While 2020 has taken us all for the ride of our lives, I find myself ever more grateful for the unique travel opportunity I had back in November of 2019 when I joined the Nepal Trekking and Photo Tour designed by travel photographers Melissa Findley and Carmen Huter. Little did we know that we were on the brink of a global pandemic that would lock down countries and bring the travel economy to a grinding halt.
For months and months, I’ve been mulling over how to share my time in Nepal with you, especially in the wake of COVID-19. As I’m expecting Baby Girl #2 to arrive in just a few weeks, I figured it was time to finally get blogging! Today, I want to share a bit of my story of how I ended up in the Himalayas and hopefully inspire you to look for spontaneous travel opportunities in the future!
MY JOURNEY TO NEPAL
Nepal has been on my Travel Bucket List since childhood.
Honestly, I probably need to credit the 1988 movie The Night Train to Kathmandu for introducing me to Nepal at a young age. Nepal was always floating in the back of my mind as one of those places that I wanted to explore one day. At the same time, it always seemed so. far. away. and one of those destinations that would require a decade of planning and waiting until “the right time” came along.
Nevertheless, after living in Switzerland and realizing just how much the mountains speak to my soul, I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d land in the Himalayas. I just never imagined getting there the way I did…
Instagram was the gateway to this travel opportunity.
Thank you, Instagram, for being a platform that allows people to connect in crazy ways.
By following Melissa on Insta, I learned about the trip and applied on a whim. Through her work, I was introduced to Carmen’s journey as a travel photographer. To my utter surprise, these two talented ladies selected me to join their tour!
So, the lesson here, friends, is that travel opportunities can come your way in the most unexpected formats! Social media isn’t only a platform to inspire and encourage, but it can even help you realize your travel dreams if you’re willing to put yourself out there.
Nepal is far away from Florida.
It wasn’t an easy decision to leave my family for three weeks. Truly, Nepal is on the other side of the world from Florida. My #littleAlpenRose was just over two years old and was only in preschool part-time. However, my husband was eager for me to go on this journey, and we worked out a plan for my family to do well, even in my absence.
Justin, thank you for believing in me and supporting my dreams. You’re a fantastic husband and an awesome father. I couldn’t have gone on this trip without you holding down the fort in Orlando!
The Annapurna Circuit was a great introduction to trekking in Nepal.
Between our time in Kathmandu and Pokhara, we hiked the Annapurna Circuit. Unlike the Everest Region, the AC takes trekkers through various ecosystems and terrain, such as lush forests and barren high-altitude plateaus. The range of the trail kept things interesting, and the lower altitudes meant it didn’t get as cold as other regions. I loved getting a taste of Nepal’s biodiversity.
Due to the tour’s time constraints, our group did not hike the Annapurna Circuit in its entirety – which is another reason why the AC is a great introductory route for first time visitors to Nepal. For better and for worse, many of the villages along the Annapurna Circuit are accessible by road now. (I use the word “road” loosely… I had the wildest ride of my life between Besisahar and Chame, jostling in the backseat of a 4WD for 7 hours!) The AC’s accessibility provides trekkers with more options than more remote areas of Nepal. For example, in the event of an emergency or a spontaneous decision to rest sore feet for a day, you can hire a ride to another village further down the trail.
My favorite section on the Annapurna Circuit was the hike from Pisang to Manang and from Manang on to Thorong La; it was all just mind-blowing. Surrounded by 6,000-7,000+ meter peaks (that’s 19,000-22,000 feet!), passing through pine forests, and trekking alongside eroded rocky mounds, it was impossible to take it all in. I would go back to Nepal just for this wild and fascinating stretch of terrain… my soul felt so alive in this beautiful niche on Earth.
The Everest Region is impressive from any angle.
In addition to the epic scenery of the Annapurna Circuit, another favorite moment in Nepal was the Buddha Air flight some of us took on our last day in Kathmandu to view Mount Everest and the Khumbu Region with our own eyes. As I leaned over the pilots in the cockpit, I could see most of the tallest peaks in the world – and it was absolutely breathtaking. (Everest has the cloud tail blowing off its top.)
Trekking with Nepali guides is a gift.
Our experience in Nepal would’ve been drastically different without our Nepali guides and porters. Their knowledge of the trail and their willingness to serve us (like carrying our bags, bringing us hot tea, and finding the best accommodations) made a huge impact on our daily walk through the Himalayas. Plus, with their big smiles and tender hearts, we walked away with friends for life. Truly, I can’t recommend trekking with a Nepali guide enough – especially this crew!
If Nepal is on your Travel Bucket List consider going with Nir’s company: Himalayan Experience Adventure Trek. Nir and his team will take great care of you and become like family by the end of your journey!
*In the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns, Nepali guides have had little to no work for the bulk of 2020. My lead guide, Nirkumar Rai, created a GoFundMe relief page to raise support during these trying times. If you would like to support him and his team, please consider making a donation HERE.
Group Travel has its ups and downs… just like the trail.
Throughout my almost-20 years of international travel experience, I have explored the world as an independent traveler, as a member of tour groups, and working as a trip leader. As such, my expectations were tempered with the knowledge that group travel comes with its limitations, but positive attitudes can carry you a long way, literally.
Group travel requires thoughtful planning and clear communication on the leaders’ part, as well as appropriate concessions and reasonable expectations on behalf of the participants.
Without a doubt, my trip to Nepal was defined by the people with whom I traveled: Melissa and Carmen, the 11 other tour members, and our Nepali guides and porters. Our small group started as complete strangers. Yet, over those three weeks, we grew close as we shared meals, huffed up mountain passes, passed on photography tips, laughed at stories and games, cried in pain and frustration, and marveled at the majesty of the mountains. In the process, we became a family.
Together, we created a beautiful collection of art. Plus, we are still supporting one another from afar. I can not separate my time in Nepal from these beautiful people. I hope our paths cross again – somewhere else in the world.
These days, Namaste is a familiar word – a greeting you say in your yoga class or see on bumper stickers. Yet, the history of Nepal, the scope of the Himalayan Mountains, and the warmth of its people are not as well known – at least, not on personal levels.
My journey to Nepal was an unexpected surprise, a trip of a lifetime. I learned so much about myself on this trip, and I carried home the majesty of the Himalayas on my camera and in my heart.
Whether it is a journey to the other side of the world or a day’s car ride from home, I sincerely hope that you will have a transformative travel experience at least once in your life. And I hope it comes as a beautiful surprise, too!
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN TO SHARE…
Is Nepal on your Travel Bucket List? Have you trekked in the Himalayas before? Have you ever been on an international tour group or traveled with complete strangers? What has been one of the most unlooked-for adventures of YOUR lifetime?