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It is hard facing the dark after a beautiful light is so suddenly extinguished and yet Stevie Nicks’ haunting voice rises up to remind me, “there’s a heartbeat and it never really dies.” This, I remind myself as I sit at a funeral of an 18-year-old who’d died so tragically in a car accident a few days before. I can’t help but try to remember what it was like to be that age, when everything is a promise and before we find out there really are monsters hiding in the dark.

So, why Nepal and why now? I’m going to Nepal to trek to Everest Base Camp and yet that isn’t what I’m doing at all. I’m going to Nepal to listen.

Of all the things that could have come to mind at this funeral, of all the things that seemed to mean so much when i was a just a kid myself, it was Nepal that floated to the surface. After reading Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air” for an English Comp class, my 18-year-old self vowed to visit Nepal one day and see the mountain that seems to enthrall people to death. So, all these years later, I wondered whatever happened to the old promises to myself. Of course, life happened. There are so many things to figure out when you’re in college and then later when you’re establishing your career and yourself. You have to pick your battles and the promises you keep.

Sitting in the church and seeing photos of this beautiful girl drift across the projector screen, I suddenly felt ready. Ready to make some of those old dreams happen. Later that day, I Google the heck out of Nepal and then came across several articles that solidified my resolve. After the earthquake in Nepal, the Nepalese people are struggling to rebuild. So many Nepalese have lost loved ones, their homes, their livelihoods, their roads, everything.   While one can argue tourism is a blessing and a curse in many ways for this country, but it ultimately will feed more money into the economy quicker than any other sources of revenue. Stimulating the economy promotes rebuilding efforts and securing infrastructure that is still in shambles in many communities.

No one questions the resolve of these people and despite the need for serious, conscientious reform of financial resources and management, the most compassionate thing we as Westerners can do is visit the country. Westerners have an opportunity to promote compassionate travel and a considered approach to tourism that respects the Nepalese culture and environment rather than contribute to erosion of it.

So, why not go now? It’s mutually beneficial for both Nepal and us bucketlisters abroad to go for it. Besides, Everest is only the surface; I can’t help but think our Western compatriots who were lost in the avalanche on Everest or elsewhere when the earthquake struck knew that, too. When it cones down to it, I really want to go to Nepal to soak up the miraculousness of the indefatigable human spirit in the faces of those who have lost so much but endure nonetheless.  

So, Stevie has it right. In the rubble, you can hear it if you listen. There is a heartbeat and it never really dies. Neither does the human spirit or the  promises we once made to ourselves before life happened.

Let’s forgo the easy way.

In October, I found myself at a funeral for a friend’s daughter, who was just shy of her 19th birthday. She’s just a kid. It’s the phrase that played on repeat the whole day. At the service, two things were emphasized that struck a deep, reverberating chord in me:

— Finish your unfinished business

— Learn as much about life as you can while you have the good fortune to have breath in your lungs

It made me think about what it meant to be an 18-year-old girl again. I can’t quite fit into the shoes of that girl anymore, but I remember the world had endless potential then. There was a promise of things to come. I still think there’s my whole life to do all the things I wanted to do when I was just a kid.

I’m not just a kid anymore–even though I don’t feel like an adult, either. I’ve had 18 more years on the planet than this girl did, and I can’t help feeling as though I have unfinished business.  For all the hard (and necessary) lessons I’ve learned in my life, I’ve not learned enough. I’ve not done my part.

I’ve spent a good deal of my adult life sorting myself out. It’s been necessary. I believe in the power of self-reflection and brutally assessing oneself. I’m self-aware, sometimes to a fault, and I believe in the power of self-reflection and internal struggle. While suffering matters – it means something – I’ve nearly out-suffered myself.

But I’m not a kid anymore. The thought is as sobering and final as the closing of a coffin.

And so when I started thinking about how to enrich my life, the one thing that kept coming up was travel. With the exception of a “go me” solo excursion to Alaska and some side trips here and there, travel has been on the backburner for quite some time. It’s too bad, because I feel a sense of freedom and euphoria when I experience a whole new world.

And oh, where to go. There’s so much ground to cover (literally). The immediate bucket list is chock full of mountains and/or glaciers and/or snow…the very things I do not have in my corner of the world. Nepal and Iceland are the top two international contenders while the national parks in Alaska, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming are calling my name stateside.

The details will come. It feels good to make an 18-year-old promise to myself to continue to learn what I can about universe. After all, I’m not a kid anymore.

SOB with me

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