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Discovering the Real Nepal

Nepal FREED - Ainshelu Bhome Kahule 7 School Welcoming Raam

If I could take the past four months of traveling through third world countries and compact them into two days, it wouldn't even begin to explain how life-changing, eye-opening, and humbling the past few days have been for me.

I'm still digesting everything so I hope you'll forgive me for not going into too much detail, but it should be enough to say that I gave my first, second, and third public speech, entirely unprepared, in front of almost one hundred children and adults, after climbing up through the clouds to the highest elevation I've ever ascended on foot.

I was welcomed and treated like a king.

And what had I done to deserve all this? Nothing.

I had to keep reminding myself that although I hadn't done anything to deserve such a grand welcoming, my ability to reach the world through my writing gave me a potential that none of them had; I had to constantly remind myself that my life contains such an abundance of opportunity that I needed to find some way to give it back to them.

Most of the first day was spent riding on the backs of motorcycles across roads chiseled into the sides of mountains with nothing preventing us from riding off the edge and tumbling to our deaths.

Streams poured across sections of the road that had been repaired after landslides returned the Earth to the mountain. A recent landslide left one road with nothing more than a small dirt footpath to cross to the other side.

The following two days were then spent traveling by foot to the schools, through fairytale-like green forests, on footpaths sometimes only wide enough for one person. Buffalo, cows, goats, and dogs roamed the lush hillsides. Women and children worked in the fields harvesting corn while men repaired stone roads and worked in the shops.

The places where I slept at night were literally in the clouds -- white mist frequently encased us reducing visibility to only a few hundred feet and occasionally the clouds would break just enough to give us a glimpse of the valley thousands of feet below and miles across.

The fertile mountains were covered in fields of rice, corn, pumpkins, and potatoes. Tiny homes dotted the landscape. Rivers, fed by the monsoon rains, gushed down the hills creating an abundance of waterfalls and streams.

Mountains in Bhalche, Nepal

This was the real Nepal. A country where the people had learned to embrace the land and respect it, where they had accepted hardship as a way of life and where the Earth had given them health and abundance in return; a place where sustainability was a way of life.

The the land had made the Nepali people tough and rugged on the outside, but on inside they are as soft and warm as the nature that surrounds them. They have a hardworking spirit but an easygoing and laid back approach to life that makes them blend into their environment.

They seem to possess a motivation and willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed, a determination seemingly matched only by the majesty of the Himalayan mountains they call home.

Children in Kahule, Nepal

I went on this trip wanting to learn firsthand if Nepal FREED was an organization that I should support. I went with a long list of questions, but I was only able to get some of them answered; the language barrier was a limiting factor.

I learned that Nepal FREED doesn't run the schools, but rather deals with the construction of the buildings and oversees the assembly of a committee to run each school. After a school has been set up, they continue helping with funds (when they're available) for employing the teachers and for buying teaching materials.

Is Nepal FREED an organization I plan on supporting? Absolutely. Do I have more to say on the topic? Definitely. But I'm still processing everything.

In the event that I was unable to get all the questions answered, I planned to use my intuition and just get a feel for what was going on there -- to store everything in my head and go from there. That's exactly what I ended up doing.

Over the next few weeks, I will continue writing about my experiences from the past two days and share my thoughts with you as they solidify. That said, my gut tells me this is an organization doing real good and the people running it have honest and honorable intentions.

***

My head is filled with ideas. My emotions are overflowing. My muscles are sore, my face is sunburnt, and my arms and legs are in pain from carrying a 45lb backpack over mountains higher than the highest peak in the Northeast United States. And all this after spending almost four weeks sitting at my laptop drinking coffee from the comfort of a cafe.

I'm a firm believer that life presents us with exactly the right opportunities we need to continue growing. When life presented me with this opportunity to visit Nepal FREED, I was given a choice: succumb to my fears of the unknown or put them aside and see where it took me.

Yet another step on the journey, now behind me.

Fear is the only inhibitor to inner growth -- it clouds our judgment and crushes opportunity. When we overcome our fears, we open the floodgates for personal development and become capable of changing not just ourselves, but the entire world.

Is a shifting perspective changing the reason I travel?

Tomorrow morning I leave for Pokhara with a friend to spend a few weeks trekking in the Himalayas. We will likely trek to the Annapurna Base Camp, explore other areas in the Annapurna region, and visit my friends' hometown.

My rough plan is to spend the month of August trekking and then take a bus back to India for two weeks. I'll spend the first week of September exploring north India by train and visiting touristy places like Darjeeling, the holy city of Varanasi, and the Taj Mahal in Agra.

