Spiritual adventure seekers who have been contacting Studio Jai about the October ’11 Yoga Journey to Nepal are expressing concerns about safety, especially since Bin Laden’s assassination and the world news’ focus on possible retaliations. Studio Jai has no way of predicting when the next offense against man’s true nature of peace and kindness will occur. Without a doubt, Americans have been reluctant to travel very far from home for more than a decade now, and this is really too bad because there is a lot of beauty and diversity to be expereinced and shared in the world.
As you know from the “About Studio Jai” page on the website, I have been living internationally for 15 years. It so happens that I worked in El Salvador ’93-’95, arriving only a few months after their civil war ended so I witnessed the first elections in which the FMLN was allowed a political platform against the Arena party. It was a tense environment, and I didn’t always sleep well, but sixteen years later what I remember is trekking through jungles up steep volcanic hills through coffee fincas with the local tourism department; picnicing at sulphur springs, camping, music, laughter. I remember driving down to the coast every weekend to surf off the black sands and drink beer and eat ceviche. I remember Sunday nights at the pupuserias– man, I miss pupusas. I remember dancing– lots and lots of dancing late into the night into early morning, and the frustration of my dance partners that I kept moving my shoulders and not my hips.
And what does El Salvador have to do with Nepal? Everything. It was my first international teaching post, and my scariest, and it opened-up a whole new world of adventure for me. I learned that to experience other cultures, we must take risks. We have to open our hearts and TRUST. This ability to trust strengthens us and allows us to realize that the common denominator too often driving the human experience is fear, when it should be courage. As Swami Satchidananda says, “Fear and faith don’t go together.”
El Salvador was one of the poorest countries in the world while I was there (the free trade zones hadn’t opened yet). Not many people had shoes or food. On one “holiday,” the hotel I stayed at literally had nothing to serve me except a boiled chicken and plantana (every meal for 3 days), but it was one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever visited. So, El Salvador was the beginning for me. And traveling in Nepal was the end.
Completing 4 years at an American school in Qatar, I left my teaching career and headed to India and Nepal. I had traveled in both countries extensively during various school holidays (short flight from Qatar) and gradually became aware that deepening my yoga practice and trekking the 21 day Annapurna Circuit was what I needed to do next in life. So, I did it. Completely different cultures than El Salvador (well, every train stop feels like a different culture in India!), without quite the zest of barefoot dancing to Latino music, but equally poor and willing to survive, Nepal is a country I will return to again and again.
Nepal was never conquered– NEVER– it is unique in that aspect. The spirit is of the wind, the Himalayas, hard work, simplicity, family, and religion. The underlying hum is of compassion. The Nepalese embrace Hinduism and Buddhism without friction– many practice a little of both and intermix. And, there is still the mystique of Shamanismm as well. Despite the well-tread trails through the mountains, the villages and clothing and food and customs of the people remain timeless. The Maoist rebels are no longer active– they have been integrated into the political system. The occasional bandha(strike) is only a mild disruption. Current US Embassy reports on travelling there are no different, or even improved, over the last 6 months.
Of course, Studio Jai has taken every precaution toward a safe journey– private tourist vehicles, a well-established trekking company, etc. And we will not take risks that endanger our clients, but it’s true, that choosing to leave the security of your own backyard is a risk, no matter where you go. Life is a risk. But, experiencing life is a joy. My concern about the October Yoga Journey to Nepal is not world politics, but the fuel prices! Currently, roundtrip airfare from Chicago is equal to the entire 2 week all inclusive package Studio jai is offering! Now, THAT’S scary.