Wednesday, July 27, 2022

You, and everyone you've ever known, will one day die. And that's okay.

I’m listening to Brimful of Asha by Cornershop (remix version) in an Irish Pub in Reykeyvik. Iceland has absolutely changed me. I am not the me I was two weeks ago, and that's pretty cool.


So. I want to post something. And you might hate it. Okay, you're going to absolutely hate it. But, whatever. Iceland has made me much more outspoken about things and I'm not sorry in the least about it. Also, I'm in a bar and have had a few drinks (I've written in the past about the importance about getting drunk in a foreign city). So, prepare yourself.

This is in an interactive post where you'll play the songs I'm hearing in this bar as I write this. Before proceeding, please play that song in the background (here's the Youtube link). It just has to happen before you keep reading. Okay? Okay, I’ll wait.



We good? Cool. It'll set the mood - like mood lights via music.


I guess a proper warning first though? I’ve touched on this topic, in hints and pieces, for years and years now in this blog. But I’m older now and much more blunt than I used to be. You can stop reading if it makes you feel uncomfortable, which in all reality, probably will, but I really challenge you to keep reading. Growth in discomfort, right? Well, with this caution set, here we go:


You are going to die.  

Maybe not this moment, maybe not tomorrow. But this is a 100%, undeniable fact of your existence. Nothing, and I mean this, nothing else is more factual than that.


That's kind of metaphysical though, right? Concrete, that's what you need to hear. So, like, your heart will stop and you will absolutely cease to exist. You, your memories, your personality, your everything will end. And it will not come back. The you reading this, will be a memory, and in time, maybe not even that.


Sorry, but I’m going to keep going.


Your family is going to die (maybe some already have). They too will end and become no longer the current, but the past.


Your friends, your coworkers, Jerry across the street who eats clean and follows a strict no-carb, no-fun diet and ol’ Marge who is just the sweetest and has a zillion cats and reads too many romance novels and books about serial killers, she too will hit the bucket.


Every. Single. Person. On the planet. Right now. Will die and cease to be.


These words I’m typing now will most likely outlast every single person reading it.


You will die and your time on this Earth will end. And, even if you believe in a form of reincarnation or an afterlife, you will never, in the vastness of time and space ever relive the moment you're reading this right now (well, I guess that depends on if we see time as linear, which it definitely is not, but don't even get me started on that!). All religions I know of talk about the afterlife in terms of exactly that, AFTER. The life NOW will be the past - never, ever to be repeated.


I, personally, believe there is more after life here on Earth, and, at the same time, a lot of people I know don’t believe that in the least bit. That’s all okay, because, all viewpoints share the fact that the here and now will end and not repeat.


So, you and everyone you know will die.


(Side note, this is fantastic song, right? Upbeat and fun. But the lyrics, man, pretty strange...)


Can it be soul crushing and depressing? Yeah, yeah it definitely can be. It can be so very hard to hear, to acknowledge, to face that everything around you, from the screen you’re reading this on, to the finger your scrolling the page on, will one day just be gone and continue the recycled carbon cycle.

But. I’m not writing this to be sad.


In fact, it’s quite the opposite.


So, you got one life. One shot (Mom’s spaghetti?). We all do.


Here’s the most amazing thing though! Once you start to accept this fact, and I mean, truly look that fact in its eyes and stare it down, it’s pretty freeing when you know your time is limited. Like anything in life, when you really take the moment to be IN the moment, it means the world. The more you acknowledge that the moment you’re living in right this very second is special and unique and will never happen again, the more that moment can really, truly matter. There are no longer truly boring moments or wasted time.


I remember years ago I was having a conversation with my ex about my ADHD and how hard it is for me to be in the moment – my brain doesn’t work like most and it’s going a million miles an hour in a million different directions. Yoga, mindfulness, deep breathing – all of that is useless to me because I can’t slow down my brain down. So she had me have this expensive ass chocolate, close my eyes, and slowly describe every emotion, every flavor that I was experiencing. She forced me to slow down.


And years later, I STILL remember this moment. My life slowed and every taste, every melt of the chocolate, mattered. I was IN that moment and its one of the most powerfully vivid memories I have in my life. Kinda crazy, right? To be so connected to a moment in time that was really, just eating a single piece of chocolate.


So, since then, I've been trying my very best to replicate this in my daily life. It’s hard, but I’m trying.


I'm here in Iceland, doing my very best to slow my brain and take every second around me as, for lack of better words, sacred.


The song changed in the bar. This is what you now need to listen to in order to keep reading.

Play John Denvers' Take Me Home Country Roads now. It's a requirement.


And the great thing about living your life? You make what matters, matter. You and what you love are what make these moments special. I should say go travel, as that’s the point of this blog, but hey, that might not be your thing. Your thing might be to root down, enjoy every moment you can with the family, and grow your children into beautiful human beings. So, awesome. Do it. That’s okay, that’s you and you should 100% you in this life. Because if you choose not to be you, to follow others and change yourself to fit others and society, than you’re going to be pretty miserable. And to be miserable in the one life you have? That’s a truly depressing thought.


Whatever the case is, you will impact the world around you and live on in the people and things you create and interact with, even when your physical body and presence does not. What you do with each moment matters because it will affect all the moments others have long after you’re gone.


So, slow down. Notice this moment right now as you read - this moment is unique and special and part of the story of your life. It’s 100% yours.


We live in a culture fucking terrified of death. But if we embrace what scares us – if we hold the flashlight to the dark, even if what we find is just more dark – it’s somewhat less scary. Or maybe it’s not, but at least the knowing – even if it’s just more darkness – even the knowing what’s out there, compared to not knowing, is something. Right?


Take this all with a grain of salt though. On the moment of my death, I’m going to be scared absolute shitless. But, the lead up, how I want to embrace the moments of my life. I can control that. We all can.


This journey across Iceland has challenged me. Isolated me with my thoughts for hours, days, and weeks on end. I have made many mistakes in my life, both professionally and personally. I’ve fucked up relationships, I’ve made poor decisions, and countless other things I could whip myself about (I’d make a FINE, guilt-ridden Catholic!), but….