After traveling for a week on seven different trains, I'll relax at my adopted relatives house in Delhi for one week and possibly catch a classical Indian music concert in the city. On September 10th, my plane leaves to return to the United States.

It's a good plan, and it probably sounds exciting and adventurous, but the more I experience the world and the more I see how much help is needed, the less interest I have in doing things just for the sake of doing them.

It feels like things need to have a purpose now; like hiking up a mountain to visit a school where the adults of the future are being educated to see if I can help.

But don't get me wrong, I still love traveling and exploring. It's just that now it feels like I have a mission and anything that isn't directly helping me work towards accomplishing that mission is just wasting time -- time that is running out really fast for a lot of people.

Mentions

  • Discovering the Real Nepal – Independent Publisher
  • Nomad Finance Report for January 2011
  • How to change the world – advice from the Dalai Lama « Always Well Within
  • Exercising Life with Fun and Play
  • 7 link challenge plus « Always Well Within
  • Is Everett Bogue right? « Always Well Within ~
  • Derek Earl Baron
  • Dina VagabondQuest
  • Mark Lawrence
  • chez Mollé Katoomba
  • Angela Artemis
  • Niall Doherty
  • Lynn Fang
  • Ali Dark
  • Sandi Faviell Amorim
  • Patrick Hitches
  • Jenna Francisco
  • Courtney Carver
  • Farnoosh Brock
  • Livingstone Conant
  • The Muthafuckin Dame
  • Catherine Shefski
  • Bill Gerlach
  • Karen Ruby

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50 Comments

  1. YAY!

    i love it when you can physically feel the change happening in your life – and i love even more how that change so often seems to come not from paring down, minimalism, or travel, but from people – language barriers and all, it’s people who alter our souls.

    there’s an old proverb {from where? couldn’t tell you} that says that God is the space that exists and the connection that is made between two people. i’d say you found God up on that mountain for sure!

    • Thank you, Robyn!

      Yes, the change definitely came from the warmth and love from the people! I’d have to say you’re right about finding the space that exists in the connection between two people — there’s really no other way to explain it!

  2. Wow…. what an experience and thanks for sharing it! So, when you come back to the States, maybe you should prepare a presentation and give some talks to different organizations that can help as well… like Lions Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, etc…

    When you do visit my area, I’ll do what I can for you to give a talk at one of our Lions Meeting.

    • Haha, hey, hey! Don’t mark me up as a professional speaker so quickly! Those speeches I gave probably sounded a lot better to people who couldn’t understand English or only understood a little!

      But, speaking of public speaking, that’s something I planned on learning when I got back to the States in September. I’m going to join Toastmasters (a popular public speaking group that helps you learn for free). When I was asked to speak at the schools, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get myself out of my comfort zone. It definitely helped that other students were asked to speak first and that they were terrified. It made me feel a lot more confident than I actually was.

      Despite my being introverted, I see public speaking as a valuable way to convey ideas and get the word out to people, so it’s definitely a skill I plan on toning!

      You can count me in for any talks you want me for. 🙂

      • kewl…. speaking to a group of 30 Lions is easy… If I can do it; you can. Besides… at the most 2 of them will sleep thru it; nothing to do with the speaker; they just tend to sleep every meeting.

  3. Raam, Raam, that first photo needs a frame when you get home, I hope you know that – you have touched me so much with this post – and I enjoyed so much reading your account of travels in Nepal. I hope that I find a similar mission or goal with my crazy traveling style someday too!!! Be safe!

    • Thank you, Farnoosh! I’m not so sure about framing that photo. 😛

      I’m sure you’ll discover whatever you desire. Just keep traveling, following your heart, and sharing with us on your awesome blog. 🙂

  4. Raam,

    So very awesome to be able to witness your experiences brother… I can only imagine how amazing this was, is and will continue to be.

    Lovin your story brother… Continue to embrace it all…

    Patrick

    • You’re most welcome, Gail. Nepal is indeed an incredibly beautiful place (at least once you’re outside the city!) and I honestly can’t wait to return to those schools next year!

      Thank you for the comment!

  5. Woke up to this post and it brought tears to my eyes. As you so brilliantly pointed out in Small Ways, we all make a difference. How extraordinary though to be so very present to the difference this journey is making on you.

    • Thank you, Sandi. I’m having trouble even comprehending the difference this journey is having on me, but I feel so fortunate that I can share the journey with everyone here on the blog and that so many of you are offering such incredible support.

  6. Wow, what a story. I could almost feel myself there and the pictures are breathtaking. You have reason to be humble, my friend, because not everyone can experience what you’ve been given. Kathmandu, Nepal, Himalayas – the stuff that dreams are made from.

