I returned to the common room inside Hotel Snowland. It was still cold.
People had pitched in to turn on the heater, but it wasn’t doing a whole lot of good yet. “It takes a while to get warm,” the guides and porters assured us, but as the evening stretched on, it seemed we would have done just as well burning our money.
I placed my dinner order with Anker. He told me it would be a while, so I returned to my trekking journal. I tried to be as descriptive as I could, recounting the day and the notable encounters.
The common room began to fill in around me, as more and more trekkers prepared to take their dinners. I ordered a big pot of tea, which arrived promptly. Good. It would help keep me warm; the room seemed to only be getting colder and colder. Many people were wearing gloves, coats, and scarves. I tried to focus on my writing. It was slow going. Everything happening around me seemed a lot more interesting than the things that had occurred over the last two days. I knew I would want to remember this journey though, and writing it down was the only way to ensure it didn’t fade into nothingness over time.
“Write down what happened to you today!” I heard a father tell his young children. “At least two pages. You’ll want to remember this,” he said. The kids whined, loudly but without much conviction. I raised my head from the blank pages in front of me, and turned to look at the source of the commotion.
There were a few families in the lodge; the 3-day Poon Hill trek was moderate enough that children could handle it. This one was a a mom, a dad, and two kids. Classic American family—despite the fact the father was speaking with an Irish accent. I caught dad’s eye and he smiled. The kids trundled off upstairs to do their homework.
“Good advice,” I told dad. I waved my journal vaguely. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”
We were sitting close enough already that we could carry on a conversation without either of us moving. It wasn’t a very large common room.
“It’s important to write down you memories on a trip like this,” he said.”You never know what you could do with them. Back when I was a lot younger, I rode my bike across the entire USA, from Alaska to Florida. I kept a journal every day, and I took pictures on my old 35 millimeter camera. I’ve got all that in a box somewhere. Now, with the Internet, it’s tempting to digitize it and upload it all. I had a real adventure…” he says, wistfully, lost in memory.
“It’s a lot harder to go back and recount what happened, instead of just flipping open a journal,” he says.
“True,” I said. We sat in silence for a moment.
“So you biked all the way across the U.S.? I’ve always thought that would be a cool thing to do.”
“Oh yeah, it was,” he said. “Great way to see the real America. Such a diverse place. People are so different between the small towns and the big cities. It’s almost like two different countries.”
I nod. “Yup, And I think you’re starting to see that with our elections.”
“Oh lord, Donald Trump,” the Irishman says. “You are American?” I nod. “You have my condolences, friend.”
I kind of grimace and shrug, “I work remotely, so I suppose I’ll just stay out of the country for the next eight years if he wins,” I say, flippantly. Although after six months on the road, the prospect of never returning home seems daunting.
“Ah yes,” he says, “I work online too. I do systems administration. It’s great because my wife is a diplomat, so I have been able to move with her to different postings, without having to lose my job. It’s been great for our family.”
That seemed like a nice life.
I suppose, in my mind, I had seen something like that for Holly and I. A nomadic life, anchored by our passions and our bond for each other. But it had never been a realistic goal. She wasn’t the type of person to want that. Despite what she had told me in the waning days of our time at home. I’d known that since way back, before we even dated, when she told me “If I had to choose between having a career and having a family, it’s no question. Family.”
My answer was not the same; had never been the same.
Dinner was finally served, which provided a welcome distraction from my brooding. I bid the Irishman goodbye and good luck with his family. As I ate my Dal Baht and sipped my tea with Saffron, I wondered where I might find myself in forty years, and if my life would look anything like the Irishman’s.