The first adventure my two children chose to experience as independent travelers, away from the watchful eye of travel writer Mom, was epic- Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit. This iconic route circles around one of the highest peaks the planet, a two week trek that brings the trekker over 17,000 feet. Sierra was in Katmandu for a study abroad semester her sophomore year and before she returned home for the summer, she summoned her brother over for this adventure. They did not choose a week in Fort Laureldale on spring break or even a week’s backpack on the Appalachian Trail in the backyard as their first independent adventure. They would be tested to see if they had been paying attention their whole lives or merely following blindly. Bryce was nervous about navigating alone through the airports of Russia and India, including a mandatory overnight stay in the Delhi airport. It would be quite a stretch for a 19 year old. He had to pass security, acquire a visa, and had to resort to charades when asking people help who could not speak English. BRYCE: “Multiple times I drew on what I had learned in my family’s travels, remembering how Mom had gotten us out of situations. Although I had been young, I was observing and learning subconsciously and had not realized how much information I could draw on in a time of need. I asked everyone for help and also knew I could at least fake it and behave as thought I knew what I was doing until I got it right!” Sierra is a drill sergeant type of leader compared to her mother and started off the trip by whisking Bryce away to the mountains, on a nauseating 10-hour bus ride before he could recuperate from jet lag. That was an adventure in itself, as they made the decision to ride on the bus roof with other young Nepalese (some who were drunk and falling off) as they ducked under electric wires and rocked and rolled up the narrow rutted mountain roads. Sierra chose to bring along a heavy gruel of roasted barley flour called “Tsampa” that Nepalese and Tibetan eat, mixing it with hot butter tea. She threw about 10 pounds of it into her brother’s pack (unbeknownst to him at first) which he hauled all around Annapurna and never once could stomach eating it. Sierra’s friend Eben, (who later became her husband) carried a whole library of books as he backpacked, never once opening them. These choices would not have been mine but this is how they learn, albeit sometimes painfully. They were thinking ‘fun” on this adventure, however, not necessarily learning but of course that occurred simultaneously. Sierra and Bryce and Sierra’s three college friends, all took turns in the leadership role at different times. BRYCE-“We all had to learn how to deal with uncomfortable things, as we coped with altitude sickness, bargained for prices, and decided who to trust i.e. the “child” bus driver who nearly got us killed on our way to the Himalayas. Learning how to navigate technology such as electronic devices or computer programs can be daunting to me or living in a big city can feel intimidating for me, (but not other young people), whereas I find myself feeling very comfortable in the wilderness. My past experiences taught me to be adaptable, however, in whatever situation I found myself in.” On their hike, they observed the indigenous people going about their daily lives, hoeing fields, plowing with yaks, cooking for them in the guest homes and all the while, experiencing the magnificent Himalayas. BRYCE:”It was a cool challenge to be circumnavigating Annapurna without the leadership of my parents, just to test ourselves and see if we could do it. We all came into our adulthood in an alien land and got nose and ear piercings afterwards to celebrate this rite of passage! ”
After their very successful adventure, a strange discovery was made. Sierra’s boyfriend, Eben was reading my 6th book, “Scraping Heaven” when he came across this excerpt in the Epilogue, which I had long forgotten about. The kids were 10 and 12 at the time.
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. Todd read these words from “Scraping Heaven” aloud to Sierra before she went to bed when she was twelve and we thought, left her mind. That seed must have been subliminally subconsciously planted there as a child. She may have filed this thought away and willed it into existence many years later. This is a prime example of creating your own reality which the kids learned about on their trek across the Continental Divide. There Bryce willed grapes into his life as a one year old and hamburgers as a six year old and they both appeared shortly afterwards, delivered by Trail Angels. 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. The Annapurna Circuit was their initiation into the world of independent travel without mom and dad. The learning will continue without us and long after we are gone, hopefully stretching into the next generation.