It has been more than a month since I returned from Nepal, yet as I celebrate Thanksgiving this year, that time in Nepal is what comes to mind. As we were trekking in the Himalayas for two weeks, our group leader, Peter, occasionally had us share three things for which we were thankful. It was a nice exercise and a chance to focus on the positive when we may have been feeling somewhat miserable.
There was a lot to be thankful for as I trekked through the Himalayas.
I was thankful for thick blankets. Not just any thick blankets, but possibly the thickest blankets I had ever seen. Considering that the nighttime temperature inside my room dipped as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit, those blankets kept me warm until it was time to crawl out of bed each morning.
I was thankful for the many plastic bags I still had stuffed in the pockets of my backpack from my trip around the former Soviet Union. As it started raining the last few days of the trek, the rain cover on my backpack wasn’t enough to keep it dry and if it hadn’t been for all of those plastic bags to pack my clothes into, I would have had nothing but soaking wet clothes to wear the rest of the trek.
I was thankful for popcorn. Every afternoon brought snack time and the snacks at the teahouses were usually cookies – which I can’t eat. Enter popcorn. Every teahouse also made popcorn the old-fashioned way – in a pot over an open flame. With just a little bit of salt added, it was delicious. Not only did I enjoy popcorn as a snack almost every afternoon, I had it for lunch one particularly tough day when I just didn’t feel like eating anything else.
I was thankful for my legs. As much as I struggled with my breathing and ached from my backpack straining the herniated disc in my neck, my legs kept me going. I didn’t even feel that sore until about ten days into the trek, which proved to me that I was in better shape than I thought I was and that my years of running and training for marathons really paid off.
I was thankful for the best shower ever. Or at least the best shower in the Himalayas – a glorious gas-heated shower in Pengboche that was downright luxurious after the previous “bucket showers” in Mong La and Gokyo. Granted, the bucket showers were better than expected – basically 5 gallon buckets of water heated up on a stove and placed on the roof of the shower building, with the water slowly flowing down through a shower head. Those weren’t bad, but wow, was the shower in Pengboche amazing.
I was thankful for the movie Everest. Horribly cheesy and completely unrealistic, watching it on a small portable DVD player the last night of our trek was oddly entertaining.
I was thankful for the Sherpa Adventure store, where I bought the most wonderfully fuzzy royal blue hoodies as a souvenir when we stopped n Namche Bazaar on our way back down. It was the perfect reward for all of the challenges of the preceding two weeks.
I was thankful for our group. While we weren’t the most fun or liveliest bunch (we were usually in bed by 8 p.m.), we all basically got along and there was no pressure to go faster than we felt comfortable. And as a group of photographers, we took plenty of breaks to take photos!
More than anything, I was thankful for the opportunity. Nepal was the 39th country I have visited and I realize that many people may not even make it to one outside of their home country. I am incredibly lucky to have been born into circumstances that have allowed me to build the life I have and to have encountered people in my life who have inspired a love of travel. I am fortunate to have a job that gives me three weeks of vacation and a boss who let me take all three at once. Sure, this is still miniscule compared to other countries, but it’s better than many Americans. And of course, I was lucky to have won the trip in the first place (through the Passports with Purpose fundraiser last year) – if it hadn’t been for that, I likely would not have been trekking in Nepal in the first place.