    Thanks so much for sharing this story.

    More importantly, how can we help FREED? I hope you provide us a way to give back.

    Thanks,
    Karen

    • Thank you, Karen!
      If you’d like to donate to Nepal FREED, they have a section on their website for that, but I’m also working on ideas for other ways to help them. Please feel free to email me with any ideas you might have.

      I’m going to be doing a lot of thinking over the next few weeks as I trek through Nepal and then share my ideas (and everyone elses’ ideas) here on the blog. I want this to be a collaborative effort and allow everyone to participate.

  7. First things first: you’ve got a killer beard going there, Raam.

    Second: I would do nearly anything to experience what you’ve experienced (except selling my soul a la Faust, of course). Damn, man, just be grateful that you had the will and drive and the resources to pull this off. It’s amazing, and, for now, I can only experience Nepal vicariously through you 😉 So keep traveling and keep making a difference!

    • Thanks, Brett! I’m not much for beards or hair on my head (as you may have gathered from previous photos), but I told myself I wouldn’t cut anything during the entire six-month trip, and I’m sticking to it! It’s definitely gotten pretty wild, haha.

      Regarding your second point: Just remember that it all comes down to taking one single step. A tiny action that will move you towards whatever destination you desire. Figure out what the next step is and focus on nothing except that next step until it’s complete; don’t let anything stop you and use your intuition and gut feeling for what’s right to help guide you. That’s pretty much how I got to where I am now. 🙂

  8. Raam, great story. It’s inspiring to hear how moved you are to have purpose in what you do, and that you are allowing yourself to be spiritually changed by your travel experience. I find more and more that I need more reason to pursue activities these days as well, more so than ‘just for the sake of it.’ Thanks for sharing!

    • You’re most welcome, Lynn!

      I think that’s one of the best things about feeling like you have a “life purpose”… it suddenly becomes clear that everything you do either helps you move towards your end-goal or it doesn’t. It makes decision-making a lot easier! For example, when I received the email about Nepal FREED, it was a no-brainer for me to ask if I could visit their project — the end result was directly in line with what I’m trying to achieve.

      Thank you for the comment! 🙂

  9. Raam,
    This was soo beautiful.
    What an extraordinary trip your having.
    First home schooled – now a Ph.d in life experiences.
    The photos were wonderful also.
    Thank for all you’re doing Raam.

    • Thank you Angela! I don’t think I’m quite at the Phd-level for life experiences… Maybe a BA. 😀

      I really think everyone who is able should have these experiences… It’s practically guaranteed to have life-long impact!

  10. Way cool Raam! After reaching my destination in Canada and ascending into love with a fellow celestial characterologist, I too feel a sense of destiny. We’re planning on moving back to the Seattle area, and I will fly my son Arian out to join the bike expedition. Even if we get a place to live, I will still go on bike tours, because, as you’ve seen, travel can open up your eyes to the beauty and suffering in the world, and inspire you to get involved and help!

    Thanks for your journey, brother!

    • It sounds like you’re having quite the journey yourself, Kelly! I think travel has to be the best teacher. You never know what challenges or new situations you will come across!

      Safe travels!

  11. Wow Raam, since I’ve been keeping up with your journey it’s evolved so amazingly over time.

    I remember a post a little while back where you were having trouble finding a purpose on your travel and look what happened, you’re enveloped in giving back!

    The pictures are absolutely beautiful and the Nepali people sound like the exact type of people I want to meet. It makes me want to throw away my western ideals and use what I know to bring happiness to those elsewhere.

    I’m almost jealous but more so inspired by your journey. I think it’s giving me a good kick in the rear to look at my life and realize that I should spend less time thinking about me and more about others around me.

    I’ve been actively giving back more and more to my friends and family. Expanding to others – perhaps one day I can do the same for people half way across the world.

    Best of luck on your journeys, the next few posts sounds like they will be quite amazing.

    Please take pictures of your train rides in India! I finally got to ride a train after 15 years a few weeks ago, forgot how fun they can be.

    • Hey Murlu,

      The past five months certainly have quite the journey and it’s awesome that you actually get a feel for how much has changed just through reading the blog.

      It’s hard for even me to believe just how lost and unfocused I felt only a few months ago.

      I’m so happy that I’m inspiring you. There were so many other bloggers whose journys inspired and motivated me to change my life, and it’s so awesome to know I could be doing the same for others and giving that motivation and imputation back to the world.

      Family and those close to you are the most important place to start showing appreciation and expressing your love. Like you, I started working less hours and spending more time with family in the year before I left. Now that you mention it, I can’t wait to get back and see them!

