Sunrise on a new day

It’s been a year since I started this journey, and appropriately enough the time has come to start the next chapter where instead of packing and unpacking my backpack every few days, figuring out where I am and how to get where I’m going (where am I going?)  I’m instead waking up in the same bed every day, walking out of my apartment, and biking 8 miles down the road past the Mediterranean sea to a desk and a computer and reports on how to environmentally and economically revive struggling farms across Spain and Europe.  The timing couldn’t feel more perfect.  Oh, there’s plenty of unfamiliar all right, my 5 coworkers speak Catalan all day, one of whom knows about as much English as I know Catalan (I’m planning to change my end of that deal very soon), and although the industry is one I’m new to, the issues are all too familiar. Then there’s the fact that even if I am excited to be there and am doing it without a pay check, it’s still a desk and a computer screen and frankly just not as much fun as being able to do whatever you want all day.  But then I think back to Boeing and SNC, and there was definitely a significant “warm up” period before I had enough aptitude and thus responsibility to really love my job, and so I’m putting in my time, learning everything I can and doing my best for these generous people who are giving me the opportunity.  I probably won’t be blogging as much for these next 3-6 months, not because I won’t be exploring with my free days but more because I want to focus on learning at work and taking language classes when I’m not, but I’m so glad I took the time to capture the journey over the last year… That way it’s proof that it all really happened and I can return with a click or a tap 🙂
Thanks for tuning in (Mom!)
Over and out


Making traditional cookies (Panellets= with my boss, her mom, and her mom’s friends after my first day of work


Pictures of my new home (for now)… L’Ampolla, Spain


Share the love!

Final day and final thoughts on Nepal… for now

I had one day left in Nepal and per many friends suggestions decided to spend it in Bhaktapur – and I’m so glad I did. Bhaktapur is a walled City that like Katmandu is over if the three royal cities of the country, full of temples, statutes and monuments, however because it’s walled the spirituality is not (entirely) lost in masses of cars, although motorbikes still make their way though the crowded streets. It’s also been much better preserved though the 6 centuries of it’s existence, and although there was extensive damage during the 2015 earthquake, much has been restored and repairs are ongoing. I visited just before the festival of Dashsain, so the streets were full of Nepalis coming to buy gifts of pottery, instruments, weaved fabrics and artwork for their families. I myself bought spices and art for friends back home, the art coming from a studio that offered free classes to locals funded entirely by tourist contributions.

Like Spain, I’ve found that the places that combine the most extreme departure from the familiar culture with dramatic natural beauty end up having the most lasting effect on me, and Nepal did just that. I know for a fact that I will return and have started drafting up a combo trekking/yoga/volunteering retreat that I could coordinate for friends, and I’ve reached out to the Nepali ski and snowboard foundation to offer my assistance for instructional camps, introducing the very unknown sport to the locals and possibly create a winter attraction during an economically slow season. I left humbled and in awe Nepalis’ nature and spiritual teachings, and I promise to not leave those lessons behind once I step on the plane to Spain. Thank you so much, and see you again very soon 🙂


Share the love!

Reflections on Sadhana Yoga

After my two weeks of trekking, signing up for a Yoga retreat in the foothills above the serene (yet modern) lakeside town of Pokhara and below the Annapurna Range seemed like a perfect follow-up.

Who’d a thunk – I head to a yoga retreat with the intention of breaking through my jaded travel-heavy headspace & hitting refresh on my body and mind before the next chapter, and voila – that’s exactly what I got. But I needed to let go of expectations and accept my experience as-is to get there. The yoga and meditation were great, and the gastro-cleanse was absolutely necessary, but I took even more away from the spiritual teachings that Duga (the retreat “mom”) and the reat of the sadhana family shared and embodied throughout the week. Many of the practices were totally unfamiliar and I fought them at first, finding the chanting of the mantras painfully repetitive. But I gave it another go, and once I knew what to expect, I lost myself in Duga’s solid half hour of storytelling and life lessons, and then belted out the sanskrit chants all 108 times.

Valeda’s Sadhana life lessons, takeaways and intentions forward:

– You are your soul first, your mind second and your body third. Take care of the first and the rest will fall in line. Be good, think good, do good.

– Act on intention, not instinct, habit or reaction

– Notice when you judge others or yourself.

I want to study buddhism and practice meditation more. Yes, there’s “god” involved, but their “god” was a prince that left a wealthy life of disconnection ad unhappiness to meditate and become one with the world he was a member of. That I can appreciate.

Pokhara’s Peace Pagoda

Lakeside View

A steam bath, not a torture device

Paragliders launching from the peak above the retreat

Views of the Annapurnas on the flight out of town

Share the love!

