I wrote this during my second visit to Nepal. I’d finished with the volunteer house in Kathmandu, so I decided to venture out of the city, to the charming tourist town of Pokhara. There were mountains and a lake, and it kind of reminded me of Banff. I originally wanted to do some hiking, but I ended up not feeling so great – physically or mentally. Traveling alone can be both a blessing and a curse. Having the complete freedom to do what you want, when you want, without having to consult or consider someone else, is awesome. And I’ve often found that I actually meet more people when I’m alone. But it sucks when you see something really cool and wish there was someone around to share the moment, or when you just want a buddy to hang out with.
Does anybody around here play Cribbage? I’d love a game right now. A few days to myself, to relax, post photos, and do some writing sounded lovely, in theory… But being alone these days tends to be more lonely than lovely, and three days of free time can be tedious when you don’t know a soul, or the lay of the land, and when Internet connections are few and far between.
I do enjoy my own company, don’t get me wrong, but I’m still working on feeling relaxed and content when wildly out of my element. I’ve been repeating something of a mantra to myself lately, frequently, and it goes, “He always looked like he belonged exactly where he was.” I repeated it in my head this afternoon as I walked down the unfamiliar Lakeside drag in Pokhara. It never fails to calm my nerves, slow my heart, and raise my chin a little.
Interestingly, Mr. Nurse was surprised to learn that I’m 5’8″, he thought I was taller than his 5’10”. He commented that very confident people seem to come across as tall. Do I really seem that confident? I feel very small and awkward these days, so it was startling to hear his perspective. Maybe it explains his nervousness.. I’ll have to pick his brain about it later, but I always feel so self-indulgent asking people how they feel around me.
This afternoon an American girl asked me about my lip ring. Later on I saw her and her friend in a coffee shop, so I plucked up all my nerve and approached them. I had to give myself a serious pep talk before I walked over to their table, you’d think I was 15 and approaching a gorgeous older man…. But my pep talk went a little something like this, “McKinnley, get a grip. You’re alone, a traveler, they’re girls, and they’ve already talked to you, what on earth do you have to be uncomfortable about? Ok, put it this way, if one of them approached you and wanted to chat, how would you react?” I come across as oh so self-possessed, but in fact they had already talked to me, and I’d been guarded and obviously uncomfortable I’m my response. Sigh. I’d kicked myself at the time, and now I had a second chance that I was seriously considering brushing off. But realistically, I much prefer being approached to doing the approaching, as long as I don’t feel intimidated – let’s chalk it up to the shy, introverted, ugly duckling that inhabited my skin for so many years. (For the record, I certainly wasn’t approaching gorgeous, older men when I was 15. It’s hilarious to even try and imagine it…)
I got over myself and said hi to the girls, who immediately invited me to join them. See McKinnley, how hard was that? The best way to not be lonely, is to meet new people. Or call up old friends (but that’s not really an option for a few more days).
How to fill a day: Look at your options. Decide what you’d like to do. Take your time in fulfilling the desired tasks. Give in to whims and sudden desires. Savour as many moments as possible.
And so I’m sitting in a little open air restaurant, drinking a happy hour priced beer (650ml Everest lager, 199 rupees, which is about $2), and munching my way through a couple baskets of complimentary popcorn, while I alternately read and write. It’s delightful, truly. A belly fully of beer makes me feel tired, but when I check the time it’s only 6:30. It’s already dark out, and with limited power in Nepal it’s actually easy and rather satisfying to both go to bed and rise with the sun. But 6:30pm is a bit too early. I’ve been wandering the same street since about noon, so I’m about ready to return to my hotel room. The girls said there’s a popular bar to hang out and meet people, and it’s only a block from my hotel. Maybe I’ll head there..?