Yesterday one of my family members returned from a trip to India and Nepal, two places I have lived and worked. I recently spent two months in Bangalore, India and I laughed as my relative described the perils of crossing the road, dodging animals in taxis, and haggling with vendors.
When he began to speak of Nepal, however, my emotions rose up like a wave. I haven’t been to Nepal for twelve years, but I lived there twice for six months each in late 1999 and early 2000. Hearing the descriptions of the Himalayas at sunset, the ceremonies in the village of Bhaktapur, the mix of Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu cultures, and climbing to the top of the hills of Kathmandu, I was transported back in time.
Suddenly I could taste the Tibetan soup I had when I first arrived in Pokhara, Nepal in 1999. I could see the Annapurna mountain range from the rooftop of the school where I taught English and creative writing. I could feel the neighborhood kids throwing colored powder at me for the Holi festival.
My heart ached for Nepal at that moment and my family sitting in the living room had no idea. I reflected back to them how much I missed the place, but those words seemed inadequate to describe how I had jumped across the world and ten years back in time just by hearing someone else’s story.
I cannot imagine how much Nepal has changed since I lived there. The government underwent a radical transformation, and the small town I called home has been built up, I hear.
In my mind, however, Nepal has not changed at all. I remember my first glimpse of the country after a long, long bus ride over the border from India. I had tried to sleep on the overnight bus trip, but the broken windows in the middle of winter didn’t help, nor did the broken springs on the seats. I dozed off somewhere in the middle of the night, and when I woke up I had no idea where we were – until I sat up. Right before my eyes the Himalayas stretched out in a panorama of white and blue, dusted with pink from the encroaching dawn. The view made every discomfort worthwhile.
When the bus rolled into the town of Pokhara, I was welcomed by a man named Santosh who suggested a guest house nearby. Normally I do not pay any attention to touts, but something told me to listen to him. I ended up making incredible friendships there, and opening a window to the world of Nepal’s culture. In my time there I trekked through the mountains, confronted the demons of culture shock, learned to give the water buffalo a wide clearance, and came up with the idea for my company, Highroad Global Services, Inc.
Watching my reaction to my relative’s travel stories taught me a couple of things. One is that a sense of place can stay with you forever, even if you never return to that physical location. A place in the world can alter you irrevocably and set your whole life on a different course, or it can create a moment in time that stays preserved in your memory.
The second thing I was reminded of is the power of story. When you share your stories, you never know the impact you will have, even if that impact remains invisible to you. If you think people don’t care about your stories, they do. Stories stir empathy, paint color on the ordinary, and connect us through common emotions. That is why I write this blog; I write it to share with you.
Now the question remains, do I return to Nepal? Was that transportation back in time a calling from the past or the future?
That remains to be seen, but today I will dream of the mountains and the lake where I felt as if the world went on forever.
What places in the world have impacted you the most? We love to hear from you.