Oh well. 








Those moments happened and made me stronger and I learned lessons and I experienced moments, however shitty, that were mine and mine alone. That’s pretty special.


The point is this. And I hope I’m not sounding like Oprah. Or some self help guru. Or whatever. And maybe I do, oh well to that, too.


Now it's Don't Look Back in Anger by Oasis. Queue it up!


You will die. Whether you’re in Iceland, or the United States, or Australia or the middle of an African jungle.


So, when you look up from this page...


That moment?


That moment is yours. It will never, ever happen again.


You have a 100% freedom to do whatever you want with it. To appreciate that moment or not appreciate it.




Live your life. You got one shot and its pretty magical. It’s that chocolate. That expensive chocolate that has every flavor in the world. You could just chomp it down and move on and forget about it like the millions of other times you had chocolate.




Or you could roll it around, and really, really get the texture. Describe every note, every salivation. Take it slow. It won't last, you know this, but that makes the taste ever so much richer.


Look over to the people in your life, the people that you love and really matter. Go and hug the absolutely shit out of them. I mean it, hug them and really feel the love that they give you. They are in these special moments that make up your life. A billion different math equations had to happen and complete in order to have those exact people, in your life at this exact moment, be there. And that's so fucking special, you know?


If you know you will die and purposely do your best to breathe and be in the here and now and make the moment count, I promise you life will be that much better for it, however it is you appreciate the world around you. Whatever happens to us after we die, will happen. But at least we control our time until then.


You will die, but the moments between? Dear God can they be magical and beautiful and tragic and gorgeous and heartbreaking.


I’ve been in isolation on this trip long enough. Call me up and I’ll join you in that moment of appreciation.

Cheers friends, I cannot wait, let’s live it up together until we can’t.

P.S. Talk about death and life is hard. But The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus is essential reading if you want to really embrace life and the existentialism of it all. Of all the literature I have read that has had an impact me, this is the one that guided me the most. It’s a tough read, but give it a shot.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Iceland is making me an asshole, and I hope one day it will do it to you, too.

I pull to the side of the road. I'm crying.


Absolutely fucking sobbing.

And I can't begin to stop it.

On my right are mountains that tower into the sky like something from Lord of the Rings, with dozens of birds swooping from them, dive bombing the sky and across the snow caps and cloud mixture that drizzle over the mountaintops like some hazy mist. On my right are endless fields grazed by goats and an ocean with jagged, bright, broken glacier pieces just bopping in place. I'm listening to shitty punk music and I feel sweaty from all the stops for coffee I've had at every stop I can manage.

Enough poetry.

I can't handle this.

I'm on the side of the road crying typing this on my phone. Wildly. Madly. Swiping tears away like a useless mop that can't pick up a damn thing.

I don't care how sappy this entry sounds. I don't care if you're reading this and thinking it's stupid and I'm emotional and over-doing it and blowing it out of proportion. One day I will die and so will my voice, so might as well write it out, even if it's laughed at. Writing my truth and all that jazz. So, fuck it, here goes.

This country and, specifically at this moment in time, this stretch of highway from Vik to Skaftafell is beyond my words. I have NEVER, EVER seen something so unbelievably gorgeous in my life then this stretch of highway in the sun. It's hit me at such a level and I can't remember crying this much. This drive is the more majestic things I've ever witnessed, ever experienced. I've been to a lot of places in the word and this land here is....God, I don't even have words.

Have you had a moment like this? Where everything just comes together for a perfect moment in time, one that quite simply steals your breath and life becomes intoxicatingly JUST TOO MUCH to handle.

This journey across the whole of Iceland has, so far, been life changing. And I'm sure I'll write further entries about a standard day walking around, what it's like to drive around and camp in the most furious storms one can imagine, almost hitting a million sheep, etc. etc.

But this moment here, right here, is my new Eat, Pray, Love moment (my first was pooping in front of holy monks) for next part of my life.

This country, Iceland, is the most beautiful place on earth. Hands down and I will fight anyone about it, any time. I had another blog moment like this, where I was sobbing as I wrote it, experiencing a very spiritual moment with a (yet another) holy monk in Thailand. Since then though I have become a lot less religious. In balance, I have become much more spiritual. And this is the kind of place that makes you believe in some kind of higher power/order to everything.

And this drive. This fucking beauty makes you believe the impossible. This is a place that no picture will ever do it justice.

As I cry and as I type, I'm realizing this:

I'm becoming an asshole. And I'm okay with this. I want this.

I'm going to preach. Not even sorry about it.

This world, man. This little rock we all live on is the most amazing, precious thing we have in our lives. And all the future lives beyond us and our children.

This little blue planet is worth fighting for. And, yes, that's why I'm becoming an asshole. Global warming is a real thing and I'm ready to be much more vocal about it.

In 200 years, or sooner depending on how we act toward global warming, Iceland - that has destroyed me on the side of the highway with its beauty - will simply not exist in it's current form.

Every, SINGLE, glacier in this ENTIRE country will be gone. This is a scientific fact. 

I could go on and on about how devastating that would be to this country. It would completely rob this almost magical place from the world at large (did you know Iceland was the 2nd to last country to be inhabited in the world? Fun fact.).

Now, if you're someone who doesn't believe in global warming and thinks humans (i.e. YOU AND ME) aren't's my asshole coming out. This is science, it doesn't matter what political party you happen to fall under. It's happening and if you can't behind the science...Get off this page. Seriously. And kindly don't come back. Just stop now because I won't social work this and be neutral with a line of thought that is killing this country and the world. I won't argue science with you - don't argue when, as I write this, all of Europe is burning down and species are becoming extinct left and right because of the rising heat.

When I get back home, I'm recycling more. I'm telling my friends and family to do so. When I get a house, I'm going to clean energy the absolute shit out of it. When I vote, I will make sure to put the environment first. When get the picture.

I'm asking you, reader, to do the same. Recycle, research and use clean energy more in your house/car/life, vote politicians in that believe that world warming is a crisis for the entire planet and it's future, use and support public transportation, and so on and so forth.

