Stepping on the plane at Denver International Airport, I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of what was about to follow. I was just a kid, fresh out of high school, and only seventeen. I was confident and ready to embark on this journey, but at the same time a voice in my head asked myself what I was doing.
I stepped off the plane at Tribhuvan International Airport; I remember it clear as day. The bus ride to Bhaktapur brings new sights, sounds, and smells. Adrenaline and nerves kick in. I am filled with a new life. Everything around me excites me. I don’t know what my purpose here is, but I know- without a doubt- I’m here for the right reason. This is where I’m meant to be. Right here, right now.
Now, I’ve gotten off a tempo for the first time. The success I feel for such a small task inspires me to continue seeking out the unknown within the vast city of Kathmandu. I can feel the strength growing inside of me, I open up to any new opportunities. I learn new words and skills everyday that help me navigate my new life in Nepal.
We’ve left Kathmandu. We are now residing in the peaceful Namo Buddha Monastery. However, I find little peace within myself. I reflect on my beliefs, life, and suffering. My mind is filled with questions; I am challenged here. I leave still questioning many aspects of my own life and the world but have found peace with my own confusion. This has been a turning point for me in the course. I’ve started to recognize a change in myself. However, I’m still unsure of what it might me.
Midcourse comes and goes. Reflection is done, surveys are filled, and feedback is given. The time is going faster that I imagined.
I find myself back in Kathmandu for a short three days. My sense of comfort in the city returns, with it comes a gratitude for a place that has helped shaped me over the past month and a half.
We’re leaving again, on a rattling bus for ten hours to Jagat. The first day of trek- full of stairs- tests our physical abilities. The second- long and restless- tests emotional boundaries. Finally, we reach Na and the group works through difficulties together. My friends start to feel like a family for the first time. I can see a trusting bond start to form, something that has always been hard for me to do in a big group. The closeness I feel to those around me gives me the support I need to get through the long days. I rejoice in being outdoors, living out of my pack, and spending nights cuddled in tents.
The transition to Chokati couldn’t have been smoother. We walked- literally- straight into it. I find myself in the midst of village life. I watch around me as children are raised by the whole village, tea is shared between neighbors, and each meal is prepared start to finish, field to table. I find myself comfortable in a situation I once would have considered uncomfortable. For everyone in the group our growth is starting to become more apparent and visible to those around us.
We plan our expedition phase together as a group. Some people help more, some less. I find myself in a neutral position. I help find a restaurant, call, book a meal for all 20 people that will be joining us. It is a small victory for the planning portion of the trip. Then, we depart Chokati in the direction of the Sri Aurobindo Yoga Mandir Ashram, where we plan to spend five days. I continue to help with planning here and there, everywhere I can. I become aware of the little days left and my conflicting thoughts about going home. I ask myself questions about the journey I’ve almost completed. How have I changed? What values have I picked up along the way? What will it be like to return home? All of which I can’t answer.
Suddenly, X-Phase has ended. Again, just as I had three months prior, I embrace the sights, sounds, and smells on the bus ride towards Bhaktapur Guest House. This time they’re more familiar. I recognize a building, the shop we bought shampoo at, the not so pleasant smell as we cross the river, and the alley we got lost in. The time for reflection is made, final feedback and surveys are done, and now we prepare for one final transition. The trip home begins.
As much as we can prepare for home, no one can foresee exactly what it will be like to return. What I can see is right now. I’m sitting in the dinner room at Bhaktapur Guest house. It remains the same as it was on our first visit. The red buildings, comfortable rooms, and delicious meals are exactly as I pictured in my memory. Seeing how little this place has changed, shows me how much I have. I am still a kid, still barely out of high school, and still only seventeen. But, when I step of the plane back at DIA, I will no longer be asking myself what I’m doing. I will no longer question my actions. Everything I’ve learned and put into practice while being here has demonstrated to me how capable and strong I am of any task. My next adventure lies in every day. Everyday I promise to challenge myself, I promise to reflect on myself, and I promise to learn something new about myself and the world around me. This trip has been one of the greatest privileges of my life and I am forever grateful to everyone and everything that has made it possible. Thank you Mom, Dad, sisters, friends. Thank you instructors, fellow students, and everyone at Dragons. Most importantly thank you Nepal and everyone here. None of this would have been the same without you.