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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Welcome Back To Reality: My Thoughts on Travel Thus Far

To preface this post, Brandon and I have been traveling now for nearly two months. We started our journey in Nepal, trekking for a month and then traveling around the eastern part of the country for the remainder of the time. Before we left for our adventure, we had planned a trip back to the US to meet Brandon's family in Hawaii, a sort of vacation from a vacation you could say. After the earthquake hit in Nepal, Brandon and I were unsure if we were even going to be able to make it back to the states because of the chaos in Kathmandu. Thankfully, our flight took off as planned and we got out of Nepal just before the second big earthquake hit and we are now relaxing on a beach in Hawaii.

Stepping off the plane and arriving back on US soil I was filled with mixed emotions. After exploring Nepal I couldn't wait to tell family everything we did, what we saw and experienced, and how incredible our travels have been so far. I was excited to eat fresh veggies again, juicy hamburgers, and any american food I could get my hands on. I was excited to (actually) be able to have English conversations with strangers, whether it be on the bus, in the grocery store or just someone on the street I was asking directions from. I was excited to have a long hot shower and a comfy bed to sleep in. Yet, I was filled with a sense of yearning for the simplicity of our lifestyle back in Nepal; conversing with locals and learning about their culture, wandering around a village trying to get lost, eating cheap food from a street vender, and playing with children on the streets.

Haleakala Crater National Park, Maui. One of the best places in the world to stargaze. You can see why....
Sunrise over the crater

Driving down from sunrise, Haleakala National Park- Maui

I forgot about everything we left behind in the US; the fancy high rise buildings, shopping malls, traffic laws, real hotels... not to mention the cocktail that cost $10-$15. I have to say it's a whole new world to me again, and I'm already looking at everything different.

Napali Coast, Kauai

I immediately noticed the calmness of the vehicles driving in the streets and how beautifully paved roads were. I noticed the amount of luggage everyone was carrying around the airport and I remembered how freeing it felt to not have so much stuff. I felt like a fish out of water with my 42 L pack on my back, a day pack on my front, and dirty clothing that had't been washed in God knows how long. I was exhausted as it took us 5 flights to arrive in Hawaii from Kathmandu. I finally, for the first time felt like a backpacker.

Its nearly impossible to explain how we have changed since we began our travels. One of the most difficult things I have noticed thus far has been trying to convey what we've gone through to everyone. Our most intriguing experiences and eye-opening encounters have come from people whose lifestyles and backgrounds are completely different from our own. They are from the people who have nothing, yet are rich with happiness. We have seen extreme poverty, devastation from a natural disaster, and a country bond themselves together with what little they have left. I feel a sense of humbleness.

Although I can't put this into words, or even begin to explain my most memorable moments, what I can tell you is travel will change you. If you have ever thought about going on an adventure, an adventure to a place you know nothing about, a place where everything is different, book a ticket, pack your bags and go. Whether that trip is for 7 days or 7 months, travel can open your eyes and give you a new perspective; a new perspective that you didn't know you needed perhaps.

To end my post I will leave you with this. While I will keep you as up to date on our travels as possible, I have also decided to, as Walt Whitman wrote, "leave the best untold." I have found that it is nearly impossible to convey my best experiences via text. I have my partner to share it with, a partner who understands exactly what I am feeling, and a partner who shares the same love for travel as I. If you really want to understand, like I said before, go...

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Bus Rides from Hell

03 May, 2015

Don't be fooled by the label "luxury bus" while traveling in a third world country. The only difference between this and the local bus is maybe a few miles an hour, slower mind you, as the local busses are completely out of control the entire time. Brandon and I have gotten the opportunity to try both the local and the luxury and unless you're feeling gutsy, I recommend paying the few extra dollars for the "luxury."

It takes a special kind of tourist to brave one particular bus route in the Himalayas, unless of course you don't know what your getting yourself into in the first place. Fingers crossed you make it out alive.

Arriving at the local bus station you are surrounded by a mass amount of other locals traveling all over the country. Some trying to make it back home to their village, while others are leaving their family in hopes of selling their trade.

As you board the bus with a false sense of security you briefly enjoy the views the Himalayas have to offer until the bus makes a sharp turn towards the valley and you begin driving along side of a shear cliff. Unfortunately, at this point there is no turning back. I sit patiently in my seat as the bus starts going faster and faster - slashing around curves, tearing over potholes, and ripping the dirt road apart. Onward the bus drives as it passes cars, but the terror has just begun. One by one our bus overtakes buses and trucks, stopping at nothing in its path.

I watch out the front window as we pass a truck. Up the mountain we go, not picking up speed as we steadily approach another bus head on. "We're not gonna make it," I think to myself. The bus's horn ferociously honking. It's like a game a chicken, only the game is not in your hands. All eyes are frozen on the front window anxiously awaiting their destiny. With only a moment to spare the truck beside us slams on the breaks and we swerve back to our side and continue our journey as if nothing happened.

We continue violently around the narrow, windy road with no guard rail for hundreds of miles, and I watch the valley below that is nearly three miles straight down. One mistake from the driver and the bus could plummet thousands of feet down the mountain. I say a prayer to myself and squeeze Brandon's hand. All the while he is leaning against the window throwing up in tiny pink plastic bag that was dispersed to all passengers before take off. I try to comfort him but am cut short by the seat in front of me becoming fully reclined in my lap. Another "luxury" of these buses is the seats recline- all the way. I am now nearly immobile, bounding up and down in my seat, Brandon puking next to me, just waiting to off the damn bus.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Trekking Nepal, cultural glance- a photo essay

Namaste, enjoying a smile
Prayer wheels, Manang district
Oxen plowing a field
Manang, Nepal - Teahouses
High mountain living
A suspension bridge connecting two villages
Annapurna Basecamp as the moon rises
The Annapurna Sanctuary (Annapurna 1 in the distance, 10th highest peak and most deadly in the world)

A Porter brings goods up to Basecamp, where the only form of transportation is by foot

Annapurna South

Nepalese girl
Harvesting wheat
Path to Totoponi
Teahouse with a view

Rhododendrons in full bloom
Yak, holding down the fort
River crossing
Hand made, prayer beads
Relax, Pokhara

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