Only two days ago I landed on UK soil after my few weeks travelling around Nepal. I knew I’d want to write a blog or two about it, but even now I’m not sure how to put it all down on paper/screen. You know when you experience something, how it can need a bit of processing first? That’s what Nepal was like for me. Most authors are empaths, and travelling as an empath can be an overwhelming and exhausting ritual. We need to do it so we can discover new worlds, meet new people, and feel even more nuanced, subtle emotional differences. But it can take its toll too – offering up a little bit of energy to each and every moment can leave the creative brain a bit bewildered. I made sure I always had a notebook in my rucksack, ready for the moment for inspiration to strike but at no point did I pick up a pencil. I decided to live each day in the moment, experiencing every second in the glorious present, not worrying about recording my thoughts. I just knew that I’d need to let what I saw and felt settle like dust. Only then would I see the maps and markings left behind. It’s still floating in the air like light snow, but I know it’ll rest when it’s ready.
Nepal was an aurora of colour, culture, and religion. Clasping my hands together and calling ‘Namaste’ became an hourly occurrence, as everyone I met wanted to talk, to learn about us, just as we were keen to learn about them. I travelled from Kathmandu to Pokhara, to Chitwan National Park, to Dhulikhel, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, and so many places in between, before finding a last few days to regroup in Kathmandu again. So what’s the most important things to see and visit in Nepal as an author? I’m sure a writer living there would give his or her own answer, but here’s mine:
- Travel by Road
Pretty much every day I travelled by road, including three really long road transfers. The condition of roads in Nepal means even travelling a few miles can take hours, so it’s an eye-opening opportunity to pass through some tiny villages, seeing how life flows there. This is the point when I probably took most photographs. The colourfully painted houses along the roads to Pokhara are particularly breath-taking.
One wee word of advice though – hire a guide and an experienced driver for this – you’ll thank me when you’re inches from a sheer 1,000 feet drop, squeezing past traffic travelling in the wrong direction.
- A spectrum of Buddhist Stupas
Our Newa: Guide took us to a wide range of Buddhist stupas, from the famous Great Boudha Stupa to smaller stupas in the grand Durbar Squares. Each one has its own vibrant history and traditions. Turn the prayer wheels with your own hands, greet the people there, take in every hand-carved detail.
- Hindu Temples
Nepal is filled with as many Hindu Temples as Buddhist stupas. I visited a Temple of Kali, the goddess of death, time, and doomsday, also known as ‘She Who is Death.’ This was a bit of a secret visit arranged by our guide, and walking down the many steps in the hidden mountain pass felt like something like an initiation. In one sense, this is what makes Nepal so eye-opening for an author – a goddess of death and doomsday can be turned on her head, and become a celebration of life and each and every day we still exist. This place felt at once dark and deep, and yet bright and full of life.
- Chitwan National Park
To feel like you’re in yet another country entirely, travel south to Chitwan National Park. Wild Rhinos, crocodiles, tigers, leopards prowl the forests, and birds of every colour and shapes swoop overhead. I wouldn’t recommend walking through the forests along by any means (I was told by our local guide that if we came across a tiger there was nothing to do but pray!), but the opportunity to be so close to creatures which have become powerful cultural totems is inspiring. I simultaneously wanted to see a tiger and definitely NOT see a tiger. What I couldn’t see was sometimes more powerful than what I could see.
- The medieval streets of Bhaktapur
With its winding streets, leaning buildings, and hidden alleyways, Bhaktapur is a location frozen in time. It’s a town emanating with living heritage, I almost forgot myself entirely there. Everything was beautiful and yet hard-worn. To me, Bhaktapur spoke of what Nepal means – the bringing together of ancient culture and the colourful present, the rubble left behind from the recent earthquake and the team efforts of the local people to rebuild. Darkness and light. Balance and magnificence.
- And finally… Meet the people
I had to say this – as it’s by talking to the people we meet everywhere that will teach us what we still need to know about the world. I’m naturally a bit shy, so approaching so many people was quite difficult for me at first, but the more you do something, the more you realise that people do mean well, and you are as much of an enigma to them as they are to you. And isn’t that wonderful, really?
I took a helluvalot of photos which I’ll slowly start drip-feeding from my camera onto my laptop in the next week or so. These are just the first few I’ve downloaded from my phone. I’m letting Nepal’s dust settle at its own pace, but in the meantime it’s definitely given me a new perspective on what living can feel like, and how I’ll spend my life recording it for readers to experience through the screen, page, or stage. What to see in Nepal when you’re a writer or storyteller? EVERYTHING.
Oh, what a big world we live in.