“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I needed to be.”
Douglas Adams – The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul
This is the start of my third year on the West Coast. This also marks my return home from my second annual trip to Nepal. I completed 500 hours of yoga teacher training, and I started teaching yoga about nine months ago. These are all statements that I never thought would come out of my mouth, or even into my writing except maybe in the form of fiction.
While those are all huge milestones for me, the Nepal trips are front and center in my mind and heart. The question I’ve heard most since I got back this year has been, “How does it compare to last year?” And honestly, I don’t know how to even begin to try and make those comparisons. My answer in short is always that “It’s just different.” In my experience, that trip every year gives me what I need at that time in my life, and what I need is constantly changing.
The first year, I didn’t question my reasons for going very hard. I saw a flier that welcomed “photographers, adventurers, and lovers of food,” among other things, and said “I’m those things!” I’m in. How could I not be in? How often do you get a chance to go to Nepal after all? I had intended to spend most of that trip getting unique photos that would make my career as a photographer and allow me to change my life! Well, part of that was right. I ended up losing all my largest and spare memory cards for my camera at SEATAC, and of course my pro camera gear takes special cards that you can’t get everywhere. I continued to fight fate and decided I could still shoot the entire trip, just back up and empty those cards every night. Well, a power surge the first night ruined my laptop power cord, and again, not easy to replace a 10 year old macbook pro power cord in the US, let alone Kathmandu. This was a real turning point for me, the time I learned to stop fighting the universe and instead start to listen.
This year, I returned once again with the intention of photographing. This was an entirely different experience for me. The photos from this trip were some of the best of my 10+ year career. What’s even better is that it felt entirely in line with my dharma and they mostly came naturally to me. Let me again stress that it FELT natural. One of my closest friends pointed out to me recently that she can remember a time since I came to Portland, that the words “I felt….” Would never have left my mouth in any context. I’ve found much deeper connections to myself, to who I am and who I have yet to grow into, but again I find those feelings are hard, if not impossible to translate into words. So, I hope my photography example is the expression that resonates.
I originally started to write this article in response to posts written by my fellow travelers trying to pick the top 10 or so things that were the biggest take-aways from our trip. I found that every time I attempted to write it out, I couldn’t do justice. That was when I truly started to wake up to the fact that I just can’t express it in those terms.
It was not that long ago that I didn’t know the concept of being on a path at all, let alone believe such a thing was possible. And here I sit 4,000 miles away from the only life I thought I’d ever know. I saw my reflection today when I walked up to unlock the doors to the studio, and for maybe the first time I didn’t see myself as the boy who came from Pittsburgh, but I saw the adventurer I always thought I was meant to be but would never know. Maybe it’s because I didn’t shave today, who knows. But that created a deep sensation in me that I wouldn’t have been capable of letting myself feel 18 months ago.