Going to Nepal the first time was something of an accident. India was my intended destination, but I had no Indian visa and no time to get one. I figured that I could fly to Nepal and get an Indian visa there. Instead, after a month in Nepal, I decided that what I really wanted was a good Internet connection so that I could get a lot of work done, so I bypassed India and flew to Bangkok.
It’s now a year later. For the past year, I’ve been thinking about going back to tackle India. I’ve been planning where I would go and what I would see. I’ve been watching Bollywood films and reading up on the country’s history. Whenever I see photos or videos of India, I’m hit by a pang of what I can only describe as phantom nostalgia. It’s sentimental affection for a place that I would swear I’ve already been to and fallen for, though of course I haven’t. For the past several months now, the plan has been to go to India after my time in Cambodia was up. I would travel overland from Phnom Penh to Bangkok and then fly from Bangkok to Calcutta. It was a done deal.
And then Nepal got in the way. Again.
I suppose it started as I was finishing up my very-soon-to-be-released book about my trek to Everest Base Camp. As I relived those wonderful memories and looked back through my photos, the nostalgia shifted from the place I’d never been to the place that I had been to and loved.
As I was working on the book, I also started to feel the pull of the US. More specifically, thinking about my time spent in the Himalaya was rekindling a desire to head back to the mountains. I was feeling the pull of America’s wild and wide open places, especially the mountains and deserts of the American West. I started to think a lot more about the rock climbing and hiking adventures that I was not having by being in Asia. I planned out new rock climbs that I would establish and new long-distance hiking routes that I would pioneer. I thought about which vehicle I would buy and convert into the ultimate adventuremobile. I was sold on the idea.
But when I took a step back to try to examine the situation objectively and think rationally about what I was feeling and why, I realized that what I wanted wasn’t necessarily rock climbing and a van to sleep in. What I wanted was adventure. I’d lost that these last couple months in Cambodia. The streets of Phnom Penh had stopped being new and interesting and had become a new normal. As much as I had enjoyed Nepal, going back hadn’t even crossed my mind, but once it did, it wouldn’t leave. I was presented with the classic traveler’s dilemma—do I go back to favorite places, or do I visit new places in the hope of creating new favorites? But here I knew what the right answer was. I knew almost instantly that Nepal was the better choice, better than either India or the US. The two birds of Indian exoticism and American adventure were killed with a single stone from Nepal. I bought my one-way ticket to Kathmandu earlier this week, and I leave one week from today.
I left Nepal because it was a difficult place to be. It was hard to work. It was hard to navigate. It was hard to breathe. I then spent the next 7 months in Thailand because it was an easy place. It was an easy place to be, an easy place to work, an easy place to make friends, an easy place to find anything I needed. Cambodia didn’t start out as an easy place to live, but it’s become one over these last 4 months.
It’s time to move on. I’m no longer interested in easy. I’m ready for a change. I’m ready for the challenge. And I think that this time, for real, I’m ready for Nepal.
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