Coming to Pokhara cleared my mind the way a big chunk of wasabi clears the sinuses.
I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and refocused. Everything seemed clear.
I’d hang out in Nepal until I resolved things with the Austrians. I’d return home with a job offer in hand, ready for a new adventure, or I’d return home with that particular door closed. Obviously, one of those was the preferable option.
Once I had an interview or an offer, then I could work out the exact details.
[if you’re confused, chapter 1 is this way <——]
I was in active communication with the HR team at Runtastic, so I couldn’t exactly take off to the mountains. As much as Nepal had modernized, I doubted I would be able to conduct a Skype interview from a trekking lodge. And really, even if it was technically possible, why would I want to do that?
The mountains are a sacred place to me.
I credit them with transforming my life, from the sort of person who spends his days wasting away in front of a screen, to the sort of person that could find himself alone in a foreign country, and take things in stride. This particular mountain range had drawn me away from home, drawn me away from love, and drawn me away from comfort. I would be blind if I didn’t drink in the opportunity.
So, I would wait in Pokhara until I arranged an interview.
Until then, I really had nothing to do.
For the traveler, there is no freer state of being.
As the famous quote goes, “A good traveler has no fixed destination, and is not set on arriving.”
So I set forth into the streets of Pokhara, with no fixed destination and no intent to arrive.
Lakeside Pokhara is dominated by Fewa Lake, a huge lake fed by the snowmelt from the nearby Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges.
Alongside the shores of Fewa Lake, the tourist district of Lakeside stretches. Two miles or so of solid tourist sprawl, I’d call Lakeside more of a spiritual sibling to Thamel, rather than a direct continuation, as the Lonely Planet book had put it. While both are clearly tourist districts, removed from the reality of the community they pretend to represent, Lakeside is considerably more pleasant to experience than Thamel.
For starters, the lack of dust in Pokhara makes a huge difference. Until I traveled to Kathmandu, I’d never thought of dust as much of a pest. My sister, who’d spent considerable time in Africa as both a student and a Peace Corps volunteer, said “Africa just eats things up. It’s the dust: dust just tears through computers, electronics, clothes — anything.” This includes people, it seems.
I just felt better in Pokhara. There were no drug touts, and shopkeepers largely kept to themselves, sitting on their stoops with dejected looks. The depression in the tourism industry had clearly sapped some of their spirit here, I thought to myself. Now and then a kid with a cart full of questionable fruits would hassle you about buying some fresh-squeezed juice, but that was about as bad as it seemed to get, my first day in Lakeside.
The air was cool and brisk, the streets largely empty. The main road through Lakeside was actually a road, paved with asphalt and everything. It even sidewalks! It was nothing like the dusty mess of Kathmandu, where scooters and bikes and rickshaws and tiny taxis all fought for space amongst the pedestrian crowds. Lakeside felt a little more familiar: look past a few minor details, and it could a shopping strip in a suburban American city. Well, maybe they’re major details you’d need to look past, but still. The bones felt familiar.
I walked up and down Lakeside that second day in Pokhara, just taking in the sights. My rented hiking boots were beginning to break in, and I no longer feared blisters. The great thing about Lakeside is that it’s just one long strip. No narrow alleys, none of the winding, unmarked streets that defined Thamel. In Lakeside, you just picked a side of the street, picked a direction, and started walking. If you kept at it long enough, you were sure to find what you wanted.
Restaurants, bars, cafes, hostels, guesthouses, trekking agencies, souvenir shops, Tibetan shops, grocery stores… whatever you need, you can find it in Lakeside.
The trouble was, I didn’t need anything!
So for my first day exploring Lakeside, I simply walked around.
All morning, I didn’t say a word to anyone.