1) BENIN: or, the elusive West Africa Trip

I sat in the stairwell of the hostel, listening to my sister cry on the other end of the telephone.

“Why don’t you want to be with me?” she asked. “Do you know how shitty that feels?”

It was December 2017. I was in Chefchaouen, Morocco, nestled in the Rif mountains. The bite of winter was encroaching. I was cold, and filled with self-loathing.

“There is some part of me that feels like it really needs to go see about this woman,” I said. “I can’t stop thinking about her.”

Five years of planning, interminable delays, and the trip my sister and I had planned to take together around Africa would never occur.

I had fallen in love.

The phone call ended without resolution.

She needed to do something, or I did. I sat on the stairs and felt a blackness in my heart. I was blazing a selfish path of destruction, I knew. I had burnt a hole in the middle of my oldest, strongest relationship — to go see about a person I’d known for only three days. Que romantico. ¿No?

I shot a message to a friend back home: I contribute nothing, M. My lifestyle is so selfish. I only hurt people. What’s wrong with me?

I felt lower than I had in a very long time, But I couldn’t stop. One has to follow one’s heart. No matter the risk, no matter the damage — love is the only force of meaning in this world.

Or so I thought.

This is youth, after all.

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Nepal FINAL CHAPTER: Departures

Wow! One year and 111 chapters later, I’m done with this project!! What a ride. Thanks everyone for coming along with me on this journey. I’ve appreciated each and every reader more than you can know. I’ll drop some more in-depth thoughts about the process and what’s next for me next week, but for now, just enjoy the closing chapter of this story.

And if you’re new here, I guess you can read the whole story now, start to finish, right here.

**

I awoke early on my final day in Nepal.

Some animal instinct warned me of impending change.

Sunlight was streaming onto my pallet-like bed in my room at the Annapurna Guesthouse. Dust shimmered in the sunbeam, leading the air an ethereal solidity. It looked like I could reach across the room and pluck the sunbeam straight out of the sky. It was a strangely beautiful sight.

Dust was inescapable in this city. Already, after only two days back in Kathmandu, my cough had come back.  It would linger with me long after I returned home, a half-welcome reminder the damages wandering could inflict on a person.

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Nepal 103: Dance Party

End of trek annapurna jihnudanda, nepal

“Wait until Jihnudana,” Ankit, the young porter, had told me again and again. “There, we dance.”

I had never thought that after nine days on the trail, walking miles and miles every day with a heavy load on my back, that I’d feel like dancing at the end of the day. But, come Jihnudanda, there I was, along with all my new friends: late night in the mountains, dancing and laughing until the neighbors told us to shut off the music.

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Nepal 86: The Diplomat

The German woman who had leaned into our conversation about Linjon turned out to be quite a character herself. As we kept chatting, I became fascinated with her life story. This happened quite frequently while you were traveling, I was beginning to understand.

She was a diplomat — attached to the ambassador’s office in Kathmandu. Her daughter, on break from university, had joined her for a few weeks of holiday in Nepal. Being able to tour around amazing places and new cultures was just one of the perks of working in the foreign service.

“Well, really the only perk, if your job is like mine,” the diplomat told me as we hit the trail again. “Unfortunately, I spend most of my time working, and very little time to enjoy the country. My boss, on the other hand, he loves to trek. He is in Mustang right now I think, trekking.”

“Walk in for thirteen days, look at a damaged monastery, write a check, hike out for thirteen days, and call it work?” I joked.

She laughed, a wheezy exhalation as we made our way up some steps. “How did you know?!”

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