Himalayan Sabbatical

September - November 2023
A travel meditation on my solo adventure living, learning, and teaching English in a Nepali monastery, followed by travels to explore the spiritual and cultural diversity of India, capped by a spousal reunion tour of the Golden Triangle with LBT.
Currently traveling
  • 12footprints
  • 4countries
  • 14days
  • 52photos
  • 4videos
  • 11.2kmiles
  • 10.7kmiles
  • Day 12

    New Dawn

    September 22 in Nepal ⋅ ☁️ 75 °F

    I awoke to this view of monks in prayer at 5:45 outside my front door. I’ve stepped into a dream.

    I arrived at the Drikung Kagyou Rinchen Monastery late yesterday in a dark sky downpour after a two hour bumpy taxi ride through Katmandu and into the hills. It felt ominous.

    I was introduced to a few of my monk students and the volunteer teacher, who I am replacing. I was issued a bowl, spoon, and cup and enjoyed a dinner of veggie soup and bread for dinner.

    I’ll reconnect with the outgoing volunteer teacher, Victor from Chicago, later this morning and start to integrate into my new teaching role.
    Read more

    Traveler  So inspiring. Enjoy!

    Traveler  Can’t wait to hear more!

  • Day 10

    Pledge Class

    September 20 in Nepal ⋅ 🌧 73 °F

    I celebrated with my orientation “pledge class” last night before everyone heads out to their postings. I’m looking forward to being in one place for the next four weeks after so much moving place to place.Read more

  • Day 10

    Orientation / Move-in Week

    September 20 in Nepal ⋅ ☀️ 72 °F

    Yesterday my life as a volunteer shifted into high gear. I was picked up at my hotel and brought to the headquarters of VIN - Volunteers Initiative Nepal. I’m going through 2 1/2 days of orientation and spending two nights in the on-site dorms. Pretty spartan accommodations.

    The VIN facility has a beautiful garden. The walls hold murals celebrating their many and varied initiatives. I loved a calendar I found on the kitchen wall that quantified the organization’s impact.

    There are about twenty volunteers at the VIN HQ, most going through the same orientation process, although a team of four med students from Denmark use the dorms as their base for a four week residency at a local hospital.

    Only one other volunteer, Janos from New Zealand, is doing a project like me, teaching English in a monastery. Many in the orientation class will be deployed at a town a day’s drive into the Himalaya, where a group of nurses will do public health education, some will work on women and children empowerment projects, and three retired guys from Canada with help build a sauna to promote respiratory health in the village. Most volunteer assignments last 1-2 weeks and many people are planning different trekking excursions after their work for VIN. Aside from the Canadians, most people are in their twenties and thirties, except for three boys on a pre-college gap year. It’s a diverse bunch, hailing from additional countries like Italy, Hong Kong, Germany, and Switzerland. I am the only American.
    Read more

    Traveler  Love this 😘

    Traveler  Dorm living will make you feel so young!😁 So exciting!

    Traveler  Cant wait to hear more Chad

  • Day 8

    Happy Teej

    September 18 in Nepal ⋅ ⛅ 82 °F

    Today is a Holiday in Nepal, celebrating the Hindu festival of Teej. I heard it was a special women’s festival, and thought that was progressive and empowering, but then I learned it was a day when women fast and go to the temple to pray for the heath and prosperity of their husbands. Ingrained patriarchy is hard to kill.

    Nonetheless, it was fun to see half the women in the city dressed to the nines in sparkling red outfits as they danced and celebrated.

    Some photo highlights include women lined up for their turn in the temple, dancing, and a blessing I received from a Vishnu emissary. I also captured a family washing the corpse of a loved one on the side of the river prior to cremation. Children frolic in the water nearby as an affirmation of life.
    Read more

    Traveler  Happy Teej! I sent up a prayer for the health and happiness of my husband 😉

    Traveler  Ah, 😘

  • Day 7

    Humble Dal - Serendipity Pt2

    September 17 in Nepal ⋅ 🌧 72 °F

    After my unplanned deep dive into Kathmandu, I returned to the hotel for a quick rest, then rejoined my new friend, Rakesh, to travel cross town to see the massive Boundhanath Stupa and accept an invitation to dinner with his family.

    Monks, pilgrims, and tourists all practice devotion by walking in a circle around the stupa, which is a round, dome shaped structure about the size of a city block crowded by a gold-tipped tower that has colorful prayer flags strung down on every side. I only did one lap.

