Nepal 25: Smoking with Sujan

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Sujan walked me around Kathmandu for a few hours.

As we spent more time together, our chemistry grew and my walls started to drop, a little bit. We went to the monastery, where we spun prayer wheels and spoke of the mixture of Hinduism and Buddhism. Although in the U.S. we are taught the two religions are separate, here, as in many places in Asia, they have intermingled.

“Do not be afraid,” Sujan says when I hesitate to enter a temple. “Is touristic place.”

He shows me an array of butter lamps inside the temple. “Do you have someone to light one for? Good health, good thoughts? Prayers? Love?”

I light a lamp for Holly, and we return to the streets of Kathmandu.

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Homecoming

It’s been two months since I’ve posted an update to this blog. In that time, I ticked off three more countries (Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Nepal), finished more than a few items on my bucket list, and returned to my home state of Colorado.

Almost everyone I’ve talked to since returning says the same thing: “I didn’t think you were going to come back.” When I left, I didn’t think I was going to come back, at least for a year or more. And yet, six months after I left with a head full of half-complete visions, a different me was clearing customs at LAX, and a stern-faced immigration officer was telling me “Welcome home.”

What brought me back?

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Simple homesickness. Travel is a lot of fun, and it’s great to constantly be challenging yourself in new environments. But as I discussed in my last post, being a digital nomad can be very isolating, and I missed my big network of friends and family at home.

I had the money to keep traveling, and a job to sustain myself. I ran down a laundry list of cheap destinations I could hit next: Eastern Europe, Sri Lanka, back to Chiang Mai to meet a friend who was hitting the backpacker circuit in April… None of it sounded good. I was burnt out on travel, ready for the comfort and cleanliness of home.

So I bought a ticket home, and three days later I was on a plane. Such flexibility is one of the real joys of being a digital nomad. You are accountable to no one but yourself, and if you want to go home, you just go home. Here in the U.S. we are raised to believe international travel is this big, dangerous leap. But the truth is that the sort of always-connected travel a digital nomad enjoys is totally low-impact: you don’t like it, you leave.

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The Grass is Always Greener

So, I’ve been home for a month now. I’ve seen my friends, broke bread and maybe a few beer bottles with lots of the people I wanted to see, and a few people from my past I never expected to run into. I see the “regular” life I could have here. It would come easy, without much effort or soul-searching. And yet, all I want is to get back on the road. The road that seemed so difficult and lonely at many points over the past half-year.

Life’s funny like that.

It won’t be long before I’m in some new place, taking pictures and creating new stories. In the meantime, I’ll be regularly dripping out content from the past two months— I experienced Chinese New Year in Taipei, breezed through Hong Kong in two (expensive) days, coughed my way through Kathmandu, and trekked nine days through rural Nepal to visit Annapurna Base Camp at 4,130 meters. I took some amazing pictures, met some great people, and partied a few nights away. I lost a job, got a job, and almost managed to get myself hired for a permanent position in Austria in the middle of all that.

So I’ve got some stories to tell. I hope you’ll bear with me as I try some experimental approaches to content over the next few weeks and months. You’ll get the stories and photos from Taiwan, Nepal, Hong Kong, and even some Colorado content, as my home has become an enviable travel destination in its own right recently (thanks, legal marijuana!)

And if that’s not enough, feel free to connect on social:

@thisisyouth on Instagram

@thatisyouth on Twitter

thisisyouth on snapchat.

Namaste.

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A Day in the Life

[ed. note: ski town content is finally resuming, courtesy of a friend in Vail. He’s a great writer and a better ski bum than I. His writing will run alongside my travel content as we move towards a more diverse magazine. Hope you all are enjoying your winters!]

Wham!  A slap of the snooze button and a groan, I’m awake at 5am.  Time to video chat with the now ex-girlfriend in Bulgaria, it’s already 2pm there.  After a shower and a quick breakfast I’m out the door by 6, just enough time to walk to work for my 6:15 shift.

I breath in the crisp Rocky Mountain air and start walking through 6 inches of fresh snow, thinking to myself – ‘Damn, too bad I’m not cruising this fresh powder instead of serving breakfast to tourists. . .’

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Soon after I get to work I devise a plan to get out early. Sure enough, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Working fast and talking faster, I’m out the door by 8.  Smell ya later, it’s time for some much needed snowboarding.  I’m heading back home and a friend, let’s call him T, excitedly calls me and asks if I’m going to shred the gnar.  Fuck ya.  Back home by 8:30.  A quick snack and the addition of some very warm socks later and it’s time to head to the village.  We meet up at Gondola One and by the looks of things, we’re among the first skiers on the mountain.  Hells Yes.

Excitement builds as we are comfortably lifted up the mountain in the padded and heated gondola.  Gloves, goggles, face mask, powder skirt and a pounding heart.  The trees are laden with fresh snow, and in some places, ice; a real winter wonderland.  The doors open, we strap in and off we go.  Cruising thick stacks of fresh snow, running my fingers through it as I’m rocketing down the mountain parallel to the ground.  I catch air and boom! A shot of cold champagne powder slams into my face, nearly choking me. In the ski world this is called a face shot.  In this town if you’re not taking fresh snow to the dome, it’s not a powder day.

