Nepal 18: Ceilings

[This is a chapter from my travel book. There are lots more chapters posted on the blog, but if you’d prefer to read them all at once, sign up for my e-mail newsletter and I’ll be sure to let you know when they’re available in a condensed form!]

I put the not-down jacket back on the rack, and turned my attention to some other items I needed.

I got a 3/4 zip polyester shirt for $2, despite the fact the sleeves only went about 3/4 of the way up my arms.

The lady also sold me on some glove covers for $1, which I never even ended up using.

I bought a few pairs of trekking socks, and was negotiating for a pair of thermal long underwear, when something began to cry. I looked around the dim shop, alarmed. There was a child laying in the middle of the floor, on top of some cardboard. I was shocked, both by the condition this baby was in, and by the fact that I’d been in this store for about thirty minutes without once noticing there was a tiny human in there with us.

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Nepal 16: Himalayan Java

Western Coffee Shop Thamel Kathmandu

I carried Yanti with me as I walked the streets of Thamel.

I was still a little wary bringing a $1,000 computer onto the streets of Kathmandu, but I was slowly starting to feel comfortable in the chaos. As long as I carried the bag slung crosswise across my body so it couldn’t be snatched, I really faced no risk. Nothing could cut through the thick leather straps, if that was even a thing that happened here. Hell, I’d carried it on the much more dangerous streets of Kuala Lumpur, I could carry it on the streets of Kathmandu.

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Nepal 13: Earthquake Aftermath

Nepal after earthquake

As I walked around Thamel, I noticed there was a lot of rubble lying in the streets. In places, large sections of the city seemed to be missing. The flow of people adapted to these oddities by simply detouring elsewhere.

The rubble was the result of the 2015 earthquake, which had devastated Nepal a little under a year ago.

From the U.S., I remembered a flood of news coverage and charitable donation campaigns. The way I remembered it, hundreds of millions of dollars had been donated for disaster relief, as well as innumerable hours and personas from many international NGOs. And yet, here I was, a year later, in the capital city of Nepal, and people were still living in tents.

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Book Review: “The New American Road Trip Mixtape” by Brendan Leonard

Brendan Leonard semi rad book

All that discussion of Jack Kerouac in my review of “The Book” by Alan Watts got me itching for a good old-fashioned road trip story. So I picked up “The New American Road Trip Mixtape” by Brendan Leonard.

I bought this book as a Christmas present for my girlfriend, entirely on a whim and with no more context than a few Amazon reviews. I did not realize that it would read very much like the sort of book I might write in ten years.

Leonard draws his inspiration from climbing, mountaineering, skiing and seeing the world through a lowly lens. His book chronicles a post-breakup period of dirtbagging around America in the back of a Subaru Outback. He even starts his odyssey in Denver. The similarity to my own sensibilities was simultaneously comforting and disconcerting.

The book is a quick read— I read the entire thing in the span of a few hours.

It is even printed double-spaced, like an assignment you would turn in for your writing class. It was self-published, which fits the ethos of the writing. The copyright page contains five lines. All that blank space is exciting.

“The New American Road Trip Mixtape” is adventure writing— quick, breezy and inspirational. To the sort of person who can identify with Leonard’s passions, the book will practically read itself. Those who can’t appreciate the appeal of the modern dirtbag lifestyle won’t find much of substance here.

It’s telling that two months since Christmas, I am the first one in the household to finish this book.

“The New American Road Trip Mixtape” differs from the writing I give you here in one key way. “The New American Road Trip Mixtape” is not a celebration of youth, but rather a chronicle of the end of youth. The book is about Leonard’s pivot into a deeper understanding of the world, not simply a celebration of living. The story is very much that of an inflection point in life.

“What is a life?”

This phrase is repeated often throughout the book. The full question, “what is a good life?” goes largely elided and unanswered. In the final pages of the book, Leonard sums it up as well as he can:

“There was something in everyone I knew in Utah, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and California figuring it out as they went, stubbing their toes and tripping sometimes, turning around after false starts and making the second or third try really count, making it as forever as we know how anymore.”

In the end, Leonard is quintessentially young, even as he chronicles his search for the way to age gracefully.

(You can find more writing by Brendan Leonard at his blog, semi-rad.com)