Yes, the cynic in me says, "This won't change anything Nick because a billion other people do the opposite and blah, blah, blah."

If I can make a difference, whether it be one year, one day, one second longer that Iceland can keep its beauty before humans and their world warming take it down, then damn is that worth it.

And come visit Iceland. Please. Buy a ticket right now (here's the website). Message me or ask me and I'll tell you things that will make your heart happy. Experience this world and hopefully you too can (further) grasp the importance of saving this planet. This country needs good tourists! Come here and shame the bad tourists that ruin it for everyone (don't let them throw their shit everywhere [such as in the picture] or trample through off-limit land for their Instagram likes, etc), support Iceland's local economy, and become an asshole with me.

Come experience something wild and untamed and gorgeous and hopefully you too will be become an asshole about the environment and protecting this place and the world at large.

We might make a difference, we might not.

But at least we tried.

That's all one can hope to do in life, you know?
Simply try.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Dicks, man. Dicks are everywhere.

Dicks, man. Dicks are everywhere.

I’m sitting here in the café of The Icelandic Phallological Museum, sipping my “Icelandic Penis Ale?” and listening to oh-so-smooth jazz. Because of course I am.

This place is classy as hell, even though it has more versions of penis’ (is that how you plural multiple penis at once? Seriously asking), in every shape and form throughout history, then I ever thought I would be exposed to. Like, ever.

But, this is really typical. I’ve only been in Reykjavík for two hours and already adventuring into the unknown.

But this entry is more than just what I’m doing now. It just so happens that this story starts with dicks.

Because everyone here is having a blast, laughing and playing along. I mean, an ENTIRE museum and cafe dedicated to dicks is ABSOLUTELY HILLARIOUS. The old couple that just went in followed by the screaming kids (yep, all ages here, folks!) all are having the time of their lives right now.

But…and this is where this will veer into the serious for a hot minute...I’m not having as much fun as I should. I should be channeling my inner child right now.

Instead, I’m here in the cafe typing away on a computer - a very solitary act instead of giggling, making a billion inappropriate jokes, and pointing at funny dicks with someone.

So, real quick. Story time. I’ve told very few people about this, but I’ll let the cat out of the bag in a nut shell (no pun intended).

After my adventure in Nepal six years ago with Lakpa, I went to Indonesia and hung out in Bali. I was there for a good 3 or 4 days and I haven’t really told anyone about it. I mean, it has come up in so very few stories and I never wrote an entry on this website for the time period either. But why, you might ask?

Because, for the first time in perhaps a dozen different countries across multiple different continents and dozens of years, I felt…what I can only describe as the immense feeling of being lonely. I felt alone. It wasn’t the first time I wanted to turn to someone next to me and say, “holy shit, dude! Isn’t this cool!” But it’s always been sort of okay because I had plenty of fellow traveler friends to bounce things off of.

But that was the first time I felt like when I went back home, I would utterly lose all those memories I made. Solo traveling is inherently selfish and inward, I get that. I’ve thought I’ve made peace with that. Sure, you meet cool people and new friends and then it’s suddenly not selfish anymore. You’re sharing memories! Come on now, that’s my favorite part of traveling by far.

Then something happens. Something that always happens. And here’s the deal: at the end of the trip(s), they go back home and so do you.

And just like that, you no longer have a shared story with anyone around you when you inevitably come back home. You can’t reminisce with friends at a party about a shared experience. Instead you always have to end each story with “you’d had to have been there." You can’t joke and laugh and cry and feel with your friends and family back home because the stories and memories are only in your head and shareable with those that experienced them with you. 2nd person adventure stories usually suck and are no fun. And that’s where they stay because you don’t want to always be that asshole bringing up exotic stories that people get tired of reallllll quick.

So I went to Bali. I had some adventures there with the people I shared them with. And I’ll never see them again to share those memories. End. Of. Story.

That was my last solo trip. Since then, I’ve only traveled with others. And I've loved it. Even if it flowed differently than a solo experience. But the key difference of this kind of travel compared to solo: after the travels were done, the stories and reminiscing were not.

So with all that said, I’m still typing away in an Icelandic dick museum. And I’m feeling that loneliness sorta, kinda, maybe creepin’ on in. Questions I can't stop begin to form, like:

-Why am I doing this by myself?

-Am I the same person I was in my late 20s when I did this?

-And if I’m not, what do I do about this new person?

-How do I convince that old part of me that this isn’t what I truly, 100% enjoy anymore? That I want to travel with those I love and are close to me more now?

-What is the travel experience, really, if you have no one to really share it with during and after it's done?

I’ve been traveling a lot in the last year or so with good company. And as much as I adore this trip right now, it's hard not to look forward to two additional trips I have this summer when I return with people I deeply care about in my life more than the current solo adventure. So, this...

This…I just don’t know, man.

At this moment in time, this is just me laughing at dick jokes by myself and, fun fact: I’m older than my last solo trip.

And, well, I think I’m getting old enough that solo travel maybe just isn't my jam anymore and I now just want to laugh at dick jokes with someone next to me.

Shared dick jokes with people I love and care about. If that’s not a telling sign of maturity, I don’t know what is.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

"Damn Daniel, back at it with the white Vans!"

Fuck this blog.

But, I guess, you might need some backstory.

So, since last writing in this blog (almost six years ago!), I've done all the major things that compose and create the standard life.

Got closer to my family during Covid. Super thankful for.
-I fell in love, moved to Seattle for a little while, and experienced a relationship that was good and simply ran its course.
-I deepened some friendships/relationships, made a lot of new friends, while others faded at the same time.
-I hiked. Like a lot.
-Got a fish and named it "Rise Up Lights".
-Published a podcast of sorts that kinda got abandoned.
-Got better at my job and took on more responsibilities. Started moving toward getting my own private practice.
-Did a lot of cool things in between all the above.

With me so far? I mean, it's all pretty good, right? And, in fact, it's been quite an adventure since that last entry. I can't complain much - I'm still very much in love with life and the people and adventures it has thrown my way.

But there's one, tiny, small, almost-not-even-there thing I have not done though in these past 6 years.

