I met/I learned

The landscape of a seemingly idyllic world surrounds me. Just over the hill, poverty and hardship abound; people do what they can just to get by. Still, they do so smiling. Their warm faces inviting and gentle. Their labor is hard, much of it looks to be back-breaking toil. I see these people, young and old alike, walking slow under heavy burdens uphill for hours while I often struggle with only the weight of my small backpack. I have learned of pain as my aching joints protest another step upwards towards the peaks of Annapurna, my lungs struggling to intake the thin oxygen properly. These hardships seem trivial compared to the stories I have heard.

I met a young woman in Pokhara and she told me her story. She told me of the devastation her village suffered after the earthquake. How, because it was so small, the government gave no aid and destruction remains three years later. She told me how her father was dead, her brother an alcoholic, her sister un-working, her mother swinging wildly between sadness and anger, and of the rape and disrespect that surrounded her and lead her sister to stop working. She recounted a story of a client at the massage place where she worked who tried to solicit her to return to his hotel room with him. When she refused, his simple utterance of “Fuck off!” or “Fuck you!” struck her; she felt guilty. Her story struck me.

I know little of the earthquake and sitting among the terraced slopes of the Nepalese country, I find it hard to imagine this land shaken by destruction. The people here have a great capacity for kindness. The gentle namaste echoing from all sides as one walks through the streets is a calming sound. The people here seem like the gently flowing river before me. They are strong and ever-moving.

Why travel? I can only answer that question for myself. I travel for the people I meet. For the gentle hands of the old Tibetan woman with the lined face who speaks harsh English with a softness behind it. I travel for the small white birdwho reminds me of a little boy that after a brief period of distraction runs with the awkwardness of one who has only just begun to understand his limbs to catch his motherthat walks in the shadow of the water buffalo. The people here are strong like the river who builds her own path. They are like the mountains that surround them on all sides. Their ability to live in such harsh beauty astounds me. Nepal is a landscape of feral beauty, but by far, the people are the most beautiful part. They change the unforgiving landscape into a land which sustains life. Where it thrives.

​-Ula, class of 2019​


I learned…

I learned a lot from this journey which is soon coming to an end. I learned to appreciate my family and my home – I always have but now to a much stronger degree. The culture here is very family based, generations and generations thriving off one another. The lifestyle here is also very simple. Simple houses, simple meals, simple days. Life is seemingly so much less stressful, mostly because people aren’t fighting in the rat race. Nepal’s family-based culture, plus spending so much time away from my family taught me to appreciate what I have back at home. It also caused me to start planning for a future – a future where I live in my own simple house, grow and cook my own food, and live without the materials we deem necessary in our culture.

In our culture, we, as a whole, tend to be driven by materialism. The advertisements are released, the product is bought, and then after a short while it is thrown away. I found that in Nepal everything is a bit old and dinged up, but still working. The difference between American and Nepali culture can probably be found somewhere between the lines of marketing and the financial state of the people and the government. In Nepal, it’s more common to find people working at their little family run businesses simply in hopes to get enough money to feed their families. I prefer a family-based life, living simply instead of obsessing about materials, making life more fulfilling and less stressful.

I find that in our culture, as soon as children reach college age, they focus on finding a high paying job, even if it means moving far away from one’s family. There is a certain beauty in this adventurous spirit when everyone spreads across our planet. Societies and cultural traditions spread, making the citizens find common ground and integrate more. But, within this new tradition of moving far, far away, the tight family bound communities are lost. In Nepal, the generations look after one another, the grown children look after their elderly parents, and the grandparents look after their grandchildren. When you walk down a village street in Nepal you see generations of a family all sitting together in their businesses with big smiles on their faces because all the day asks is that they be together. They feel safe and secure. There’s such a beauty in the tight families. In the future, I will keep my adventurous spirit and seek new horizons, but I would like to stay out of life’s rat race and never lose sight of my family. One day I would like to live close to them and maybe even open a family run business.

