Two days after leaving home this past June, I stood alone amidst thousands of people, not knowing a single one. I heard no English, saw no familiar sights, and was caught up in a dusty, polluted, hectic metropolitan whirlwind. I was in Kathmandu, Nepal, and I was traveling alone for the first time.
My first step into adulthood started not with a Bar Mitzvah or a Communion but with successfully navigating the Hong Kong International Airport en route to Kathmandu. While my friends back home were busy finding their freedom behind a steering wheel, I found mine crumpled up in the back of a smelly, over-loaded city micro-bus. I was a world away from my family, my town, my culture – from everything that I thought would hold the keys to adulthood – but, as I then realized, that was exactly the point.
Two weeks later, I looked out across the foothills of the Himalayas from the steps of a Buddhist convent, partway into my stay in a high-altitude Sherpa village called Bigu. If I had felt removed from home while staying briefly in the city, I was now truly a world away. The village was completely cut off from Kathmandu, let alone the United States, and the nearest town was a hard three-day hike.
My job there was to teach English to the…
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