If you’ve ever surfed before, riding fresh powder is very similar, however, I ironically think that snowboarding is much more fluid.  The waves are moving and pushing beneath you, exerting their force on you, but with snowboarding everything just flows.  It doesn’t matter how you move your board, it’s like sliding down whipped cream.  And the best part is that wiping out is fun.  Ever jumped into a pile of waist deep snow?  Might as well be falling onto a pile of feathers.  These are the days when you drop cliffs and try crazy tricks.

The deep snow also has a very surreal calming effect.  Sound is dampened and being surrounded by an entire world of white allows you to drift into a totally different plane of reality.  It’s just you, the mountain, and your board.  In some ways snowboarding has been one of the most spiritual experiences of my life (the exception, by far, being DMT).

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T and I meet up at the bottom of the lift, giant, stupid grins spread across our faces.  A fist bump later and we’re traveling up the mountain again, this time on an open chair lift, cold air on our faces, shouting playful encouragement at the skiers below us.  T looks over at me; ‘safety meeting?’  ‘You know it.’  We cruise into the trees, find a nice smoke shack to post up in and spark a bowl.  Taking full advantage of legal marijuana has been one of my favorite parts about living in Colorado.  At times I smoke too much – Ha!  But blazing up on the mountain (among other things) is always recommended.  I always feel a bit more connected to my board and the mountain after inhaling a bit of ganja and usually end up pushing myself just because I’ll get into sketchier situations, say ‘fuck it, let’s do this’ and flow through them.

T and I do a few more runs, zipping through the trees and traversing most of the front side of the mountain.  But soon enough, the munchies kick in and it’s time for the classic chicken & bean burrito at La Cantina, a very ski bum budget friendly Mexican bar not far from the slopes.

Then it’s time for the 10 minute walk home, a game of zombies with the roommate and a freshly cooked meal before getting ready to wake up and do it all over again.

 

This is my life.

I’m very excited to share it with you.  Stories of adventure, drugs, danger, love and life decisions.  Battles with depression and coming of age.  The joys and turmoils of a fast paced life.  The behind the scenes of what it really means to be a ski bum.  Of letting go and allowing life to take you where you need to go – whether it’s dropping out of college to follow your dreams or opening your heart to another human being.

I live, work and play in the resort town of Vail, Colorado, where everything revolves around the snow.  Whether it’s good or bad drastically affects the tourism business and can mean the difference between a lucrative season or going out of business.  For example, I-70 – the interstate that connects Vail to the rest of the world – causes millions of dollars in losses every time it is shut down.  That being said, living in a resort town allows you to make amazing money with very little experience; really, only the skill of being able to talk to people is required.  It also means 5 star meals and fresh seafood in the middle of the Rockies.  And, working for the company Vail Resorts means that you have the opportunity to snowboard 7 days a week for FREE.  Really can’t beat that.  Stay tuned.

 

– C

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Like it, love it, hate it? Tell me what to write about next in the comments below.

San Diegans in Snow

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Long time no see, folks. Sorry for the break. I’ve mostly just been skiing and snowboarding too often to write much. Vail’s gotten smashed with snow over the last week (two feet!), plus I learned to ski after being a lifelong snowboarder. I was on the mountain every day last week, concluding with a trip to Keystone Resort in Summit County yesterday to see some of my fraternity brothers who are visiting from San Diego, California.

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Arapahoe Basin vs Vail: On the Character of a Place

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Spent the morning at Arapahoe Basin today.

(Feeling about 70 percent back from that concussion. It was a conservative day.)

A-basin is a small ski area tucked away on the backside of Loveland Pass. It’s well-known here in Colorado for its unusually long ski season— A-basin is often the first ski area in Colorado to open for the season and the last to close. “The snow sucks but the people watching’s great,” is usually the way locals will choose to describe late-season skiing to you as you make small talk on a chairlift. It’s not unusual to see people grilling and skiing in t-shirts at the A-basin base as summer slowly melts away the previous year’s ski season.

Arapahoe Basin is more of a local’s place

You don’t see much international tourism to A-basin; really, they don’t even want it. There’s no lodging at the base, and parking is free. There are only a few chairlifts. They don’t have the fancy RFID scanners that Vail does— here, a man in a parka needs to scan the barcode on your season pass. A day-pass lift ticket costs $60, not $160 like it does at Vail. It’s archaic.

There’s something purer about A-Basin

Vail Resorts (MTN) understands how to run a business— just look at their stock curve:

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Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz has been described to me as “Kind of a dick.” Not surprising his company’s doing so well then. I just bought some stock.

With that said, there’s a reason Vail Resorts let go of Arapahoe Basin in 1997, after previously owning the ski area. A-Basin is out of character for the Vail experience.

The people who ski Arapahoe Basin are relaxed in a different way than you find in a resort town. The people you find at A-basin are everyday folks who enjoy skiing and the outdoor lifestyle on their days off, not the forced veneer of cheer and polished service that you find in a resort town like Vail.

Although A-basin has a reputation as a difficult mountain which actively discourages beginners, I spent the day snowboarding with an old friend who had only been twice prior, and he looked like he was having the time of his life. No long lift lines, no expensive restaurants; nothing fancy. We had a great time.

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A low-key guy who doesn’t use social media much, he asked me to take a picture of him at the base.

It was a purer day than any I’ve had at Vail.