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Oh the Himalaya!: Part I
Published on August 28, 2012 by guest author: Jennifer Johnston

I made my first trip to Asia in July.

I flew with a friend to visit her husband who is living in Kathmandu. (They are from Maine, in their mid-thirties and wanted to live abroad; she splits her time between Nepal and the U.S.) It had been five years since my last international vacation, and I was ready to leave behind my laptop, iPhone and the stress of long work weeks to see the world. I couldn't pass up the chance to visit the religious sites and cultures I had read about in college, or to experience life in Nepal for a few weeks.

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What an experience to land in Kathmandu! There are 5.5 million people living in the city. I saw my life flash before my eyes as we weaved through traffic along dirt roads, hearing constant honking, as our taxi made its way through chaos. I swore a lot those first couple of days. And then I got used to it. It's amazing how adaptable humans can be. It made me realize how much I take for granted the luxuries available in the U.S.

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Day 1 of my three week adventure: We awoke early and flew into Lukla, Nepal, known as the most dangerous airport in the world. It has the shortest airstrip, on a steep incline, with a stone wall at the top. Thankfully, it was a clear day, and we were able to depart on time and have a smooth landing. I did a lot of praying on this trip.

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Trekking in the Everest Region is spectacular. Coming around the corner and seeing views of Mt. Everest for the first time was breathtaking. It was monsoon season, but we were blessed with clear views each morning. The Himalayan range dwarfs U.S. mountains, and the massive cascading waterfalls can be heard for miles. Any hardship endured to get there is forgotten once you behold the snow-capped peaks of Ama Dablam and Everest. Between us and Mt. Everest is Tengboche, the monastery on the ridge in the middle of the photo and our destination on this day.

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Trekking by villages selling yak cheese and making our way to Tengboche Monastery, I soaked up the sun and the majestic views of Ama Dablam. Staying in lodges at night meant we only had to carry day packs - what a treat! The poor condition of the lodges was a bit overwhelming to me, and I realized just how spoiled I am. I am quite attached to toilets and toilet paper, napkins, mattresses and bug-free beds. Every morning I woke up amazed that I was alive and healthy. I am a germaphobe, and being this far outside my comfort zone was a great learning experience.

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Trekking in the Everest Region involves crossing lots of long suspension bridges. Since it was the off-season, we didn't have to wait for any yak trains. It's a little scary, because the bridges sway so much while you're walking. I was nervous crossing the first one, but by the sixth or seventh one I had come to love the views they offered and the ability to quickly traverse rivers.

For Part II of Jennifer's adventures, click here; for part III, click here.

Jennifer Johnston works for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a national non-profit fighting childhood obesity, and lives in Tampa, Fla.

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