Meeting people, learning about different cultures, eating delicious types of food and exploring the beauty and majesty of Nature are all reasons we love traveling and have chosen to make it the focal point of our lives. No matter how long it has been since we have been to a place of felt something of its land and people, the memories we have made stay with us. It is these experiences and how they change us that shape our life and identity. It is the priceless gifts of connection, solitude in Nature, and coming to understand something beyond the current way we see that makes travel a unique endeavor. Like Henry David Thoreau, we travel to see if we “could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Travel and the transformation that can come from it are very personal, specific to each individual and even to a certain time and space. With that said, we wanted to share today some of our favorite stories and memories from the years of travel we have been gifted thus far. These are abbreviated versions of transformative experiences, so use them as inspiration to seek your own journey and hear you own call to adventure.
Dancing in the Solukhumbu
Kolena: As most of you know Nepal is an incredible place and is home to some of the kindest, most giving people I have ever met. We have spent lots of time there, so it is natural that many of our fondest travel memories take place in Nepal. On this particular trip we were trekking to our friend’s home village in the Solokhumbu called Sibuje. Sibuje is not a known village and is off the beaten path but is gorgeous and full of life. It sits on a cliff overlooking a beautiful valley, with the mighty Mera Peak looming behind. We spent a few nights there, learning about Sherpa culture, eating delicious food and watching the sunrise and set over Mera Peak. On our last night we were treated to a traditional Sherpa celebration of dancing, music and local beer. The memories of dancing all together, laughing and attempting to learn the traditional Sherpa dance will stay with me forever. At that moment we went from being outsiders and strangers to friends connected over a shared cultural experience birthed from the spirit of love and sharing.
Meeting the Mapuche of Chile
Kolena: Chile is a country we had wanted to visit for a long time. It is often overlooked compared to other areas in South America but it is rich with opportunities for transformative experiences. On my first visit to Chile I stayed with an indigenous group called the Mapuche in a village called Quinquen. The Mapuche have lived in Chile for many generations and have a deep history and culture that is complex and beautiful. We spent our time learning about their deep connection to the land, their food, and the importance of ancestors. We go around riding on horseback, hiking and laughing over wine and delicious food. The people are so friendly and kind and really want nothing in return for their hospitality. On my last day I asked “What would you like to get from tourism in your community?” Their answer will stay with me for a long time. They said, “For people to know our story and know who we are.” Such a pure answer that really spoke about the heart of this community. After that we headed to Torres Del Paine and spent many blissful days backpacking and ending our trip finally setting eyes on the magnificent Torres Range.
Climbing Island Peak In Nepal
Kolena: On our first trip to Nepal we did not go to the Everest region or see the incredible Himalayas that everyone talks about. So we knew this would be one of the many reasons we would be back. When we did head back we started our trek where our love affair with Nepal began, the village of Sibuje. This was to be the first leg in a 21 day journey not only into the thin air of the Himalaya, but into the dark depths of our souls. As we woke and walked and slept, we would wake again each day to repeat the meditation and journey deeper into the mountains both inside and out. Sunrises and sunset passed like the hands on a clock connected to the universe but telling no time we had ever known. It was heaven as we finally made our way to Island Peak base camp and settled in for a early morning start. I remember the morning cold, frigid against the walls of our tent and striking sharp needles with every inhale. The stars were shining bright above us we set out from the warmth of our sleeping bags, one foot in front of the other, crossing ladders over crevasses and keeping watch on each others footsteps. As another sunrise came like an old familiar song the darkness gave way to light and color and relief like I had never seen or felt before. Perhaps it was the altitude, the foggy thoughts of oxygen deprivation, or perhaps it was the gift of the Earth. In those moments and exertion of physical depletion I found my soul. I honestly didn’t even realize at first that we had summitted, the meditation of the mountains I was lost in was the true feat for which I had given my soul. To this day it lives in my memory like a dream, I am unsure if it actually happened. I found something deeper that day, deeper within me and deeper within all that is on Earth.
Childhood Dreams Become Reality In Patagonia
Tanner: As a child I loved National Geographic Magazine. I waited each month for it to come, to open its pages and glimpse the world outside my small country town I grew up in. This was the beginning of my love affair with Nature, with travel, and with adventure that would follow my into my adulthood. One photograph in particular I remember was of Torres Del Paine in Patagonia, and in particular a sunrise over the Torres Range that was like nothing I had ever seen or could imagine. I couldn’t shake the image, and as life progressed and all the irksome obligations of being human began to dictate more and more of my life that image never subsided. In Spring of 2017 we finally made the trip to Patagonia and to Torres Del Paine. In the 20+ years since I first saw that image this part of Chile has become very popular and the tourism infrastructure is robust. Even with that, my anticipation for the image in my mind to become reality was almost more than I could bear. In the darkness of the pre-dawn time we set out from our tent, cold hands and tired eyes but with full hearts. Often times we build things up in our minds only to be dissapointed that the fantasy outshines the reality. Sitting on a rock at the edge of the lake as the tips of the massive granite spires began to glow pink and red, the image before me was more beautiful and more transformative than even I could have imagined. What was once a grainy photograph in my mind had become a vivid representation of the indescribable majesty of Nature and the primal connection of human and Earth. I cried and laughed and felt inadequate to be gifted that moment. It will always be a defining experience in my life.
Rift Valley In Kenya
Tanner: At the age of 21 I thought I had it all figured out. What I wanted. What life was about. How to do and get and be everything. Then, at the gentle insistence of Kolena, we decided to visit Kenya and volunteer with a community development nonprofit there. I didn’t quite understand why we were doing it, but the conviction with which Kolena “suggested” we do it I could not say no. As we landed in Nairobi and met our hosts for our trip I was mostly overwhelmed, a little scared, and a lot confused on why we were there. The next day we spent in a van driving from Nairobi to Kisumu in the West of Kenya, near Lake Victoria. As you leave Nairobi and head West the road skirts high on a mountain overlooking the Southern end of the Great Rift Valley. It was near sunrise and as we bumped along I stared out into the never ending expanse of lush green grass, farmlands, and rivers that wove in and out of the valley. I had never seen something so beautiful and so massive, like something from a story or dream. For hours I looked on in awe, unable to comprehend how a place like this could exist. Once we arrived in Kisumu and started our work I began to piece together something of an understanding of who I really was, not the version of me I had been building. The people of Kenya are some of the most beautiful, loving, and misunderstood in all the world. The juxtaposition of the that great valley and the real struggle and poverty of the people has guided my life since. That van ride altered the course on which I was walking and continues to lead me toward a deeper understanding of my soul and how I am to give away the gifts I have been given.