    I then followed Rakesh through a series of back roads and alleys. My gut told me I could trust him while my analytical James Bond brain was scanning for possible escape routes.

    Rakesh, his wife and their four children live with 49 other families in a warren of 50 concrete block single room connected units. Each home is approximately 15x15 feet square. The closest thing to the layout in America would be a sprawl of storage units.

    All families in the complex share a central toilet facility. Each unit has electricity, but no running water. When the weather’s nice they cook outside on a wood stove, but it was drizzling tonight, so dinner was prepared on a type of camp stove connected to a small fuel tank.

    I was treated like an honored guest. People along the path to their unit stopped to wish me namaste 🙏. Rakesh’s daughter, who is studying for a bachelor degree in science, prepared a delicious dinner of dal (lentil soup), bhat (rice) cooked vegetables, and flatbread. She and I shared our interest in quantum theory and our inability to grasp its underlying mathematics. Rakesh’s wife didn’t speak English and mostly played with a visiting 1-year old niece. His 17 year old son has a significant mental disability but added cheer to the meal with his wide grin. Rakesh feels fortunate that they have been able to move up to this village of concrete units, as they used to live in a nearby village of bamboo units/huts in the dirt, rather than on a cement slab.

    I guess in the past people might have called Rakesh and his family Untouchables, but I experienced a generous and loving family that was working hard to improve its lot in life. I was humbled to be accepted into their home.
    Read more

    Traveler  This post made my day. Thank you!!

    Traveler  Great picture!!

    Traveler  What an amazing day Chad! Beautiful post💕

    Traveler  I would love to meet him. What a beautiful soul

  • Day 7


    September 17 in Nepal ⋅ ⛅ 82 °F

    Following a great hotel breakfast, I set out to explore the Thamel district of Katmandu on my first full day in Nepal. As I wandered I was approached by several people who wanted to steer me toward this or that shop. I politely demurred.

    Then a man stared telling me the history of the building I was standing in front of, and somehow referenced some religious significance and suddenly I found myself fully engaged in a conversation about comparative spiritual philosophy. He offered to buy me a chai and we continued our conversation in a local shop.

    My interlocutor, Rakesh, was not a traveling professor, but a shoe repairman who carried his shop in a pack on his back. He told me about a blue Buddha temple I should see and offered to walk me ten minutes down the street to check it out. I was suspicious and kept my guard up but followed him for a walk down the crowded street.

    Rakesh kept making small detours to show me interesting shrines and quake damaged buildings that would be red tagged in LA, but here were fully in use. He helped me see unique architectural details and shared historical tidbits.

    As we walked and talked I learned that Rakesh was from a lower cast in India and moved to Nepal to live in a slightly less stratified society. He’s had no formal schooling but has taught himself English history, religion, and architecture, driven by a keen intellect and curiosity. He’s very proud of his four children and showed me pictures of their straight A report cards.

    In a few hours I saw so much of the city and learned a lot about an evil local official who had clamped down on street vendors, pushing Rakesh and hundreds of others out of their livelihoods.

    To be continued, but check out some of the sights.
    Read more

    Traveler  Did you get the name of the evil local official??

  • Day 6

    Welcome to Kathmandu

    September 16 in Nepal ⋅ ☁️ 79 °F

    Excited and exhausted, I have finally reached Kathmandu, Nepal, the city I will call home for the next four weeks.

    I love the book, Thinking Fast and Slow, which gets into the brain science and psychology of how we spend much of our life on autopilot. We use semi-conscious fast thinking to process information and tasks that seem familiar to things we’ve encountered before. I definitely use fast thinking at airports. I’m a pro going through security. I can do it in my sleep. But that breezy lack of full attention caused me to stress out as I arrived today to fly from Delhi airport. The Indian version of the TSA could care less about full water bottles, but they are real sticklers about placing anything vaguely electronic in separate bins for the X-ray machine. Suddenly I was the guy who didn’t pay attention, tearing through every corner of my carryon to pull out a power-strip, charging cables, and the portable data projector, which had clothes wrapped around it for protection. Sure, you can’t function in life with only slow thinking, doing everything with full attention and analytic consideration, but travel provides a great reminder about the benefits of amping up the mindfulness.

