Ironically, my love affair with Nepal with its expansive and all-encompassing scenery, along with its generous and charming people, began early one morning on a cramped tube journey to work in central London in August 2011.
Flicking through the mornings free newspaper, I came across an advert for a charity trek to Nepal following the Khumbu Valley towards Mount Everest, culminating at the head of the valley with promised views of Mount Everest – Chomolungma - the world’s Mother Goddess.
At the time, I was restless and bored in London and, having grown up in New Zealand and loving the outdoors, I was starting to lose myself in the urban jungle instead of the real one. I had always had a keen interest in Tibet and Buddhism and from that had developed a deep love and yearning for the romanticism of the Himalaya. That was where my true interest lay, and seeing the ad rekindled these feelings; the trek was a way for me to experience the mountains and Buddhism.
My YES moment
My YES moment was pretty much instantaneous. My mind was made up before I’d even got off the tube – the mountains were calling and I had to go (as they say) – but I did have to run it by my husband that evening as our kids at the time were 18, 16 and 13. The conversation with my husband went:
ME: ‘Honey, I want to go on this trek. You can come, or not come, but I’m going. You’ve got until tomorrow to decide.’
HUSBAND: ‘OK. Lets go’
Over the next three months, we raised nearly £8000 for the children’s charity Action Medical Research. We held a ridiculously successful auction evening, many many office raffles, an online raffle and the rest made up of donations by friends and family. Fortunately our fundraising coincided with the 2011 Rugby World Cup and with our good connections with players we were supported very well with items to auction and raffle.
Stepping foot in Nepal
Three months after my YES moment, I landed in the madness that is Kathmandu and although I had no idea what to expect, as soon as my foot touched her soil and my lungs breathed her air, this country, this place, her people, her culture, permeated my heart and my soul.
Over the next thirteen days we took an internal flight to Lukla (reputably one of the world’s most dangerous airports) and started trekking the Khumbu Valley to Gorak Shep, where we would summit Kala Pattar, a small hill by Nepali standards sitting at a mere 5550m. Only then would we see her - Mighty Chomolungma - steadfast and overpowering in her magnificence.
On descending the valley I found it increasingly difficult with each step to move back towards ‘the real world’. I had a sense that the mountains didn’t want me to leave, and as a magnet draws things closer, I felt as though the mountains wanted to encompass me with their invisible arms and dance with me for eternity.
It was no surprise that by the time I arrived back in Kathmandu I had already resolved to return to Nepal as soon as time allowed. Plans got underway immediately, and before the next year was up, I found myself back in the Khumbu Valley….back to what had very quickly become my second home.
I have since returned to Nepal every year for increasingly longer periods of time, with my desire to return becoming far more complex than my original self-centered motivation and the personal gratification of trekking and climbing the highest mountains on earth.
I am now irreversibly aware of the discrepancy of privilege within and between countries. I believe that no human should suffer because of where they were born, who they were born to, or what gender they are. I have truly learnt and firmly believe that EVERY LIFE MATTERS EQUALLY.
I have seen this. I have felt this. I know this.
The devastating earthquakes of 2015 and the continuous political discord within Nepal have acted as an impetus for me to work to resolve in whatever way I can the lack of freedom, the discrepancy of privilege and the marginalisation of minority groups experienced by many Nepali on a daily and lifelong basis.
Unite for Nepal
In July 2016 I founded Unite for Nepal, a small charitable foundation dedicated to the support, development and growth of sustainable community initiatives focusing on the UN Global Goals of improved health & wellbeing, clean water & sanitation, reduced inequalities and gender equality in rural Nepal.
We currently work in the Dudhakunda district of Eastern Nepal and are running several successful projects in association with the local schools and health clinic out post.
We at Unite for Nepal believe anything can be achieved through generosity of spirit, actions based on the imaginings of the mind, a compassionate heart, and a commitment from the soul.
How can you get involved?
This year we are looking for people to get involved by taking on a challenge and electing to fundraise for us.
You can also help by following us on social media and help us to share our stories with others. This, combined with encouraging people to travel to Nepal and promoting the incredible country that it is, will keep Nepal in everyone’s conversations and hearts.
You can keep up to date with our latest projects by following us on Facebook and Instagram @unitefornepal, and for further information visit www.unitefornepal.com and subscribe to our mailing list.
Nepal is a country with a particularly alluring and magical energy. It is a country whose irresistible pull is founded in an ancient society and culture which, to this day, is still upheld on a day to day basis by those who call themselves Nepali.
With all of its layers of complexity and its multitude of contradictions, Nepal has a sense of wholeness and calm.
Above all else, the most lasting impression of any visit to Nepal, is that left by the Nepali people themselves who are always smiling in the face of adversity and whose hospitality, generosity of heart and forever welcoming smiles will most definitely have you returning at least once in a lifetime.
Put quite simply, Nepal is unsurpassable.
You can also follow my travel adventures in Nepal and around the world by checking out
Facebook: Jacqs Leui'i Adventures
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