I have not looked at this blog.

I have done absolutely, positively, everything I could to ignore it.  I consciously put this blog in the back of my head and forced myself to push it away as far as far could be.

I legit, no joke, couldn't even remember the name of this blog to even add this entry! I had to ask an old friend to help me find it again. That's how far removed I have put this blog. (And I'm super proud of the writing here. It has nothing to do with not liking it.)

Other things I stopped doing?
-I stopped checking in with all the friends I met while traveling (well, minus my goat-punching friend Lakpa who still calls me on a weekly basis!). 
-I stopped watching shows about travel. I stopped reading any books related to travel. I stopped...well, you get the point.

All of it reminded me that there was a time in my life that I didn't give a shit about a "normal life" and put my life in a 70-liter backpack and actively experienced the world around me.

But, so what?

Plenty of people do this. They grow up, they lay down roots, and move on with life. 

But, here's the deal. And it's big.

I was enthralled with travel. With the adventure of the unknown. With meeting and being intimately tied with travelers doing the same thing.

If you're super bored and have some time to burn, read through the last couple entries of this blog (especially this one) and you'll see someone absolutely smitten over the world of the unknown. Someone who is so optimistic about the adventure of life that it's almost nauseating.

And, then, like that, that man? Poof. Gone. Radio silence.

Radio silence to the blog. To the friends I made along the way. To new friends about the adventures I had experienced.

Just static on the screen.

So, the blunt question of this blog entry: What the hell happened?

I've been quite happy, to be honest (my friends would say I rarely am otherwise). And, I'd be lying to say I haven't traveled (I went to Bolivia and Canada and went on countless trips with friends with destinations known and unknown) and been having a blast with my sister and friends and family.

But these last few years, I've been missing something. Something this blog touched on and really dug into. Something I consciously knew was always lingering on the outskirts of my mind. This blog became almost like some kind of forbidden fruit. I was scared I'd re-read it and go, "I was THIS happy? I have proof that I went head-on towards the things that scared me?"

In short? I had become complacent with my life and I was scared that when I read this blog again, I would have to confront that.

But, guess what suckers! I did it! I re-opened the Pandora's box and everything has spilled over and has completely overtaken me.

I bought a random ticket to Iceland and I'm going in a few weeks.

Complacent? Screw that. I'm going back into the unknown. And I've been absolutely giddy since.

My job, my relationships, my day-to-day - the last 6 years have had plenty of ups and downs, but I buried a giant piece of myself to be someone I wasn't

I'm not blaming my long-term relationship with my ex at all. We loved each other the whole way and we just happened to find that we were two different people along that way, with different dreams and different life paths. But in that relationship, I feel a little like I was pretending to be someone I wasn't (this all me-created by the way). And then it ended and I just kept on pretending.

Or, maybe I wasn't pretending really.

I still want all that. I want roots. I want a loving relationship. I wanted all that then and still want that now.

But, I guess it comes down to being selfish. I want my cake and I want to eat it, too.

I want to be able to travel the world at the same time of all the above. I want to be an explorer. Doesn't even need to be a ton, but it has to be a part of my life in all the ways it hasn't been these past few years. One day I'll find the girl that will travel along with me when the itch becomes too big to scratch. Then we'll head back home, live the day-to-day while always planning that next escape and that next adventure.

That's how I want to live.

That's how I NEED to live. And I wasn't living that.
Until then, solo me needs to explore in order to continue growing.

But, enough about me.

This blog is about YOU, the reader, too.

I want to write to tell you that it's okay if you feel stuck. If you feel, like me, that nagging in the back of your skull saying something is missing.

Take a breath.

And face that nagging feeling head on. However scary. However world-changing.

Caveat: I'm not saying quit your job, divorce your partner, and say screw it all and just go travel and hike. No, I'm much too old to not encourage thinking something through. Think it through, do the financials, have the talks with the necessary parties. Plan it out. Be smart about it. But whatever you need to do, do it.
Just don't wait. You only have so long on this planet. 
Do what absolutely scares you. 

My fear was this blog. But I did it. I read through it all. I let the old me tell the new me what is up.

So, fuck this blog.

I re-discovered it and I can't ever look away again.

Expect more adventures to follow. 

Thanks for coming along with me, friends. I'll see you soon.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

"Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win."

Ready for a wonderful entry about uplifting things? Ready for an entry full of sunshine and flowers and beaches, and soft pillow talk?

Well, excellent! Let’s talk about some poverty!

Wait. Please don’t run. This will be a good entry, I swear. I just wanted to be fair and upfront that this will mainly be about an uncomfortable topic. But it is my duty to talk about this topic more than I have. Most of my entries I post never address the extreme poverty I take in while visiting all these countries. They’re very much “me-centered”, and while this particularly entry won’t be vastly different, the goal is for something more impactful than just showing how a pretty-privileged white dude from the West does his whole Eat, Pray, Love thing. Not talking about the extreme poverty has been my MO.

This is positively unacceptable, and as a social worker, I feel disgraced that I coast over this important topic with breezy conversations about toilets or drinking at bars. Sidenote though, because I do talk about toilets and bars frequently, here is a picture of the strangest urinal I have encountered so far, in a bar, in Kathmandu.

Back to it. Countries like Nepal need representation, they need to be shown how gorgeous they are and how desperate their situation is when it comes to income disparity on a global and local scale. Shelby pointed this out to me first: that Nepal doesn’t have the income disparity as say The United States or Thailand, but instead it seems like everyone is poor, even those of higher castes (like India, although the caste system is no longer legally recognized, many people still acknowledge it) and government officials.

In the past, I have been a coward, using a half-ass excuse that I’m scared to type negatively about some of these countries because of strict government censorship (but, yeah, for the record, this is somewhat true in some of the countries I have visited). But in reality, I’m scared to breech the topic because it’s so dense, so complex, and so hard to write about without sounding too pessimistic and having it turn into one gigantic bummer. Also, it gets a little tricky to talk about it from an outsider’s perspective as the world I see is filtered through my own lens as white, straight, American male of what I think poverty is and isn’t (which, sometimes, again, can be completely wrong because of the density of the word). As I tell my students and people I work with, I have no idea what they're going through because I am not and never will be in their skin. BUT, I can at least be the best damn ally possible to them.