The hardest part…

I remember thinking when Louis first gave us a description of the itinerary of the trip that it was going to be one of the most challenging travel experiences that I would ever face. The idea of trekking for two weeks was daunting. I knew I was fit enough for this trip but something about trekking to a height of 17,000 feet while carrying a 20 plus pound backpack for the majority of each day was frightening.

When actually experiencing Nepal and Bangkok, though, it turned out that only one incident of the trip was particularly challenging. Ultimately, it prevented me from trekking up the mountain. Not thirty minutes into the trek, a large truck was struggling up a rocky hill when a sizable rock flew up from under one of the truck’s tires and hit me in the knee. I remember seeing the accelerating, incoming mass of destruction like it was in slow motion: the collision, a loud pop, the trembling of knees, my body falling down. The pain, a silent scream, the gasping of air. The whole experience seemed to be warped by time.

When the blurred experience finally came into focus and I was able to stand, two thoughts crossed my mind. The first was that I would be okay, and the second was that I would be staying at the next village for a few days to recuperate and recover so that I would be able to continue trekking later on. It turned out that I was correct in both regards. For two full days, I stayed and recovered. This was challenging, not only because I had to figure out how to occupy my time, but also because I was alone except for the locals, who spoke little English.

Being alone was something that I have struggled with throughout my whole life. Being in the presence of others gives me a sense of security and allows me to feel safe. Being alone pushed me to the limits of my comfort zone because it caused me to be more self-reliant. To pass the time I drew, got bored, and then started reading. The book I read, The Miracle of Mindfulness, was a book on Buddhism. Partly because it occupied my time and partly because I had a greater interest in spirituality, I practiced its teachings. One of the main components of this practice was to focus on and be grateful for every experience. This included when I was eating, walking, and breathing. Focusing on my every movement and limiting distractions was extremely difficult.

I remember having my attention wander and having to draw my attention back to the now instead of the future or the past. I also remember having to relinquish inner feelings of boredom and sadness. By meditating on the present, I was not only able to change my mindset, but also able to think about my life in a more positive way. This experience was both difficult and important. In hindsight, I should have expected the most difficult experiences to be the most rewarding.

Sterling – Class of 2019

I will bring home

I will bring home prayer flags

I will bring home spices and teas

I will bring home cashmere blankets

Objects full of memories that I can give to my family.

What I will bring home with me that will last a lifetime is every moment, memory, emotion, taste, and a new way of looking at life

Every time I travel I bring home a new way of life because every new place I travel to I gather information making me a citizen of the world instead of one small village (Morgan Freeman)

This trip I had an intention, a reason to travel.

My reason was to find acceptance and a deeper knowledge about myself that only another culture could offer.

I needed to be immersed in a culture that would ultimately in some way or another acknowledge my brown skin and accept me even though I am American.

When I came on this trip it was a mystery yet there seemed to be set plans for us

Explore Bangkok

Go to Pokhara

Go to the monastery


The day we began our travels no plans were set

When we got to Pokhara we found out that we were trekking in two days and not going to the monastery. Mentally I was unprepared and I was terrified. I had no idea what was going to happen, how we would all do at high elevation, and if we would all make it.

I took with me flexibility

Thrown in the deep end I needed to trust myself. Every day of the trek I learned about my physical limits and especially my mental limits.

I took with me trust

Every day I stored away a new story.

I took with me adventure

Each day I had a goal that I wanted to fulfill, each day my goals grew harder. Every time I completed my daily goal a part of me felt at peace.

I took with me stamina

My overall goal was to reach Tilicho lake. Before we left I had no doubt in my mind that my last and final goal was to conquer the lake, no doubt in my mind that we would make it. It pushed my physical limits more than anything has.

I took with me courage.

At the top, at Tilicho lake my heart was full. Many times, on the trip I felt my heart full of happiness with just being; being in the moment, being with my friends, being with the culture

I took with me happiness in being in the present moment

What I will bring home with me that will last a lifetime is not only every moment, memory, emotion, taste, and a new way of looking at life, but small bits and pieces of knowledge about myself and about traveling that I hope to share with every person I meet.

Every place we as a Spring Street group go traveling impacts the culture, the people, the environment, and me in the most phenomenal ways.

Sol – Class of 2019