As we reached the top of the hillside, it was not a big surprise that this Nepal sunrise was muffled by cloud coverage. The truck horns from the road, about 600 ft below had stopped bellowing, or we had climbed out of ear reach. Twenty minutes earlier, at 5:10 am I awoke to my alarm and the same horns blowing, to begin a short but steep walk from our Dhulikhel Mountain Resort in Nepal. A grassy, remote helicopter pad landing provided a spot to view into the valley as the sun came up.
While sunrise was anti-climatic, we continued our climb just a short, steep ways up and came to another hill top summit, this one with a shrine to Lord Shiva. We were on a mountain village path that locals use to bring fresh drinking water and other supplies up to their homes. They had no vehicle access. In a few moments time, the path would become more busy, with walking commuters on their way to school or work; many of them would stop at the Shiva shrine for personal worship before continuing on their commute.
From this second hilltop, there was enough of a break in the clouds to appreciate sitting at the edge of the tall grass and watch as the clouds receded from the foothills of the Himalayas and then refilled the valleys below. The quiet created a stillness I hadn’t felt in several days of travel.
Feeling slightly disappointed yet not fully defeated about the sunrise, it occurred to me that as the “leader” of this small group trip, I could not let the disappointment hinder me. I would not let it change my attitude for what the rest of the day held. The hike home was a meditation; a meditation on accepting things as they are. A meditation that expectations and desires are ok as long as you don’t grip on to them so tightly so as to make or break your experience. With each step down I repeated the mantra: I am home (breathing in). I have arrived (breathing out). This mantra never ever fails to bring me peace, acceptance and mindful connection.
We approached the sun deck at our Mountain Resort and a sharp white peak simply yet valiantly appeared, just barely above the billowing clouds on the horizon. Mesmerizing, pure potential. As though I were watching a slow, Himalayan-produced movie, with scene one revealed a small triangle shaped peak, just barely visible. Captivating in itself, and also holding so much potential. Following with scene two seamlessly rolling in as the clouds slowly, slowly dispersed, revealing the thick-based mountain holding up the triangular peak. Finally, the live image shifted and I could imagine the entire range, connected at the base and rising in magnificent non-uniform peaks and valleys, emanating young mountain energy. Like one single musical note evolving into a well-designed melodious tune.
Having to imagine the final scene of the movie, because before the end of our second cup of tea the cumulous clouds had rolled back over, was no longer a disappointment.
An exploration with a different apex point than I expected is what I love about travel. This is the art of accepting things as they are – and nature doing its own thing. The art of traveling is giving up control, acceptance of what is and as a result, letting nature and life emerge as it best knows how.
The pure potentiality of the Himalayan-produced movie, overlaid with a sound track of honking bus and car horns, traffic and an early alarm for a muffled sunrise — this is exactly what I did not expect on my stay in a mountain property on my first journey to Nepal. Yet in the end, it captivated me; it reset my pace and left me calm, hopeful and full. Full of gratitude. The Art of Travel is in allowing one disappointment, one annoyance, to lead to the next ecstatic experience – even if you don’t know when or how. If I had clung to my expectation of an early wake up call leading directly to an inspired Nepal sunrise, the sweet morning would have abruptly ended in the overcast clouds. It would have ended in disappointment. We marched on instead, soaking it all in, letting go of judgement and expectation, and it opened me up for a joyful surprise. Thus, over and over again, I am reminded that the most profound gifts of travel are presented in between my expectations.