And luckily, to boot, I’m an eternal optimist.

Today I woke up a little later than usual. I got my breakfast from the hostel, then walked through town to go to my favorite coffee shop (typical Seattlite, huh?). The people at this particular shop are, without a doubt, the nicest people I have met in any place so far. They raise their arms and hands and voices and smiles and laughs as though you were the Prodigal Son returning. They even memorize your drink so quickly that by Day Two you’ve become a regular in an alley coffee shop halfway across the world in Asia! Anyways, I jumped on my computer and started looking for a place to book for Jakarta in three day’s time (I’m a liar and I do actually plan things on occasion). While doing so, one of the staff came up to me and started asking me the typical questions: where are you from, how do you like Nepal, and how come your belly is so fat? That last question is made up, but it is a good question – I hit thirty and was, like, where did that come from? That's a story for another time though.

His name was Iswor (pronounced like E-sue) and he was (and is) delightful. We fill a good ten minutes with chatter and I learn that he’s also a full-time student, a single year away from getting his BA in Business. He also wants to be a social worker. This guy has big dreams and I can already tell he’s got a magnetic personality. We exchanged Facebook and decide to grab a bite to eat after his shift.

I come back a few hours later and he’s a social butterfly, sitting down and talking with another foreigner, Kelly, a researcher and student at Oxford (!) documenting, along with an assistant, about child exploitation and people migration patterns of Nepal (at least, I think that’s right, my memory is spotty most of the time and I’m technically polishing up this entry while in Jakarta [edit: and editing it more and posting from a bar in the US]. Kelly, if you’re reading this, correct me!). It’s fascinating stuff and she leads the three of us to a nearby restaurant called Yak.

Kelly has to leave for a meeting, but Iswor and I delve deep into it. He, like others before him, have a lot to say about the current Nepali economy, the government, and living in a post-earthquake nation already on the brink of collapsing (two days before this, there was politcial unrest in the government and and students filled the street and shut down city buses and the like (type in "Nepal protests" into Google and you'll be floored by what comes up). This is not unusual for Nepal unfortunately [fortunately?]).

People like Iswor are exactly why I travel. No guidebooks and no expats telling me what is what. This is a casual conversation between two people from vastly different cultures finding differences and exploring common ground. It’s wondrous, eye-opening, and a little hard to take in.

This has happened to me many times while in poor countries: hospitality you just wouldn’t believe and you wouldn’t expect in western countries (but, I hate generalizing as there have been several Western countries with equally as accommodating and generous souls).

He invites me to come see his apartment which he shares with his sister. His sister, although sick in bed from Typhoid for the last two weeks, cooks me Dal Baht after they learn how much I adore it. Re-read that one more time. This is a family that is barely surviving on their own income, and because the sister has been out of work, they are working on less than half of a very modest income to survive. Yet still they make me – a complete and utter stranger they just met – a meal they most likely can't afford.

This man wasn’t looking to make a quick buck off me. It wasn't some long-con. He was and is a genuine person who believes that money doesn’t equal happiness, and happiness depends on helping, learning, and opening your heart and world to matter how dark and fragile that heart and world are. He invites me because he wants to learn about myself and the US and I want to learn about his world. He also wants to tell a story of his nation that too often gets drowned out by bigger and more prosperous countries.

In a matter of two hours, we have become good friends.

And, dammit, rack up another person I will now miss and wonder and worry about.

But I’m writing this blog for another reason. I’m not writing it just to say, “oh hey, look I have another friend! Isn’t that cool!”

No, I’m summarizing this story because I want you, the reader, to know how beautiful people are when you let the fear go that you learn from the newspapers and TV shows.

But I also want to tell you about this country and why it needs your help.

Nepal is poor. In fact, from many reports (pre-earthquake), it was in the top 30 poorest countries in the world (some argue it’s much lower than that – they have no high-rise buildings, a one-lane airport, no rail system, and inadequate electricity for its almost 30 million population). I mean, this is a country that saw its first plane land in the mid 1940s and is a country that didn’t see a television system until 1985.

They’ve had an extremely rocky past with democracy and monarchies and are still experiencing constant political turmoil (most notably because of corrupt higher-up and messy politics with China/Tibet. If your curious, I’ve been reading this book by a Nepalese defector who now lives in Canada, and it has positively opened my eyes and heart to this country even more. It's called Forget Kathmandu. Give it a read if you’re a fan of history mixed with memoir. It’s a tough read at first, with a shitload of history to wade through, but I promise you the impact is that much stronger for it. I find it sad that it only has one review on Amazon...more proof how forgotten this country can be when someone writes something other than Mt. Everest.

I often think, how can I help? How can any of us help if we’re committed to our own lives, whether it be family, or school, or work back home. Part of the answer is tourism. Tourism is big business for this society (it's the number one source of income), and it can really positively affect local life when tourists and trekkers pour money into local people and food and supplies. The problem is, after the earthquake, tourism has plummeted to dismal numbers. 

And the earthquake. I remember waking up and hearing the news in the states and though I hadn’t been here yet, I got close enough in Dharamsala to understand how devastating a natural disaster can have on a community that can’t afford proper infrastructure on its buildings and roads. I get goosebumps even typing this when I recall Iswor telling me his personal account of the earthquake at the young age of twenty. He struggles to talk about the bodies he had to carry to the doctor (that were already dead or dying). Everyone in the city slept out in the fields for fear their buildings might collapse in on them. It was chilling to hear how he had to go to work the next morning in bloody clothes, stained from sixteen (he counted – how could you not?) bodies he carried out of rubble or the streets. I mean, my God, can you imagine that? I’m sitting in a café drinking a San Miguel and the reader is probably equally as comfy. So try to put yourself into this role – in a world where you make, on average, a little over 10,000 rupees a month – equivalent to roughly 100 USD. And even that is considered rich.

Rubble and triumph.

