Jay Waltmunson recently travelled with his wife Kymber, and his young daughter Beija to Nepal with Crooked Trails. They are a well-travelled family, but wanted this trip to be about service. They spent 5 days in the village of Chandani and then trekked to Hil, where Crooked Trails is currently building a school. Chris Mackay had a chat with Jay about their journey; we hope you enjoy his perspective.
What was it that called you to Nepal?
For me part of the draw was not knowing much about it. Having been to a lot of places that we all hear and see about from common vacation spots and the media, I’ve learned that I like knowing the least about a destination until we are just about to get there. Having as few expectations as possible makes it fun in different ways for me. I don’t have the stress of making sure we get to that ‘one’ place that looked really cool in some tour book or someone else’s blog post. With that said, after we decided to go to Nepal – we saw Pema Sherpa’s presentation at a bookstore – the imagery and stories hooked me that it was going to be unlike other destinations. We also wanted to turn our vacation into a travel experience that had a service component – Crooked Trails seemed like a noble effort – which it is!
Were you at all nervous about bringing your young daughter Beija on such an adventure?
Not really. We’ve travelled enough to know that safety is rarely a concern when traveling anymore in this world. We’ve taken her to more than a dozen far away countries for travel since she was a baby, so I knew she could handle whatever Nepal threw at us. There’s also something magical about traveling a child that immediately opens people up to you with kindness, attention, and help. Even more so outside the US, there’s a deep respect and value for the family unit. And that was even more apparent in Nepal too. When we travel as a family, with Beija, people open up and welcome us in ways that they might not do if we were adult travelers.
What do you think she will remember most about this trip? Why was it important to you and Kymber for her to have this experience with you?
I hope that she’ll remember the people – and the kids in Chandani especially. It was a 5 day stay, but it felt like 2 weeks after we stepped away from it. So much time just hanging out and playing games and asking questions. I also hope that she comes away with confidence and faith in humanity – that we all aren’t that different and she can go anywhere in the world that might seem crazily different on so many levels and still connect with the people. I also hope that she’ll remember the service aspect so that when she’s old enough to choose to travel, that she can combine travel with something that’s important for her to help others.
Can you describe what it felt like to be in a community that had been devastated by the earthquake?
I felt surprise at seeing what seems like devastation here and there, especially the rubble that’s alongside houses that have been rebuilt. I also felt a sense of peace and respect in an odd way that folks seem to be moving forward rebuilding, slowly, as they can – I felt a sense of resilience about them. Some families have members working in foreign countries to send back money. Or in Kathmandu. By a measure of money, you can claim that the Nepali are very poor, but in terms of their connections to each other and the amazing natural resources, their own resourcefulness, and their underlying optimism – they have a lot going for them. It made me optimistic for them too.
The kids in Chandani. So present and genuine in wanting to simply hang out and ask questions, talk, posing for pictures, and playing games. They were there all the time. They are growing up in two worlds in a lot of ways, with exposure and some access to technology like cell phones, while living in their parents (or grandparents) older world of subsistence farming.
What would you say to families wanting this kind of experience but nervous to do it?
I’d say that your fear is just making stuff up about something that you can’t imagine. Rather, you’ll be surrounded by people helping you 100% of the way, and come away with an appreciation for the world and new friends. More than any other country that I’ve been to, Nepal is the MOST unique on every level, from language, to food, to geography, to weather, to views, to cultural richness, to smells, to colors. You’ll be amazed.
photos courtesy of Jay Waltmunson Photography
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