  12. Raam, Another one of your posts brings tears to my eyes! I’m so happy you got out of Kathmandu! I am so happy for you and all those you touch with your dedication and determination.

    This is my favorite line: …”the less interest I have in doing things just for the sake of doing them.”

    I’m so happy to be a part of your journey.

    • Thank you, Sandra! I’m so happy this post touched you so much.

      The decision to visit the school was probably the best one I made since starting my journey five months ago!

  13. Hi Raam,
    What a profound experience. It’s great to see your personal evolution as you hone and define your purpose. Your wonderful breakthroughs are a living, breathing example of what is available to everyone when we really meant it.

    • Thank you, Rob.

      I think belief in ourselves and our own potential is the first step to accomplishing anything. So often, it’s our own inhibitions that prevent amazing things from happening to us.

  14. That’s quite a transformation you’re undergoing Raam and being able to witness it through your writing is quite powerful. I am more than interested to know what steps you take next (no pressure though, take time sorting out your thoughts!).

    And traveling with a defined purpose is something that I realized the need for a few years ago and I found that it instantly brings more meaning to every day. Of course, there still needs to be room for some relaxation and general enjoyment of life and I do feel that traveling is rarely a waste, if one is open to the education offered along the way…which clearly you are.

    Enjoy the trekking Raam!

    • Thank you, Earl!

      Yes, traveling with a clear purpose — or for that matter living with a clear purpose — makes every day that much more meaningful. I wake up every day now and know exactly what I’m working towards.

      It’s as if I was stranded in the middle of a the Himalayan mountains with no idea which peak I was trying to climb and now I finally see the peak and I’m trekking towards it. I have no idea how many rivers, valleys, or even other mountains stand between me and that peak, but at least now I know where I’m heading.

      I look forward to sharing my journey here and meeting you one of these days! 🙂

  15. Hi Raam

    I can’t begin to imagine how you must be feeling. You will never be the same man again. Thank you for allowing me to share the journey through your posts. I am amazed and touched with each part of the journey.

    Travel safely!

  16. This is about my favorite topic education for children, i’m waiting for more.
    maybe i can suggest some place where you can get to eat authentic Indian food when you come to Delhi.
    varuni

    • Hey Varuni!

      Authentic Indian food in Delhi sounds great! 🙂 I’ll most likely be there Sept 1st – Sept 10th. I’ll be staying in Mayur Vihar Phase 1 — where in Delhi is this restaurant?

      • It’s the ISCON temple Gopal resturant at GK-I. They have a buffet of pure veg dishes, actually its called CHAPPAN BHOG (56 dishes).
        If you are free on a saturday(which is my day off from teaching 9-10 year olds from the lower income group) let me know
        varuni

  17. Thank you Raam for your portrayal of these innocent people. I think it is true of most villagers in any country. They are self sufficient, strong, and kind. I hope we can keep that innocence alive but with education they will also be able to protect themselves. Thank you for your investigation… now we can support Nepal FREED without hesitation.

    Your line that you were treated like a King is so ironic. I told a security guard at a local company that he would be treated like a King if he went to Nepal after he gave me a hard time. He asked Paul and I if we were US citizen. Paul said he was and he was given a guest tag. I said I wasn’t and he asked me for my passport. Why would I carry a passport ? We don’t even need it to fly! And, this guy wouldn’t look at my State issued License. He said it was not a valid ID. I was politely ordered to wait. After 1/2 hr he said they could let me in with a background check. I didn’t want to leave Paul alone so I gave them my info and waited patiently. Upsetting was that they didn’t even check Paul’s ID. After another 1/2 hr they came with my special ID. It said “INTERNATIONAL”. Yes, it was big enough for all to see. We were already an hour late for our 2 hr program that we had to pay for. Then we were led to a small lobby that was literally up the stairs from where I was left waiting. After everything was over, I realized that they never checked my BAG!

    Anyways, I am just saying because it was a coindence. Maybe, this will bring you home soon too. haha. I hope you learn all the good things and have all the positive experiences from your travels, now and in future. Let all the petty people you meet crumble like a dry leaf, may the road ahead open to you with brilliant lights, and may all the good fairies follow you as you move ahead.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s a refreshing way to look at oneself.

    • Thank you for sharing that story, Pemala!

      It’s incredible how people are treated simply based on where they’re from — or based on whether or not they hold a specific piece of paper. It’s absurd. You work just as hard, if not much harder, than so many other “citizens” in the US, and yet you’re treated “special” and not “equal”.

      I appreciate your well wishes and support, Pemala! Please tell Paul I said hello from Nepal!

