What really sticks in your mind ten years after you’ve traveled somewhere? I’ve been to a large chunk of those “must see before you die” kind of places and I’ve stayed in some of the world’s most memorable hotels. But when I’m pressed to say which travel experience I’ve really enjoyed the most from all the places I’ve been, I have to say it was the three weeks I spent hiking in the Himalayas on the Annapurna circuit in Nepal.
It was cheap, sure–about $180 total since I carried my own pack. This was 10 years ago, so even if you spend double that now you’re still talking under $150 a week. But really I loved it because it was such a pure travel experience. Yeah, there was a kid playing a Casio keyboard, you could buy Snickers bars, and there were enough NBA jerseys to furnish a few intramural leagues, but there were NO VEHICLES.
It’s hard to imagine the impact of this until you’ve seen it for 20 days straight. People conserve. They reuse things. They grow vegetables and brew corn beer. They take the time to build houses that will last. They spend a week making a sweater and actually care about the quality. People walk everywhere.
The result is that every town is interesting, you can see all the stars at night, there’s no exhaust pollution, and traffic noise is a distant memory.
Alas, the march of progress may change all that, which brings us to this story in GoNomad,Trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal: Change on the Horizon. I am painting an idyllic picture colored by fond memories, but it’s hard to see how a road up to Jomson and beyond is going to help any more than a train to Tibet has helped the people of Lhasa.
With full credit to the writer though, there’s more to the story than just good/bad change in the future. For every easy assumption, there’s a less obvious counter-assumption, generally with bad governance mucking things up.
Will people still spend big money to fly to Nepal and hike for three weeks though if a road goes in? My money would be on the “no” box. Get ready for quick fly in, fly out tours from the Travel & Leisure crowd, which always turns out to be the beginning of the end. Been to Ankor Wat or The Galapagos lately…?