approached the fifth and sixth hour.

This struggle revealed to me that I would rather be fit for the sake of adventure rather than the sake of looks. While I was able to finish each hike, I couldn’t help thinking of our future adventures. I don’t want to leave something out because my body can’t do. In response to this I’ve managed to get my husband and I signed up for a morning boot camp, so that we are good to go this summer! All adventures possible and less heavy breathing!

4. Capture real photos, to share not to show off

I’ll keep this one simple. If you have the opportunity to do cool shit, don’t waste your time trying to paint a fairy tale version of what you’re doing. I’m guilty of making my husband take a photo multiple times while I try and hold the perfect pose. It’s exhausting. We all look at social media and see these women, perfectly strolling through a field of lavender in a flowy evening gown while holding her partner’s hand guiding him sensuously to the next monument. Well…that’s bullshit. Share your adventures, not your fantasies. If sharing your photos, do so to inspire others to travel, Or to let your grandpa see a place he may never travel to. Try not to take a photo for the approval of others.

5. You really don’t need all that shit in your suitcase.

Pack less. Yes, my suitcase did weigh over 50 lbs last summer. Yes, I did argue with my husband that I needed every item. Yes, I did pay $600 in excess baggage fees just a few months ago to get to my sister’s wedding. Maybe I did stuff the damn suitcase so much that it busted open at the baggage claim. Yes, I did pack 15kg of shit in a pack for a hiking trip to Nepal. And yes carrying it for 9 hours a day up hill after hill led me to this realization. Do I really need 7 shirts a day to choose from?! No! Do I need this anti-aging night cream?Hell no! Less stuff will give you more mobility. And if you’re lucky enough to be traveling somewhere new, then make sure a heavy bag doesn’t take away from any of the amazing moments you should have.

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