As I prepare for a massive trip soon (More on that in the next week), I found an old email I sent while in Nepal that sums up my love for travel to some of these places. It’s below. I wish I could post my friend Carol Conzelman’s beautiful commentary. I will let her do it.
I. Can’t. Wait. To. Go.
Dec 2006 Kathmandu
Hello my friends,
Nothing like a quick dose of Asia to cure one of his self-absorbtion (if
that’s possible), loss of direction, and terminal American-ness. An
all-night flight to Delhi, little sleep there and a surreal flight for a
weekend in Kathmandu. Why a weekend you ask? Not about me, I answer.
I spent the afternoon at Hotel The Earth. It is now closed but the owners
still live there so I knocked, they answered, and they remembered me. Every
night I have ever spent in Kathmandu was spent there. Three trips (now 4)
over 11 years and maybe 20-some nights. I sent friends, girlfriends,
ex-girlfriends, anyone I knew to stay there. Maybe it WAS about me. Allowing
me to re-live experiences when my friends go there. My first time there I
had hair down to my shoulders. Now, almost none. The Nepalese seem vastly
different after 6 1/2 years (can you believe it?), 5 jobs, three
relationships and several cities.
The owners offered to let me stay, which I did for 5 minutes tongiht before
realizing Thamel (the tourist spot here) doesn’t close at 10 PM anymore. It
is packed with 16-25 year old Nepalese in Jeans and western clothes. Very
My perspective came when walking down the street (or at least it began) to go
see Sagar and his family. Tears started (and continue now) as I approached
the home of the family I have spent maybe 10 days total with and not seen
since Sagar was 13. Maybe it is the god-like status (I say that in a
self-degrading manner) that Bob Uncle (as they call me) has achieved because
of my many visits, friends that have come, and dollars turned to rupees I
have sent for school. I don’t know. I sat in thier home feeling like I saw
them yesterday; wondering how I could have any self-pity over my rough year
when the Mom is now an indentured servant in Kuwait, Sagar is second in his
class but must quit school to work, one daughter has dropped out to help,
and Sunil (the father) was in tears while telling me his hardship in broken
english. All the while feeling good about myself because they treat me so
well; savoring this “event” like I seek and savor so many others. The
addiction of traveling and moving. People rise up to make an effort when you
do. Well, some do.
Nepal has just come out of nearly ten years of civil war and near financial
collapse for many businesses. The group called the Maoists have supposedly
lay down their arms to join the political process after years of carnage.
Things seem lively aside from the swelling population of young people with
no jobs or prospects of any. Sagar is a black-belt in karate, very smart and
has just a beautiful heart. Why was he born in Nepal you might ask? Why was
I born a white-man in America?
The idealism of a place like this (and any for that matter) is shattered once
you get close to people that struggle. I mean real close. Enough to feel
their pain and feel it daily. Only when you leave to go back to your life
does it drift away and only pictures of mountains and foreign friends
remain. Sending a few rupees eases the pain, and the guilt, right? It
becomes an addiction. Makes you feel powerful. Allows you to go out and
drink, see music and have nice dinners because you might be paying $100 a
month to help with some kids school. Or less. It forces your consciousness
on you when you come here. Forces you to pay attention to the wastefulness
of our American lives, even though the mere consciousness of it does nothing
to alleviate the suffering of others. Or does it? Ask the Dalai Lama about
The overwhelming gift that I get from these people in Asia is the ability to
connect to another human being regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, language,
or socio-economic class. Their human-ness is right in your face. They
develop personality and love and kindness DESPITE abuse, pain, suffering,
and violence. Not that we don’t have those traits, we just just don’t relish
in our freedom to exhibit them. We tend to hide them whereas in some cases,
this is their only freedom. Their only form of expression. No government or
empty belly can tell them they can’t say “Namaste” and truly, as the phrase
means, “salute the god in you” without fear of reprisal and
Don’t take any of this the wrong way. I have enjoyed the ability to weave in
and out of these people’s lives at my choosing for ten plus years. To give
when I can, but in my mind, not nearly enough. That is a tough way to look
at it. However, I think the true gift I have received is the ability to feel
a connection and understand how hard it is to be a human being sometimes.
Only three days into my trip and already Asia is that vivid, wild and
beautiful example of the human condition that seems to drag me back forever.
Namaste and give thanks today. Off to Dharamsala in a few days and maybe
some pictures next time.