    Landing in Katmandu was stunning, a huge green valley in the clouds. I’m spending my first couple nights, before my volunteer posting begins, in the central Thamel district, which is all narrow streets strung with lights and packed with tourist and trekking shops, restaurants and boutique hotels. Very cool.
    Read more

    Traveler  I love the book as well. Great description. As I approach the halfway point of my trek tomorrow, walking is becoming routine. I am finding it helpful to try to bring intention to the steps as a way to clear my mind.

    Traveler  ♥️

    Traveler  I still have a lot to learn. 😀

    8 more comments
  • Day 4

    First Look Delhi

    September 14 in India ⋅ ☁️ 95 °F

    My circadian rhythm’s been turned upside down. Noon is now midnight. After a day recovering from 30 hours of traveling, I’m out exploring Delhi.

    For my outing today I eschewed hiring a driver to whisk me to all the tourist spots. Instead, I boarded the subway, challenging myself to push through one wave of confusion after another to get to the central Connaught Place. Delhi was sweltering at 98 degrees F and 70% humidity. Turns out the subway 🚇 is one of the best places to be. Fully air conditioned and cleaner that the LA Metro, the ride was the only point in the day I wasn’t sweating 😅.

    Several helpful young men wanted to practice their English and guide me to high end tourist traps. I dodged that bullet, but only after one helpful friend took me on a wild TucTuc ride to show me the Indian Loom Store - I refused to get out of the TucTuc - and then a fancy tea shop, where they wanted to educate me about the tea they sell, inviting me to sit on a deep couch while someone sloooowly made me a free sample - I thanked them but turned and walked out.

    I spent some quiet time in the gardens of a Hindu temple and did my daily meditation in a Buddhist temple next door. A woman in a full burka shepherded her children down the sidewalk out front. I finally made it to Jaipur Open Market in the heart of Connaught Place and then caught a taxi back to the hotel, talking to the son of my Sikh driver, who rode along in the front seat and did an admirable job pitching his dad’s chauffeur for hire services.

    I know there are occasional flair ups, but I was struck by how friendly people are and how all the varied religions coexist in relative peace. I like Delhi.
    Read more

    Traveler  What an adventure!!

  • Day 2


    September 12 in Qatar ⋅ ☀️ 100 °F

    Waking up inflight from NYC to Qatar, I look at the flight map. I’m used to seeing that I’m flying above Denver, St. Louis, Chicago, but the cites below now are Luxor, Aman, and Bagdad. I’ve always had a George Bailey interest in geography, but knowing about something is different than experiencing it.

    I never understood how huge the Arabian Penisula is. Crossing the Suez Canal there was still 1,400 miles to go until my next layover in Doha. Saudi Arabia is half the size of the continental US! I’m embarrassed by my naïveté, but it doesn’t blunt my excitement to see in new ways.

    Being embarrassed by what you don’t know keeps you from learning new things. The core of Beginner’s Mind is being open, with a sense of curiosity, and not being afraid of getting things wrong. Being able to laugh at yourself is key to learning. This is a “why” of my trip. I am intentionally putting myself in places and circumstances where I’m likely to embarrass myself, where I won’t know the right way to do things. I’m placing myself at the mercy of others and won’t be Chad, the expert.

    I’m feeling tingles just thinking about it. I know there will be times when it’s overwhelming and I’ll want to be home, but I’ve taken a first step off my front porch and sense that my eyes will never be quite the same.
    Read more

    Traveler  So excited for you and to follow these travels!!

    Traveler  So neat that you’re capturing both the sights and sounds as well as the emotions. What an amazing learning experience that we get to follow!

  • Day 1

    New York New York

    September 11 in the United States ⋅ 🌧 81 °F

    I’m on the first, and longest, of two layovers on my 30 hour trip to Delhi, where I’ll acclimate for a few days before heading to Kathmandu.

    I feel overmatched in trying to describe my trip at this moment. It was easier when things were in the theoretical, planning stages. I feel woozy after a fitful sleep and 3:00am alarm to get to the airport, but under that the excitement is building.

    Being in transit is not only physical, with flights, layovers, and time zones, it’s also mental. I’m transiting to a new external reference dimension. Airports and planes are familiar, but very soon many of the languages in my ear will become unusual and opaque. I won’t understand all of the signs and I’ll even have to concentrate to understand English spoken with different accents.

    It sounds disorienting, but this is part of the trip goal. The “surprise me” journey continues!
    Read more

    Traveler  That’s an amazing way to think about your exciting transition. Thought- provoking!