Letting Go: Preparedness

[singlepic=849,150,,,right]Part of the anxieties people face before traveling is the feeling that you are not prepared enough. But being unprepared may actually help to make the experience much better. I found this the case when I traveled to Nepal in 2001.

For years I wanted to travel to Vietnam and Cambodia – two places that I was fascinated with since high school.  So I decided that in the year 2000, I would spend 3 months traveling through those countries.  Then my great friend and traveling partner, Holly, said “Wait!  If you go in 2001, I’ll go with you, but I also want to go to Nepal.”  It’s hard to find such a great traveling companion, so I immediately said “sure!”

So for the next year or so, we planned our travels.  My focus was purely on Vietnam & Cambodia, so we decided I would start there, and then we would meet up later in Nepal, continuing our journeys together to Thailand and then back to Australia, where we visited together in 1995.

[singlepic=947,200,,,left]My bags were all packed, I gave notice, and had a subletter move in the day before I was set to leave.  On the morning of my departure, I woke up to the news that the World Trade Center had been struck by two planes.  Instead of making my way to the airport, I spent the morning on the Hudson River watching from across the water in Hoboken as the two towers crumbled.  I was in shock, just like everyone else around me.

Needless to say, I did not leave that day, and spent the next month sleeping on my couch, living out of my backpack, and volunteering with the Salvation Army as I rearranged visas and travel plans.  About a month later, I knew it was time to bid farewell to my family and friends and begin my journey.

[singlepic=948,200,,,right]But instead of beginning in Vietnam and Cambodia, I was to meet up with Holly first in Nepal.  No problem, right?  Well, I was still mentally and physically prepared for the heat and humidity of South East Asia.  I had thin cotton clothes packed and that was about it – not quite the attire for hiking at an altitude of over close to 18,000 feet.  To say I was ill-prepared for Nepal is an understatement.  It wasn’t even in my thoughts or plans whatsoever in the time leading up to it – including my arrival.  Not until we had our orientation and words like “gators” and “down jackets” started to pop up did I get worried.  Thank goodness Kathmandu is a trekkers haven.

[singlepic=845,200,,,left]I think being so unprepared for the adventure I was about to embark on actually made it that much more powerful.  That or the fact that I had escaped to the complete opposite place of where I had come from.  If I had to be anywhere on September 11, 2001, I’m glad that I was in New York City, close to my friends and family, and not half way around the world.  Knowing that they were safe, and I could contribute to the efforts of the aftermath, was so important to me.  But by the time the chaos of anthrax scares and the paranoia induced by the media overtook, I was ready to move on.  Probably the furthest I could get away was the mountains of the Annapurna Range – where the only traffic jams I faced were goats at a bridge crossing, and the only communication I had to the outside world was village children greeting us along the way.

[singlepic=837,150,,,right]It was the combination of all of these events, both near and far, that made my experience in Nepal so incredibly special.  Seeing my first snow-capped peak, after a week of hiking, literally brought tears to my eyes.  And the beauty of the landscape and the warmth of its people made Nepal feel like the closest to heaven one could get to on Earth.  It made me grow both spiritually and mentally as a person.

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