1. When you love what you do, the hours don’t matter.
The pay doesn’t matter, either. I willingly would set my alarm at 4:45AM to help the monks make momos, teach four classes, head to the market for vegetables, and return home around 7:30PM to study Nepali. I didn’t get paid a dime, yet my work was satisfying and thrilling. I cried when I left.
2. Wealth has nothing to do with money.
I saw smiles that could light up universes on workers’ faces. These people would travel days by bus to earn what most Americans spend on one latte. They’d work HARD, for very little, all while maintaining that tremendous smile.
I watched neighbors care for each other, help each other run errands, share stories on the street, mourn the loss of each others’ children. I witnessed an incredible sense of love, devotion, commitment, and acceptance among the communities I met, whether they were living under a tin roof or had a toilet that flushed.
Being rich has nothing to do with how much money is in your account.
3. Health has nothing to do with going to the gym.
Everything I knew about health and fitness was thrown out the window in Nepal. I wasn’t spending hours at a gym. I wasn’t visiting an organic grocery store or buying packaged products with fancy labels.
Each day, I’d walk to the market and buy vegetables carried from fields. Meals were eaten slowly, at a table (or on a floor) with people I cared about. Food was prepared by hand or steamed in pressure cookers.
I had tea with sugar — real sugar — several times a day. I ate rice daily, if not twice; carbs, lots of carbs, and food fried in butter and oil. I didn’t obsess about food or weight or calories, and I’ve probably never looked better.
When you’re happy — truly happy — you shine from the inside out.
4. Stop looking and start living (and stop FREAKING OUT).
We spend so much time analyzing and searching that we miss out on some pretty good shit.
I’m embarrassed to see some of the pro/con lists I made before I left. Decisions regarding relationships, where to live, where to work — I would analyze the hell out of choices.
5. Every family is fucked up.
Living under one roof with a Nepali host family taught me no family is perfect. But everyone tries and does their best.
I watched families pack themselves into tiny rooms and sleep side-by-side on concrete floors. But their laugh — you could hear laughing throughout the night, from miles away.
Families migrate from their parents’ parents’ village to a city in hopes of providing a better life for their children; rent a two-bedroom home, sleep all nine family members in one room and use the other as a “hotel” to earn supplemental income.
Fathers leave their homes for months at a time to find work in the opposite part of the country. Sons apply for VISAs for shitty jobs overseas because the shitty job will pay more. Mothers send their children to monasteries because they view it as the best opportunity for their child. Sisters give their paychecks to help Mom and Dad pay rent.
After seeing the dedication and devotion of these families, I was inspired to go a little easy on my own.
6. Wherever you are, be there.
￼Stand over the hole and do your thing. The bucket on the floor is filled with water and used to flush.
It took me awhile to get used to stand up toilets. One morning I woke up covered in bed bug bites. Another week I mysteriously developed acne worse than a high school sophomore.
And everywhere I went, there were EYES. Always eyes. Constant staring, asking the same questions: Where are you from? What are you doing in Nepal? How long have you been here? How old are you? Are you married? Why not?
Sometimes I just wanted to “blend in” and not be reminded of my whiteness and the privileges that come with being an American…
So no, not every day was perfect. But even the imperfect days added to the experience.
One of the monks asked me, “If there is no night, how can there be day?”
If you’re feeling like hell, show up. If you’re scared and anxious and nervous, embrace it. It’s part of your story.
7. Love — real love — has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.
Before leaving, I was heartbroken. I tried to talk myself into marrying and having kids because I saw everyone else doing it and thought it was the right thing. Looking back, I realize how little I knew.
When you meet the right person, you know. There’s no convincing necessary. You’ll say “yes” in a heartbeat. You want only the best for this person, and you’ll do anything in your power to see them shine their brightest in this world — even if it means forfeiting your own wants and desires, or even the possibility of being together.
In all the world there is someone for you. Someone who loves you on your very worst days, when you’re tired and angry and irritable; someone who quietly encourages you to take on projects, change the world, because they believe—and know—you can.
Note: It seems these Someones typically show up when you’re doing your thing, living as you, authentically YOU.
The next time something inside you whispers “RUN,” listen.