Long-term travel, being on the move constantly, is not for everyone nor is it something anyone can just decide to do. The unpredictability of it, for instance, can be quite unsettling for many. Often it requires being prepared for that which one cannot be prepared for, no matter how good a boy scout one is! But, that can be appealing to some, especially to those who are open to — and even thrive on — new experiences! To someone like myself!
Back in March 2014, following an invitation from Grinnell College, I spent seven weeks in the country. I hit UWC-USA in Montezuma, NM, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Chicago, Washington DC and New York City, in addition to Grinnell. I presented at a number of places and caught up with friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, over two decades in some cases!
Following the trip, I decided I would travel to the US once every year, which landed me in New York City on March 31 with a whirlwind three-month travel plan.
I had considerably more whirlwind of a tour than expected and, after almost ten months since first landing in the City, I am still in the country!
I travelled to all the cities I had planned to visit and more! I didn’t get to see some of the places I wanted to, such as Yosemite and Yellow Stone National park etc. However, I got to visit Anne Arbor, MI, Colorado Springs, CO, Bend, OR, Mount St. Helena’s in WA, the coast lines of Oregon, MacKenzie Pass and the Cascade Range in central Oregon etc., cities and places that hadn’t been on my itinerary.
I reconnected with many more friends. I even tracked down teachers I hadn’t seen or talked to in decades! I tracked down three of the four teachers I was on the hunt for, North-American teachers who had taught me as a secondary school student in Kathmandu in the 80’s. One a Canadian still living in his hometown about which he had talked to us a lot about back in 1985! Another, an American from the Midwest who was also still in the same city and teaching at the same school since I last saw him in the early nineties! The third, living close to a city I was visiting, I paid a visit meeting him after 30 years!
As my travels progressed, my plans and itinerary changed…often…as expected…of course!
And then the April 25 earthquake threw a spinner on my plans, as loose as they were. The calamity destroyed most of the infra-structure of the schools our organization, COMMITTED, has been working with in Thangpalkot, in addition to 594 of the 600 houses in the village. The schools lost most of that which COMMITTED had helped build and set-up, such as the library, computer lab, science lab etc. COMMITTED had to provide immediate emergency relief and to also start from zero again with assisting the schools and for that we needed funds!
So I moved my return date to as far as my visa allowed — to the end of September — to give myself almost three more months in the continent to promote our work, raise funds and to establish relationships with institutions and organisations for long-term collaboration and support.
My marvellous and amazing friends, and their friends, came to the rescue, inviting me to their area, hosting me and arranging for me to speak at different venues. (The post “Whirlwind Tour” lists my movements and the presentations I gave.)
Then, June-July came along with the US Government’s offer of an option for Nepalese travelling in the country to extend their stay even longer! I jumped at the opportunity and filed my application, setting myself up for another chapter in my life — the most uncertain one to date!
I wasn’t even prepared for the coming season — winter! I had been living out of a suitcase filled with spring and summer clothes for instance.
All my life, when starting a new life in another country, whether as a student or a professional, details such as country and city of residence, job and responsibilities and duration, and accommodation — a furnished accommodation, down to even cutleries often — had always been finalised before moving to the country! Outside of Nepal, the fourteen times I moved countries or cities, that’s how it had always been! My Nepalese passport doesn’t allow me the freedom to just move to a country.
And there I had been, committing to starting a whole new uncertain chapter outside Nepal…with no job, very little idea for where and how I would live etc. Of course, I couldn’t have prepared for any of that, really! But decide to stay on I did and that’s why I am still around and still doing what I can reaching out to, and trying to connect with, organisations and institutions in the country, in addition to looking for a job.
It was fitting then that the travels came to an end on November 26, Thanksgiving day! Fitting because I had a lot to be thankful for, which I expressed on a Facebook post (reproduced below) while in transit in Los Angeles Airport, on my way to the East Coast.
To begin with, I am thankful for the eight-month long North American travel, which ends today!
I am thankful for the three dozens or so friends (including a former teacher) who welcomed me into their homes and made me feel like I was part of their family…
(I spent no more than 20 of the last 230 days in hotel rooms.)
I am thankful for almost hundred friends and acquaintances who took time out from their busy schedules to meet with me and reconnect…again…
(Many did that in my last visit a year and a half ago.)
I am thankful for the opportunity I have had to connect with many others!
Thankful for the minimum impact of the earthquake of April 25 on my family and friends back in Nepal…
Thankful for the people around the world responding to COMMITTED’s plea for funds to help the earthquake victims in Thangpalkot…
Thankful for the opportunities to speak to and connect with school children all over North America to bring my messages of the importance of dreams, justice, human rights, education, compassion, (international) understanding and world peace.
So, happy Thanksgiving everyone and cheers from this lover of beer…cheers from Los Angeles airport…from one who is actually from the land of million gods including Shiva…cheers from one waiting for his flight to Boston to begin yet another phase of his life!“
Of course, I am also thankful for the kind of unpredictable, exciting, though at times unsettling therefore filled-with-surprises life I am able to live! I am thankful that I have the option to live such a life! Most people I know don’t get — or have — that option, and even when such an opportunity presents itself, many aren’t able to or won’t — for a number of reasons — take up on it!
Here’s to an uncertain future and life…filled with surprises!
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