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It took me awhile to figure out where I was when I woke up again. The bed was warm and cozy, and for a moment, part of me almost believed that the backpacking trip had been a dream. However, the barking of dogs and my aching body quickly reminded me that this was reality.
Today would be slow paced and relaxing, so I wasn’t in a huge rush to get out of bed. Our flight took off later in the day, so we had a few hours to explore Kathmandu and get some souvenir shopping done.
After a quick breakfast at The Address hotel, I converted some of my money into rupees and started circling through the street vendors. As someone who enjoys collecting knives, I couldn’t pass up the chance to buy a handcrafted blade for myself. The first shop I entered was nicely laid out, and the owner was dressed in a clean suit. The blades were all fairly well made, but they were definitely overpriced for the quality. Given the fact that everything in this country was bartered for, I imagined the higher prices were intentional.
However, much to my surprise, the shop owner had no interest in negotiating with me, even though I had just seen him do it with a different customer. In fact, he didn’t even look like he wanted to talk to me or sell me anything. Put off by his attitude, I decided to take my business elsewhere.
The great thing about this shopping sector was that no store had a monopoly on a product. If you didn’t like the prices at one shop, it was easy to find another that would be willing to work with you. This was the case for me on my knife hunt, as I entered a hole in the wall shop a little farther down the street. The owner was sitting down on the floor surrounded by blades.
I pulled a few out of their sheaths, and was immediately impressed by the beautiful design. These knives weren’t lacking compared to the ones in the other store…if anything, they were better. When I asked him how much the one in my hand cost, he gave me a number that was half the price of the other store. With a little negotiation, I dropped it by another 10%.
Satisfied with the result, I happily paid the price and watched as the owner oiled the blade and wrapped it in newspaper. For a brief moment, I wished that all buying and selling could be done like this in America.
I went around buying gifts for friends and relatives until I almost ran out of money. It was getting close to the time when we needed to leave for the airport, so I called it a day, and reunited with the rest of the group.
Lokendra called a van to pick us up and bring us to the airport. Aside from when we first arrived, this ride was the first time I had seen so much of Kathmandu in the daylight. I had never seen so many motorbikes in one place, as they were all trying to weave in and out of traffic. The most impressive sight was of a husband and wife with their 2 kids sitting on one bike, zipping between other cars and bikes like it was just another walk in the park. That took a lot of skill…and trust.
The airport came into view, and a flood of emotions filled me. Everything that had happened since we arrived flashed before my eyes, and a sudden wave of sentimentality filled me. Once again, I was struck with the thought that had haunted me for the last several days.
I don’t want to go home.
This place wasn’t somewhere I thought I would want to stay, and perhaps I would change my mind after a few weeks or months. But right now, I felt something in this country that I never felt in America, and I wasn’t ready to give it up.
Sadly, I didn’t have a choice as I slowly exited the van and made my way over to the airport doors. It was the end of the dream, and it was time to wake up.
Checking our bags and moving through security was a blur, and before long, we were waiting at the terminal for our plane to arrive. The sun had set, and the time passed as we all shared photos and stories that we gathered over the last few days. Despite the lighthearted atmosphere, it was obvious that we were all fatigued from traveling even though we had a rest day to help us recharge. None of us were looking forward to the day and a half of travel ahead of us.
We boarded the plane, and I silently said goodbye to the Himalayas drifting away in the darkness. The in-flight meal was delicious, and I fell asleep shortly after I was done eating.
The way back went much like the way out. Long layover in Doha, 13 hour flight back to Chicago, and one final hop back to Minneapolis.
Part of me felt glad to be home, but a larger part of me couldn’t stop the tears as I watched people running around without a thought for anyone other than themselves. The people of Nepal had very little, sometimes next to nothing, and yet they still freely gave what they had to complete strangers. This was an image that I couldn’t shake, and it left a longing deep in my soul to go back to a world where that behavior was more commonplace.
In the following weeks, I thought long and hard about the things I had experienced halfway around the world. I thought about the friends I had made, who had become as close as family. I thought about my Nepali mother. I thought about the dream that I didn’t want to end, even though I knew it would have to.
…but why did it have to?
It’s not like I didn’t want to travel more, and learn about different cultures. It’s not like I never dreamed about being free from my 9-5 job, so I could spend more time with the people and experiences that were important to me. But fear and doubt are good at keeping people rooted in their routines and “stable” jobs, and I was no exception to the rule. I was afraid to take a risk and see if I could turn my passion into an income source. To see if I could share my experiences with others who didn’t want to break out of the daily grind, or perhaps didn’t know how to.
I’m sure many of you feel the same way. There’s more to life than a desk job that lets you pay the bills and buy a few trinkets that you’ll throw out someday anyway. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being a cog in a corporation (I am too), but don’t let this prevent you from realizing your dreams.
For many, the world of vision and passion is the most untamed space they can encounter. It’s been neglected and fallen into disrepair from lack of use. Take some time to wander through this place, and remember what it’s like to believe that dreams are for adults as much as they are for children.
My passion has to do with the outdoors and travel, as I’m sure is the case for many of you. I want this space to be more than a recording of my adventures, tricks, and recommendations – I want it to be a motivator for you to get out and create your own story. No matter your personal circumstances, never give up hope that your dreams can become a reality.
1 thought on “Annapurna: A Journey that Brings Dreams to Life – Final”
Great article. America certainly isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, Hope you get to return to Kathmandu.