Although I have had the opportunity to travel to various countries throughout my life, some for work and others for play, Nepal will always be a place I hold very close to my heart. When my late wife Ellen passed away in 2010 from RVCL, a rare genetic condition, I contended with her death by turning to my love for travel and the outdoors. 

For a while, I roamed the globe alone, immersing myself in local cultures, unsure what exactly I was searching for. However, it was also important to remind myself that “not all those who wander are lost,” and this rang very true when I eventually found myself in Kathmandu, Nepal, feeling very much at home. 

It was there that I started trekking a few hundred arduous miles with a knowledgeable, native guide who turned into an incredible mentor and friend, Jigme. In the last 20 years, I’ve taken multiple trips to Nepal, slogging and trekking through unbelievable landscapes and rugged mountain terrain in the restricted Mustang Region. 

The 600-year-old walled city of Lo Manthang, the historic capital of Nepal’s Mustang District, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located on the ancient trade route that runs along the Kali Gandaki River that cuts through the Himalayas and has had limited access for the majority of the 20th century, as regulated by the Nepali government. Luckily for me, Jigme knew the area like the back of his hand and I had one of the best tour guides to show me the beauty of this place. 

I have not been the only life that Jigme impacted so positively, and that is clear from this National Geographic feature that highlights his life and concern for a new road that gives the public access to the former kingdom of Mustang. In the article, Jigme expresses his fear of a loss of cultural heritage and ways of life and showed the traveler his deteriorating palace to demonstrate one of the various challenges his kingdom faces in the modern age. The palace is believed to have been built in 1441 by the son of Ama-Pal, the first king of Mustang, but has suffered extensive damage from an earthquake and wet climate and requires donations to fix.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to tour Nepal with Jigme and learn so much about the past, and future, from his lifestyle and wisdom. My connection to Nepal is almost as strong as my pull to go back – and I look forward to the moment that my good friend Jigme and I are reunited again.