IMG_0258My first travel story was about Nepal, and I published it in The Coal Creek Canyon Gazette in 1994. They also published my photos of the flat Terrai region, and one of a rickshaw.

The paper was a local one, and the readers had never seen such things. I did this for free, and it was a remarkable experience. I encourage you to find a local paper and do the same.

On my morning walks in the Rockies (Walker Ranch was my favorite), people who’d never spoken to me popped up to thank me for these pieces (“Letters from Nepal”). Then they’d respectfully disappear. “We can tell how much nature means to you, so just let me get out of your way…”

Kind of incredible, yes?

So when you’re abroad, do take some notes and do plan to write up accounts of the simple places you go, for a paper with readers who’ll appreciate you.

After Nepal’s long revolution (1996-2006), things got much more complicated, even for travelers. For the locals all over Nepal, it was horrible. (By the way: as a freelancer my copy and photos were more or less useless about the war; though I think I lived through a lot more than the card-carrying journalists for expensive magazines. I spoke Nepali, adored the country and was literate.) One of my keenest pleasures to this day is talking to local Nepalis about politics, in Nepalese.

Nepal’s still an awesome country to visit, and it’s cheaper than ever. I live quite well as a writer.

One of my main topics in those years was ‘participating in the culture.’ It’s the way I’ve always lived, too.

One such area of ‘participation’ now of course is geting cooked food. For example, most of us on the road live on tiny budgets. Local eateries are the place to go.

You can definitely ‘participate in the culture’ at these places. Go, as you know, where it’s crowded, and don’t be judgemental/squeamish about a person in the corner who’s having a nip of rakshi. Concentrate on the food and the culture. Put your camera away, and keep your eyes open. The changes are incredible.

In 1994 you’d never have seen, for example, the beautiful young Newari/Nepalese women in Western clothes, with bright blonde hair with tiny beads braided into a couple of strands. And at the next bench will be some wrinkled laborers in traditional clothes. And we’re all eating momos, together.

Oriental streets are so vibrant! Partly because of the high population density. (I return to, say, Seattle & wail, “The streets are empty!”) This is an everyday occurrence, though a special one: Lord Buddha’s shrine is removed from the temple and carried through the streets. In winter time KTM, men wear leather jackets, like this fit young chap. I once read a lovely Nepali poem about this leather jacket in winter phenomenon.

Write today, for at least half an hour. Back to work. Love from KTM. Mary Ann Davis

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