When we say “Jeep” in the developing world, to be clear, we mean ”Jeep-like vehicle.” This can vary from high-end luxury passenger Jeep, to stripped-down ex-military vehicle, to active-duty military vehicle, to what was probably once a consumer vehicle, modified beyond all recognition until it looks like something from “Mad Max.”
The ‘Jeep’ we rode back to Pokhara in most clearly resembled the last type in that list. Every bit of paneling had been torn out, and benches had been installed in the trunk area. This converted a five-person vehicle to a ten-person vehicle. Which was good, because we were ten. No one, from the Nepali to the foreigners, was trying to pay for two Jeeps. Even split ten ways, this was a luxury.
But, sometimes, after a long struggle, you need a luxury.
As we waited around to load the vehicle, I checked my ziplock bag full of money. Even with having to pay for the Jeep, I found that I had more left than I expected. I’d left with roughly 35,000 rupees ($350), and I still had 10,000 or so left ($100). Not a bad price for a guided 10-day trek to Annapurna Base Camp. I’d still need to tip Anker, but still. It seemed quite economical, looking back on it.
There at the end of the trek, thinking back to home, those silly ads I’d seen from western tour operators seemed so exorbitantly overpriced. Ignorance tax.
They type of thing I surely paid, often, in other areas of my life.
But after this trip — this whole, long, sad, absurdly exhausting trip — I knew I would never again pay the ignorance tax for travel.
It had cost me a lot, and I was stumbling back home thoroughly used-up, beaten down, and scuffed around the edges, but — I was a traveler now.