  18. Hi Ram!

    It’s really a great pleasure to read about my own country Nepal from a blogger like you. Yeah! sure Nepal is one of the best place in the world where you need to be at least once. Is there any way i can be more helpful to you? Please let me know next time when you are in Nepal. We shall have a good night together.

    Sudan Gautam
    Kathmandu, Nepal
    [removed phone number for privacy]

    I shall be there for all the help and make your journey memorable.

    • Hi Sudan!

      Thank you so much for the kind words and the offer! I have added your contact information to my address book and I will definitely contact you the next time I’m in Nepal (most likely sometime next year). I removed your phone number from the comment for privacy purposes, but I copied it down first — I hope you don’t mind! 🙂

  19. Thank you for your work, Raam.
    It definitely made me reexamine my perceptions.

    When it comes to schools in poor countries I found a model of a Teach A Man To Fish foundation (http://www.teachamantofish.org.uk/) most appealing.
    It is about setting up self-sustainable schools where kids will be taught entrepreneurial skills and become able to support themselves and their families.

    In general it falls to a concept of social entrepreneuship where you not only help other people (like in charity) but also support your living with your activities.

    • Hi Pavel,

      Thank you for the comment and for sharing that link. I definitely agree with the “teach a man to fish” method and I think there needs to be more education focused around developing the expertise to then teach the younger generations. When I was in Nepal, that was one of their biggest problems: Lack of qualified teachers. The “English teacher” that I met there barely spoke English!

      I definitely see my own life’s work going in the direction of social entrepreneurship. I would then use whatever wealth I build to further contribute to the betterment of humanity.

      • Hi Raam,

        when it comes to a lack of teachers, at a conference of Teach A Man To Fish I got recognized with a original solution to this problem.
        It consists of spreading the education curriculum in schools via radio. Thus schools need not teachers but just facilitators.
        Maybe this will work in Nepal.
        One of organizations that works in this direction is Lifeline Energy (lifelineenergy.org)

        • Hi Pavel,

          I have heard of education curriculum via radio… I heard it’s also used in Australia to reach children in remote towns where the nearest school hours away.

          I’m curious if a cheap Internet-enabled solution is a more viable approach (for long-term sustainability… radio can only carry so much information). I will take a look at Lifeline energy. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

Webmentions

  • Discovering the Real Nepal – Independent Publisher March 16, 2014

    […] was originally published on raamdev.com on August 4th, 2010 and has been republished on IndependnetPublisher.me for demo […]

  • Nomad Finance Report for January 2011 March 16, 2014

    […] one backpack and a few hundred dollars in my bank and yet when I was in Nepal, standing in front of those one hundred school children, I felt more alive, more rich, and more full of potential than any other person […]

  • How to change the world – advice from the Dalai Lama « Always Well Within March 16, 2014

    […] in fact, the least anxious, though they are plagued with physical pains and suffering.” The simple abundance that Raam Dev found in a remote village of Nepal illustrates the Dalai Lama’s point […]

  • Exercising Life with Fun and Play March 16, 2014

    […] was my second day visiting the schools in Nepal and I had been greeted like a king and given my first-ever public speech a few hours earlier. I was feeling extremely moved and […]

  • 7 link challenge plus « Always Well Within March 16, 2014

    […] tie between Discovering the real Nepal and An encounter with the […]

  • Is Everett Bogue right? « Always Well Within ~ March 16, 2014

    […] Raam Dev paints a beautiful, but different picture of sustainability as he explores the highest reaches of Nepal—a region and a people not yet fully spoiled by unsustainable, needless consumption. “The fertile mountains were covered in fields of rice, corn, pumpkins, and potatoes. Tiny homes dotted the landscape. Rivers, fed by the monsoon rains, gushed down the hills creating an abundance of waterfalls and streams. This was the real Nepal. A country where the people had learned to embrace the land and respect it, where they had accepted hardship as a way of life and where the Earth had given them health and abundance in return; a place where sustainability was a way of life.” […]

  • Derek Earl Baron March 16, 2014

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  • Dina VagabondQuest March 16, 2014

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  • Mark Lawrence March 16, 2014

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  • Angela Artemis March 16, 2014

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  • Niall Doherty March 16, 2014

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  • Lynn Fang March 16, 2014

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  • Ali Dark March 16, 2014

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  • Courtney Carver March 16, 2014

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  • Farnoosh Brock March 16, 2014

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  • Livingstone Conant March 16, 2014

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  • The Muthafuckin Dame March 16, 2014

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  • Catherine Shefski March 16, 2014

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  • Bill Gerlach March 16, 2014

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  • Karen Ruby March 16, 2014

    RT @raamdev: New on raamdev.com: Discovering the Real Nepal http://bit.ly/cW0zVZ