It was close to three years ago when we first met – yet, as if it were only yesterday, I remember every last detail about our initial introduction.
In the beginning, I barely showed up.
A meek, naive girl.
And crippled from a time when life seemed to send wave after pummelling wave to knock me down.
You knew exactly what to do. An unwavering pillar holding all the space in the world for me to blindly navigate my way towards something more. Something bigger.
For weeks, you tested me.
Broke me further.
Until one indescribable morning, 5400 meters in the sky, you bestowed upon me the greatest gift I will ever receive.
You gave me the invaluable present of presence.
A total shift in perspective.
And the most stark and immediate reality check I’ve ever experienced.
Since that unforgettable moment, everything in my world became transparently clear.
Life as I knew it would never be the same again.
And for the very first time, I caught a glimpse of a remarkable version of myself that I had not previously known to exist.
It’s because of you that I began to fall in love with my life.
It’s because of you that I began to fall in love with myself.
As cliche as it may sound, it was the Himalayas that ultimately saved me.
It’s difficult to say how long those majestic mountains were calling before I finally began to listen; but miraculously, amidst the chaos of a dissolving marriage, dependancy on external enhancers, and far too many foggy mornings scrambling to recall the previous nights’ events – I finally heard them. And although I had no way of knowing the magnitude of the decision I was making when I purchased that initial ticket to Nepal from the dimly lit table of my best friend’s Kelowna apartment, there are very few days that go by in which I don’t wake up thanking my lucky stars for getting this one thing right despite all the mess.
Call it fate.
Call it destiny.
Call it whatever you like, but deep down I know – it was salvation.
Fast forward to 2018, and I find myself one again back in the land of never ending peace and love; starring with the same googley-eyed awe at those incredible snow-capped wonders from the third floor terrace I had admired them from years earlier.
Only this time, things are different.
Of course, the pristine Fewa lake view remains unchanged.
The soft, spongey grass still squishes under my toes.
And the weather-worn wooden loungers have been left intact by the Tulsi hotel staff.
Like clockwork, exotic birds still gracefully soar overhead welcoming every sunset with a cheerful melody.
Cows casually saunter down the centre of the traffic-lined main street below.
And, just as I remember, Mother Nature continues to demonstrate her extraordinary power with those oh-so-predictable 4pm thunderstorms that ignite the sky, rattle the earth, and submerge the sidewalk in water within seconds.
Yet, amidst the plethora of nostalgic memories that flood my body with a host of emotions which are almost impossible to describe with words, there is an underlying, and oh-so-beautiful awareness of growth.
The contrast between what used to be and what is now.
My living, breathing evidence of the impermanence of it all as life silently recites over-and-over what has become my new personal mantra – this will also change.
Like everybody else on the planet, I am a masterpiece and a work-in-progress all at the same time. With no fool-proof guide book on how to conquer this precious human existence; I, like most people, am simply writing my story as I go.
Thankfully, with the help of yoga and meditation, I resist this process much less than I used to; choosing to watch, notice, and welcome transition instead of instinctually fighting change and unnecessarily harming myself in the process of pushing it away.
Time and travel have, no doubt, allowed me to undergo some much-needed personal renovation. And, it doesn’t take long for anyone who knew me in the days before I came abroad to recognize that, the Natasha who’s preparing to return back to Canada later this month is definitely not the same girl who left for the Greyhound station with her blonde highlights, hot pink Reeboks, and freshly naked ring finger three years ago.
And, of course, it’s not just me – we’ve all evolved since those days.
Seen some things.
Learned a few lessons.
Yet, although I’m quick to acknowledge progress in others (and in no way oblivious to all that has developed within myself throughout thirty countries, thousands of new encounters, and a complete shift in lifestyle), I will be the first to admit that I find it difficult to measure the extent of personal development whilst acting narrator to my own novel.
I suppose it’s always harder to see when you’re completely immersed in it.
Like a veil, the beautiful chaos of life tends to cloud the reality of what’s actually unfolding.
One minute you’re playing housewife, planting fragrant roses in a fenced backyard. The next minute your moral compass is being drowned out by countless bottles of alcohol, neon body paint, and deafening house music. And, although it’s blatantly obvious to everyone else, you mindlessly spiral down the rabbit hole without the slightest clue of what’s happening.
Despite a billion catastrophic roadblocks along your path – you, as the main character, remain oblivious to all the wreckage in your wake.
I guess it’s just the way it goes.
It’s all part of the story.
What keeps the plot interesting.
However, in being fortunate enough to travel back to the country that cushioned my fall and set me straight in the direction of something bigger, I’m feeling immense gratitude to be peacefully sailing on the other side of what felt like never-ending turbulence.
And although I don’t believe it necessary to be in one particular place for some euphoric epiphany, Nepal is the only reminder I’ll ever need that, in following my heart, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
And that right there, is the magic of returning home to one’s happiest place.
Be it the mountains, the sea, a grassy backyard, or a familiar kitchen table – it makes no difference.
A concept that cannot be defined as a solitary place on this earth, a destination pinned on a map, or a location to be sought out.
Homecoming as a feeling; a welcomed reunion of the past and present.
The revisiting of oneself with more mature eyes and a palate full of extra colours.
A place where the student becomes the teacher.
The sheep becomes the shepherd.
The fearful becomes the brave.
And thankfully, somewhere amidst those 400,000 gruelling uphill steps – one foot mindfully placed in front of the other, I finally understood:
Homecoming is the gracious rediscovery of all the miraculous little things about this beautiful existence that I hadn’t even realized were there the whole time.