Imagine how fast that drains when a “nice” apartment the size of half a studio apartment can cost upwards of 3,000 Rupees per month. Add in that this kid is paying sometimes 27,000 Rupees a year for school. So his sister and him have close to 5,000 Rupees (50 dollars) a month to survive.

Fifty fucking dollars.
My heart bleeds and I feel so incredibly horrible for the privileges I have back home. But what can I do?

So, I ask this of readers:

Find NGOs that are reputable. Give money or give your time. (Resources and links will be at the end of this entry, with more added over time).

For example, the day before yesterday I went with Kayla, Deryn, and Ola to a local orphanage. We met this Irish couple that were volunteering there for a week before their actual "vacation" started. It was amazing to see. So...think about your next vacation. It’s completely doable (Update: I met up with the Irish couple on my flight to Malaysia. I asked them how the experience was and they were completely torn. They felt good that they helped provide for the children the week they were there. They were happy they could play and interact and bring joy to kids that didn't have parents or make-up for a non-existent welfare system that can't support struggling parents [however broken ours might be in the West, at least we have something!]. But the two of them couldn’t get over how hard it was to leave. They saw the kid’s emotions plummet from their exit. Imagine being the kids, attaching to caring adults, only for them to leave a week later, again and again and again).

But at the end of the day. It's something. And one thing I know for sure, something is almost always better than doing nothing at all.

Or, if you don’t or can’t volunteer, go to Nepal for your vacation. Just make sure your money goes to local businesses and guides. They need tourism, because tourism can make or break a country like this. For any country (and state) to function properly, tourism must be held in high regard. Now, I know that just getting more tourists here spending locally is not a fix to this economy or inefficient government. But, it’s not technically just a simple band-aid (for my British friends, plastics) either. It's a vital piece of the puzzle that YOU at home can do to at least help a little. And again, even a little is something.

The more I spend here in this capital city of “organized chaos” the more I am falling in love with it and the people. It reminds me of Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Most travelers I meet dislike PP greatly, but I was there for two weeks and it morphed into a second home for me (or third or fourth or...). When you discover the heart of even the ugliest and busiest cities – the heart being the working class people – you fall in love. You can’t help it. Head over fucking heels in love.

I’ve often railed on this blog and in person about the stark difference between a traveler and a tourist (Here's one example of me talking about that). I’ve often thought that tourism is pointless because you don’t really get the culture or dive deep into all of it. But, maybe I should backtrack because that has been and is incredibly elitist, and quite frankly dumb, and ignorant of me to have thought and said and written this. Tourism, however small or short, must happen for these countries to survive – casual “backpacking” must happen. Tourism, when done away from corporate groups and tours (which pocket most of the money), and done on the local level are what matter. No matter how you travel. And they must continue to matter.

So please, next time your vacation days are coming up, seriously consider about visiting Nepal. There is trekking from as little as one day to months at a time. There are rivers to raft down, jungles to explore, cities to walk, and absolutely cool gifts to buy. But most of all, there are wonderful people here that would love to shake your hand and say “Namaste”.

Tourism website:

Note: I double-dog-dare you to go to this website and not say, “holy shit! This is amazing, I’m buying my ticket immediately!” Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Wikitravel entry on Nepal:

Good NGOs:

One of my favorite trekking guides, Mani, from my last blog (Lakpa doesn't have a "website", but I do have his contact information if you want to hire him when trekking):

That’s all I got for now. Much like when I talked about Zimbabwe, I feel the people here are of the same opinion. "Tell people about us." The earthquake happened. It killed so many and destroyed a lot of the country. It sucks and it’s sad and, and, and! But it’s not as desperate as the papers would make you believe. The country is not in ruins. It is operational and still is divine.

In the future, I will most certainly continue to talk about pooping in holes and sleeping on airport floors and getting drunken tattoos (uhhhh), but I’ve made a promise to do more than that. To make this blog mean more than it is.

It is the absolute least I can do.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Lakpa punches a goat (and other Himalayan Adventures in Nepal).

I was fine yesterday.

Today, on this tiny bus, I am (for lack of more concrete terms) collapsing in on myself.

I’ve written before about how my life sometimes feels on fire (in a good way), but this feeling on this bus is something I’ve never had before. I have never, ever been so angry (and hungover) before this moment. Lakpa is passed out in the seat next to me and resting his head on my shoulder. I can’t even look at him. I’m choking back some tears and it feels like my soul is crawling through my body and torching everything it passes.

My insides are crumbling.

There is one thought – just one - going through my head, and it does not include all the beautiful things I have seen in the last two weeks (such as pictured above):

I fucking hate traveling.

And I hate that Lakpa was seated next to me. I wish he wasn’t. He’s a small Nepalese man with a personality that eclipses every physical trait possible. I told him last night, well into my 400 Rupee whiskey, that he is the kind of person that when you meet them, you are already sad for when they leave. More straightforwardly: Lakpa is a shooting star of a life. He’s brilliant and bold and beautiful.

And like almost everyone you meet while traveling, just like a shooting star, they enter and leave your life so painfully quick. You must then learn to let them go. Travel in and of itself is the definition of temporary. And sometimes, whether you like it or not, so are people.

And soon, as in this-short-bus-ride-soon, he will leave my life and I will miss him like I have many shooting stars that have blazed through my sky, however briefly.

That all said, this moment on the bus is more than just him.

I have also just finished trekking with him and an amazing group of people on a trail that spanned about two weeks and over a hundred miles. I hit my breaking point(s) that literally pushed me to my edges. I encountered leeches, frigid cold, altitude sickness, unbearable humidity. I pushed buses along cliff sides where one small mud slip and my life would tumble into a river of class VI, brown oblivion. I met and became friends with absolutely stellar people. I disconnected from the internet and bars and the wildness of urban life.

The experience then was, without a doubt, one of the hardest things I have ever accomplished. I have lots of friends that would have undoubtedly shot through this path and this challenge with relative ease (I have met fellow travelers that say it "was a piece of cake"). The thing is, I am not made for this kind of trekking, or at least, I haven’t fitted myself into someone would could be yet (I have since made a promise to myself that I will do so after this experience). I drink too much, I sit too much, and I was in no way, shape, or form ready for a trek of this magnitude.

