For our Wandering Wednesday guest posts we ask a fellow travel blogger to highlight one place (city or entire country) that has been one of the most memorable for them. It can be a fond type of memorable, or “my hair caught on fire, I contracted rabies, and my luggage was stolen”- type of memorable. The good, the bad, and the ugly. We’re taking it all.
For today’s Wandering Wednesday, we’re featuring fellow adventurer Andy Parkinson also known as The Travel Maverick. Andy is a writer, photographer and travel specialist, originally from the UK but now based in Sydney, Australia. Andy has travelled widely and independently throughout Europe, and in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Java and Australia.
First things first, Why do you travel?
I travel because I would go crazy if I didn’t. I was brought up in England, and never left the country until I was in my late teens. I think the containment gave me the motivation I have now to explore new places, meet new people, experience new cultures. My first trip overseas was into Europe, on a solo month long train journey through France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, Switzerland, Belgium and Holland. It really gave me all the tools for travel. Nothing like turning up somewhere remote at 4am, using only your charm and your wits to find food and shelter.
What brought you to Nepal?
My girlfriend at the time had been before. She’d spent time there as part of her Art History degree measuring buildings in remote Nepalese villages. It sounds out there, and it kinda was – she had lots of stories about the celebrity status she achieved with a simple tape measure. I remember when we first got together, she was talking about her experience, in particular her love for the mountains. It sounds like a move and it probably was but that night I told her I could see the deep blue sky of the Himalayas in her eyes. We were together a few years before I had the chance to see it for myself.
I had never travelled so far to such a poor country so arriving in Kathmandu was a shock on so many levels. It wasn’t just the mob of taxi drivers and hotel touts at the gate. It was more the journey into town, the poverty was immense; whole families of people living literally on the street. I was surprised about my feelings. I didn’t feel pity. Instead I fell in love with Nepal, with the developing world, with Asia, at that point. I have so many fond memories of that trip – a good job because my ex girlfriend kept all the photos 🙁
Any advice for travelers headed to Nepal?
So much to do in Nepal, so much, but itinerary should include a trek into the mountains, it depends how long you have but it can be anything from a few days to a few weeks. I’d advise hiring a guide, up to you whether you hire porters too – this is a poor country and they need the work but I recognise some people may feel uncomfortable having others do all the hard yards. We hired just a guide, an amazing guy called Krishna from a firm called Himalayan Glacier, I’ll never forget the eight day journey I took with him, we laughed all the way and he looked after us like we were best friends. There’s nothing, nothing better than walking for hours until it’s dark, shivering cold, legs aching, head spinning from the altitude, to walk into the next tea house and feeling it wrap around you like a blanket of comfort. Kathmandu is a cool place to hang – read the Himalayan Times!! Chitwan National Park is also a cool place to visit, you can go safari with elephants, black rhino (if you’re lucky) and although the sales pitch talks heavily of tigers, the reality is light on delivery…
How did your experiences in Nepal change you as a person and how you feel about travel?
I’ve travelled a lot since then, so it’s difficult to distance myself from all I’ve learned since then. What I will say is don’t carry any expectations with you. It’s just baggage you can’t manage. To be prepared for shocks and surprises, and to accept them, maybe even celebrate them, is to travel. I remember taking a nine hour bus trip back from an exhausting 10 day trek in the Langtang region. The Nepalese don’t travel well, they get travel sick, when I alighted I found my rucksack was covered in vomit. As I stepped out onto the street back in Kathmandu, the first thing I saw was a white cow, a holy animal for the Hindu religion. It was mutated, it had an extra arm and hoof attached to its shoulder. I didn’t flinch. I knew then I was a traveller, and this was just the start of my adventure.
Do you or someone you know have a memorable experience from your travels? Want to be featured on one of our Wandering Wednesday posts? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org