When Sierra decided to study abroad in Nepal for her junior year of college, I found myself not wanting to miss out. The Himalayas wow! I’m going too.
I said to Todd, “Are you in?”
“I don’t know,” he hesitated. “You’re going,” I decided for him, not skipping a beat nor giving him the luxury of time to ponder. “You’re not missing an opportunity to visit your daughter and trek in the Himalayas. You’ll be sorry.”
Sierra will know how to get around by that point, have connections, and know how to advise us. How can we not grasp this opportunity?
All these years, we have been guiding her. Now she has grown into an independent woman on her own personal quest for adventure and world travel. Todd and I are going to follow her for the first time in our family’s history.
Sierra said, “You just can’t stand it for me to have a world travel experience and not you.” She got that right!
We planned to visit and day trip with her in Katmandu for a week, trek in the Himalayas for two weeks and stop in India for a week on the way home. Unfortunately for Bryce, who was in his freshman year of college at the time, could not join in, for the first time in his life. Things were changing.
Sierra lived with a host family while studying abroad- a Tibetan family in exile. The woman called herself Sierra’s Tibetan Mom and she her daughter. It made me laugh. Twenty-one years I’ve been nurturing this child, dealing with her ups and downs, her challenges, problems, issues, giving her everything she needed, physically, emotionally and psychologically. I personally earned that title, “Mother” but I could share for a few months with this twenty-five year old Mother of two small children of her own!
While in Katmandu, Sierra learned to live without modern conveniences and creature comforts one more notch lower. Lucky for her, she had experience living without on the Continental divide Trail and the various other long distance outdoor adventures we have been on. Since electricity in Nepal is generated by hydro-electric power hundreds of miles away; if the snow is not melting, the dams are not filling and very little electric can be made. Her host family was allowed one bucket of water each, per week for bathing. After you washed your body, that same water needed to be recycled and used to wash your clothing.
Fortunately for Sierra, she did not create much dirty wash for they lived without heat all winter and she rarely changed out of her long underwear, day after day and cuddled in her down jacket and down sleeping bag by camping headlight in the evenings to do her schoolwork.
All the experiences in her life up to this point, the thousands of miles on the Continental Divide Trail, the simple lifestyle in our log home, all the traveling we did and the outdoor adventures, provided her with the tools to be able to live this way in Nepal and do it gracefully and happily. What she was also learning was gratitude, for what she had at home- all the warmth from the woodstove that she could absorb, daily tubs of hot water to soak in, and electricity round the clock if she so desired. There is no greater teacher than leaving home and doing without to realize what you have there. A huge lesson to learn at twenty-one.
Since Bryce was missing out on this adventure for the first time in our family’s history. I encouraged him to take some his personal savings and buy himself a flight to Nepal after the spring semester ended. He and Sierra planned to hike the Annapurna Circuit- an iconic circle route around one of the highest peaks on the planet, a two week trek that would bring them to over 17,000 feet.
Bryce was nervous about encircling the world navigating alone through the airports via Russia and India, including a mandatory overnight stay in the Delhi airport, where they are famous for being unfriendly. But I was proud of my two rug rats. At 19 and 21 years of age, they have come so far. This was their first trip that they chose to do together. Not Atlantic City, NJ or Florida’s Daytona Beach for spring break, but circumnavigating Annapurna in the Himalayas. This was further proof that perhaps we had done something right as we raised and educated them all these years.
It all came out in the wash when Sierra’s boyfriend, Eben read my 6th book, “Scraping Heaven” after their Himalayan adventure was over. I wrote the Epilogue a few years after we had completed the Continental Divide Trail, when the kids were only about 12 and 14 years old.
Todd and I figure we may only have a few years left before Sierra will resist missing out on something back home, so we have the next few major trips planned. But other adventuring families have told me teenagers don’t mind making exotic trips with their families. After all, they tell me, how long will it be before Sierra and Bryce can afford to trek the Himalaya or hike the Annapurna Circuit with their friends?
How could I have predicted this? I used the Annapurna Circuit as a completely far-fetched and absurd example of extreme high adventure and risk. I had completely forgotten I had ever penned those words. It was the first time I was reminded of them many years later. I somehow subliminally subconsciously planted that seed when they were young. Be careful what you wish for! (Todd read “Scraping Heaven” aloud to Sierra before she went to bed when she was twelve.
So we raised our children to be independent, have an insatiable thirst for adventure, a deep love of travel and a keen desire to know people all over the planet. I wanted my children to be broad minded. That is why I took them to fourteen countries before they went to college. They are not going to stay put. I will have to chase them, visit them wherever they land. That’s why Todd and I went to Nepal.
When Sierra went to teach English in China after she graduated from Temple University, Todd, Bryce and I spent his month-long winter break traveling to China. Sierra was our tour guide and the tables had turned.
But then my motherly fears hit me.
“Sierra, if you plan to have your father build you a home someday, have me babysit your kids, care for your animals and pets when you go away, consider settling close to home.”
She said, “You can’t make me.”
“Oh, I know that. But if you follow in your mother’s footsteps and do not spawn children until you are in your mid-30’s, if you live in a different country every year- that’s fifteen different places on the earth you can live before settling down- that’s a lot. Consider it.”
And she rolls her eyes. It doesn’t hurt to plant a seed.