But I did it.

And right now, on this tiny bus, I feel not only the weight of what I just experienced - what I accomplished along with my friends and their unwavering support on the trail - but the weight of life from the past two years (because these past two years have been a roller coaster of new situations and people and feelings and decisions). It’s a moment so rare and so profound that the rest of your life spills out at the same time. Does this even make sense? Has this happened to you? A moment where all of life just explodes from within - the totality of your days and existential existence just snatches the air out from your lungs? It’s suffocating and I can’t stop thinking about how insane it is to travel the world over and live this kind of weird life.

So. Recap. I’m hungover and I’m pissed and breaking down (fun!).

With this in mind, the previous days wash over me. (What follows is not a step-by-step recollection of trekking, because a] that’s boring to read and b] that’s boring to write, so I’ll save you the Lord of the Rings treatment and skip all the Hobbit walking and singing with Tom Bombadil nonsense).

Day Fourteen

Today, it is all cheers with: Shelby, my partner in crime from Texas (who pushed me to complete this thing and I'm indebted to her for it); Lakpa, our trusted, lovable, and dad-like guide; Maddie and Nate, two cool college students in Colorado who had basically merged with us since day one when we ran into each other at the same tea house; and finally Maddie and Nate's guide, Mani, who is one of the calmest and humblest people I have met in Nepal thus far.

We go out drinking. We play cards. We pound tables like large makeshifts drums as Lakpa sings us songs in Nepali. The table shakes with the weight of excitement.

We made it and, damn, are we proud.

Day Thirteen

We are on a cliff side in a rain forest. One side is pure rock and avalanches and the other is a river unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Our bus is stuck on a hill in the mud. Everyone piles out and we all join together and grunt and groan and push the bus with all our collective might. To no luck, we all grab stones from the area and make our own road. It’s teamwork that gets the bus over the hill and everyone freaks out and claps and cheers and hoots and hollers when the bus makes it through. In other countries, I could never imagine this team mentality. Here, it cements everyone together on a shared journey. Later, we run into another bus that got stuck and, yep, out all of us go again. Abnormal? No, not at all. The citizens of Nepal are resourceful and I love them for that. This compared to the last few days? Easy.

Day Twelve

I’m freezing cold and my sweat is turning to ice underneath my three layers of clothing. Shelby has been hit with Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) symptoms and is struggling behind. I’m trying my best to breathe at an altitude of close to 5,500 meters (which has roughly half the oxygen than at sea level. For Washington readers, this altitude is higher than Mt. Rainier). I’m still nursing my own AMS-induced killer headache from last night that devastated my sleep. My headache was not too major, but my compulsive fear was – I’d read enough and heard enough stories of comas and death from AMS (well, usually from the more severe/progressed forms of AMS, HAPE and HACE). So I sat in bed, aching and believing I was going to die. But the next morning, Monne told me that as long as the headache wasn't in the back of my head (meaning water had gotten there), I was a-okay. (Sidenote: check this out - type in a random number and you get some pretty fascinating, nerdy facts).

But that was last night and too much worrying stops cool things from happening. Onward! We get to the top and I’ve never felt so high in all my life (many puns intended). We meet up with the very rad East Coasters we met the other night and we bathe in an icy cold collection of selfies and prayer-flag hanging. We minimize talk because it’s brutally icy and I can’t feel my left shoulder and all my fingers (Lakpa is hitting his hands on rocks to bring back circulation, for a rough example of how cold it is).

At the hostel, we drink in celebration. Myself especially. I haven’t had a drink in well over ten days and I’m extremely proud of myself. I have yet to check Facebook. I have yet to have an energy drink. I feel completely and utterly free. So, of course, we all, in Lakpa’s words, “climb the Everest” (which is the name of a famous draft over here). They explode all over the lobby as though the beer bottles are just as excited as us.

A few drinks in and I get the courage to share with Kayla, Ola, and Deryn about something that hit me while on the top with little oxygen (Shelby and the rest are in heated games of Bullshit at a nearby table. Lakpa loves the game, but he is absolutely horrible at it).

On my left wrist, I have the word "truth" written in Hebrew. It's a short reminder of my favorite quote from the Christian bible. Pontius Pilate, against almost all popular opinion, is my favorite character. He, to me, has always been the most human of Christian biblical characters. His quote, "What is truth?" is a question I ask myself daily. I feel that way with a lot of things in life, religion included. Truth is elusive and I don't feel it healthy to choose truth lightly.

But, as I told my three friends, I found an answer on that mountain.

"Faith," I say, "that's the answer."

And I don't mean that in a strict secular or non-secular sense. I mean that the truth of things are: 
-faith in oneself
-faith in your partner
-faith in your religion/spirituality (whatever that may be) 
-faith in nature 
-faith in science 
-faith in anything, really.

For me, doing this improbable journey has given me my truth, one that has always been hard for me to accept. I have faith in so many others but have always lacked sufficient faith in myself and my abilities. But I think I've found my faith in myself. 

And with it, I think I've answered a question (at least partially) that has evaded me for so long. I tell my three friends that it's a cliche thing to think of and to not laugh too hard about how cheesy it all sounds.

None of them laugh and I am beyond glad that they are here at this moment.

Day Ten

Today we climb up to Upper Thorung base camp. We meet a screenwriter, Jordan, who left home because he was going stir-crazy while awaiting to see if his TV series would be picked up by Bad Robot and Netflix. He stayed at the lower base camp because all the guidebooks state that it’s dangerous to sleep any higher without additional acclimation. He may have had the right idea. Before going to bed, I am hit with a headache that could murder. But the next morning, I get a prescription strength Advil from Maddie, take my own Diamox pill (which makes me have to pee every ten minutes, which is absolutely lovely), and feel well enough to make the final push.

Day Nine

Up and up. Sunburns for days. We meet three cool travelers from the East Coast – Kayla, Ola, Deryn - who are extremely rad and we spend as much time as we can talking with them. When you’re in the mountains, you have plenty of free time after hiking. Oodles of it. So we spend our time talking to them about all the cornerstones of life – love, careers, passions, and, of course, how crazy it is that we’re here and hiking toward one of the tallest mountain passes in the world (which, as recently as 2014 took roughly 21 trekker’s lives...).

