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.
“Are you okay?”
These are not words one wants to hear in the middle of a job interview.
And yet, that was exactly what the Austrian woman asked me, halfway through my interview. “Are you okay?”
The answer was obviously no, anyone but I could have seen that.
But I said yes. Everything was fine. I was good.
I would not get the job in Austria.
We retraced our route down the Annapurna Valley without much incident. We stopped at Chhommrong for lunch, where I bartered with a Tibetan woman for some souvenirs. She sold me two yak-bone bracelets. One, containing the “om-mani-padme-hum” mantra, I would give to Holly, the last time I would ever see her. The other, depicting the eight auspicious Buddhist symbols, I would wear on my wrist every day for nine months, a reminder to live an ethical life, before losing it while on a 24-hour, blacked out bender in Las Vegas.
But I didn’t know that, then.
After our race, Young Ankit and I struck up some conversation as we sat waiting for the rest of our group to catch up with us. Ankit was working as a porter, carrying the diplomat’s pack, but I had noticed that he seemed a little different from the rest of the porters. Younger, less beat-down. He was more wide-eyed, and certainly more social. Many of the other porters didn’t even speak English. Ankit was animated, articulate, and curious about life in countries other than his own.
It turned out, this was his first-ever trek. He was 15.
It was all still an adventure to him.
Saffron, Linjon and I were sharing a room. Here at ABC, space was limited, and they were putting us three to a room, instead of just two.
I didn’t mind the extra company — Linjon had been an amigo on the trail, and after all, we were just going to be sleeping. Why would the presence of another person in the room matter to me?