Don't look now, but I'm heading to Nepal in three sleeps! It's an especially exciting trip for me because I left a piece of my heart in Nepal nearly a decade ago. Matt and I lived there for a while in 2007, volunteering with a UNDP microenterprise program and helping out people who produced amazing handicrafts, among other things. See any common themes with the present, here?! So in a lot of ways, Nepal was the birthplace of my side of the Wanderlust People journey - and the treasures we bring back from this trip, and the artisans we meet, will be a part of our super exciting next Wanderlust People phase - so keep watching this space!
But there's more to my anticipation than the prospect of treasure hunting (even the best possible kind of treasure hunting!). It's about taking your children somewhere you were before they existed, knowing that the place changed you, and that you have changed even more since you were there, and that the place itself has changed too, not just in a natural growing and shifting kind of way, but in a landscape-changing earthquake disaster way. It's about meeting people you used to know but haven't seen since. It's about going back to somewhere you love and have known, and wondering if you will still love it and still know it.
There are so many things I love about Nepal, and while I know many things will be different, I hope some are still the same - in spirit at least, if not in form. Here are my top five Nepal loves - I can't wait to see what time has done with them.
1. Mountain vistas
Even an earthquake can't change Kathmandu's Himalaya-lined skyline, although the mountain villages took a lot of damage. We are meeting some of the local organisations working to help those areas while we're in Kathmandu.
2. Chai and momos
The smells, and the good talks and great laughs I associate with them. Our landlady was the best at making both - I can still hear her giggling "oh my goodness!" as we tried to follow her lessons on how to make them too.
3. Generosity of spirit
From the local tailor who always rounded her prices down to the lady on the bus blowing in my face because it was so hot and they don't do aircon on buses in Nepal - Nepalis are pretty much always ready to help each other out with pretty much everything. It's a quality that I'm sure has only been crystallised by disaster.
4. Living history and breathing culture
Nepal's rich history and colourful culture isn't consigned to museums or tourist performances - it's pulsing all around. Nepalis live and breathe their traditions and wear their history with pride. Monkies and kids climb all over centuries-old temples and the three Durbar Squares are still market hubs and meeting places a thousand years after being built. I hope that's still the state of play after the earthquake wreaked havoc on the squares.
5. Chaos that works
Tempos weave in and out of traffic, trucks just honk their horns and everyone moves out of the way, buses careen around mountain corners and people drive cows through the middle of it all. Traffic rules are fluid - or at least that's how they are treated - but everyone gets where they need to go, mostly in one piece. A lot of other rules work the same way - we missed a flight once, but it wasn't a problem because the airline staff just filled our seats with some other travellers who were ready to go, and we took their seats on the next flight. Brilliant.
I've missed you Nepal - I can't wait until we meet again!