Day Eight

Acclimation day. With climbing high mountains, I learn, it’s very unsafe to scale too far in one day. The lack of oxygen fucks with you, so most treks require a certain amount of “rest” days for your body to get used to it. But acclimation isn’t just sleeping and waiting for your body to just say, "alright, I'm cool". It requires hiking up to a higher elevation, then coming back down to sleep at the lower elevation for the night. People who climb Everest, for example, spend weeks and weeks following this famous “climb high, sleep low” mantra. We just do it for a day. We play Shithead and Bullshit with candy we bought from a store instead of poker chips. We are all in bed by 7:30ish, per usual, because our bones are sore and the Dahl Baht lulls us all to sleep.

Day Seven

Shelby and I do juice breaks everyday around 10:30, so today, Lakpa asks a random person to enter their house for rest and a juice. It's things like that make me love these countries (can you imagine doing that in the US?). We arrive in the bustling town of Manang. Our group finds a movie theater in the mountain town and out of the piles of illegal movies, we choose to watch Children of Men. It’s strange to be in a movie room in the middle of nowhere, but Nepal never ceases to amaze me.

Day Four

Lakpa punches a goat in the face. I have never seen anything like this in my life. I find out later that Lakpa was attacked by a mountain goat sometime in the past and now he takes no chances with them. The goat takes it like a UFC champion. Both Shelby and I are screaming and laughing at the same time. I mean, have you ever seen a grown man fight a goat? This was perhaps the weirdest thing I have ever seen in life and I have no words to describe it other than: Lakpa hates goats.

Day Three

This is the day I hit a breaking point. The hike from yesterday and today has made me exhausted. My pack is digging into me thanks to over-packing and my legs are already tired. The humidity, which has never, ever been my friend, is soaring and I’m leaking out of every pour. I don’t bring enough water and thirty minutes from our place of rest for the night (six or seven hours into the hike) I feel like my world is shutting down. The three of us are out of water and I feel like I’m inches, steps – one step even – away from a heat stroke. I have never felt this in my life. I actually think I'm dying and my pee is the darkest color of yellow I have ever seen. It scares the shit out of me.  I tell Shelby and Lakpa I can’t do it. Not one more step. I sit down and tell Lakpa he’ll have to get to the next town and bring me water. 

So, like the amazing, spectacular man he is, he runs toward the next town. Shelby stays with me as I moan about how shitty I feel for giving up and, of course, she encourages me like the rockstar that she is. Lakpa returns with two liters of water and it's the best water I have ever tasted in my entire thirty years of life. I make it to the next town, broken, and discouraged with myself. If this is only Day 3, and I’ve hit a serious breaking point, shouldn't I stop now?

But I don’t.

Day Two

Hiking is tough and a slog and just plain brutal at times. I encounter what is arguably the best Coke ever at the top of a mountain, but that’s not as important as another thing that happened today.

Let’s talk about a wonderful little topic: leeches.

I’ve never been much of a fan of bugs and crawly things, but that’s never really stopped me from much in life. Leeches on the other hand, are pretty terrifying. They wiggle like calculated worms over muddy and wet land. They assume the fighting position and then take a leap of faith onto your body (usually the leg...well, pray it’s the leg instead of them deciding to travel upward…) and continue to find a warm spot (leeches look for two things: motion and warmth. Oh, and rational and irrational fear, too). They wiggle through your boot crevices and leech over your sock, burrowing deeper, usually toward the toes.

The best part? You can’t feel them when they somersault over your skin. You can’t feel them when they latch on and insert their tiny needle into you. And you can’t feel them when they begin sucking the blood out of you.

What you do feel, later on, is a deep sense of horror when you find them either still attached, or gone, fallen off after their meal. And then you bleed, oh do you bleed, from a tiny pin hole prick. I mean, it’s like a river for a good hour or more.

Nightmares for days, my friends. Nightmares for days.

You're welcome.

Day One

The bus, like many bus rides here, is startling to Western thought. It’s crowded and busy and, dear God, is it hot. It simmers and melts me like an easy bake oven on overdrive. My right armed is scorched from the sun since I can barely shift in the small seats. Nepalese music videos blast on the video screen. Shelby is just as miserable next to me. We meet Maddie and Nate at our first teahouse and know that we’ll all be instant friends.

One Day Previous

I make a new friend named Alex, a lawyer from Pakistan. He is travelling away from his home country for the first time and it is blowing his mind. He is awash with the lure of travel – the new places, the beautiful new people, and the natural friendships that form from it. He leaves tomorrow and he is genuinely sad about leaving this all behind. He reminds me of me when I first started travelling. Hell, he reminds me of me now, still sad when journeys and adventures inevitably end.

“It’s the cost of travelling,” I say, “and it sucks so very, very much.”

He nods. It’s a lousy feeling, saying goodbye to good moments and good people.

We then agree that it’s still worth every single second.  
And I think I can speak for him on this one that both of us can’t wait to do it again.

So. Here I am, more than two weeks later. I am angry. I am sad. I am happy. I am all teary-eyed. I am a million different emotions swimming inside and out.

I hate traveling. I love traveling. I am a contradiction in every sense of the word. But most of all - staring at the large mountains and tiny villages scrolling by - I love all these emotions equally.

Because through it all I truly, without a shadow of a doubt, feel more blessed and alive than ever.

Lakpa wakes up with a startle. He looks to me. I must look a mess. He simply nods and so do I. No words are exchanged, because none have to be. I think he will miss me, too.

I found my breaking points and I pushed pass them with the help of others. I met gorgeous new people and saw breathtaking new places. I did things I never thought I could do. And isn’t that what life is all about? Continually expanding and growing and learning and loving and challenging yourself…and, yes, continually letting go of people and adventures when the time comes?

I think it is. It’s part of the deal we sign the moment we are born.

I go back to staring out the window.

And I soak in the world as it bleeds on by,

and by,

and bye.