The Ups and Downs of Trekking the Himalayas

We started out at sunrise to crystal clear skies filled only with mountains in all directions, the ones in the distance belonging to Tibet. We hike up, and up, and up… Gradually getting harder and harder… Gradually I got slower and slower, but I remained in good spirits, putting one foot in front of the other, even eeking out some dance moves around switchbacks as MJ came through my headphones… Then there it was! Renjo Pass! 5360 M, 17680ft. The highest I’d ever hiked by a good 4500 ft – and it was spectacular. A few clouds had snuck in by then, but it didn’t matter. We plodded down to the lakeside town of Gokyo, found a teahouse in our exhausted, hungry states, I wandered out for an after-lunch walnut pastry, then listened to my body telling me to lie down. By the time I’d made it back to my room my brain was screaming at me. I’m not one to get even minor headaches, but this was what I figured a migraine felt like. I figured I should tell Kunga in case he had advice, and I took 2 advil and a cup of ginger tea. It gradually subsided, and after some theraputic yoga was thankfully down to a dull ache. Had it persisted we would have spent another day resting or would head to lower altitudes. I glanced out the window to see stars glimmering up above, and in that very moment spotted what could only be the international space station making its way over the night sky. I ran outside to confirm, and sure enough, it was unmistakeable. It made its way over the mountains clearly illuminated by the almost full moon. I’ll take it!

We got up the next morning and I ecstatically told Kunga I was feeling better so we set off for Gokyo Ri. With no pack and renewed spirits, we climbed the 600km/2000ft in just over an hour, reaching the summit to a crystal clear 360 view, including Miss Everest herself. We literally ran down the mountain on our return. “What altitude?” The next day we hiked over our second pass, Cho La, struggling but sustaining over the 550m/17900 ft, but the day after on the very gradual trail over to Lobuche I felt like I’d been hit by a train. I couldn’t understand why all of a sudden after already having been over 4350m/14000ft for 4 days I was just now feeling the effects of the altitude. I was struggling to breathe (which always triggers anxiety in me – think I must have drowned in a previous life…) and my energy was zapped. I tried to appreciate the mountains flanking our flat path, and was thankful that I’d be hiking the same trail again in a couple days.

There was other emotional ups and downs – I’d met some of the best friends I’d made over the course of the whole year on the path from Salleri to Lukla, and we’d even gotten to celebrate one of their birthdays while in Namche Bazar. But in those moments when I was struggling to breathe while trying to fall asleep, I felt entirely alone. Kunga has been a GREAT guide, but there’s not the level of connection between us that you’d find in a good friend. After Spain and Norway, this is my third “solo” trek, and I have absolutely no regrets, but I definitely look forward to having company again in the future. Even though I wasn’t feeling my best, we got to Gorak shep the next day with plenty of time in the afternoon to spare, so I told Kunga I was going for a walk and before I knew it or really intended to I was at Everest Base Camp. I found it hard to believe that this was many people’s ultimate destination in the area; although the site held so much importance, being the jumping-off point for many to ascend the highest mountain in the world, it definitely wasn’t the most scenic. Almost all Everest ascents happen in the springtime so the “camp” only consisted of a few tents belonging to some mountaineers attempting Everest’s sister Lhotse, and more hiker traffic than I’d encountered the entire trip. I was so thankful for my research that led me to trekking the three passes route, enabling me glorious views from high mountain passes entirely to myself (and Kunga!). The view of the Khumbu icefall was stunning and humbling though. From wikipedia: the icefall “moves at such speed that large crevasses open with little warning. Large towers of ice collapse suddenly with no warning. Huge blocks of ice tumble down the glacier from time to time, their size ranging from cars to large houses. It is estimated that the glacier advances 1m every day.” Oh, and it’s the main route up Everest. I encourage anyone to watch the 2015 film “Sherpa”, a documentary about the incredible danger of the ascent for those that make a living supporting Everest climbers. I sat back for awhile and watched as the glacier calved every few minutes, thankful to be safely on the ridgeline across from the mountain and able to watch with awe.


I’ve cried twice in the last 24 hours. Last night, I stepped outside to find the most beautiful scene I’ve ever experienced – the moon rising behind Everest, illuminating the surrounding Himalayan massifs, with too perfect stars shooting across the crystal clear skies*. While the sun was rising today, myself and my sherpa ascended Kala Pattar (did I mention that Kunga is actually a sherpa, meaning that he comes from the sherpa lineage and that it’s actually his last name? He really embodies his roots too!) to have an unobstructed view of all of Everest’s glory, allowing us to visually trace the path from base camp to camp 4 and the summit above. Then after our descent and on our trek across the valley, I turned a corner to find myself facing Dan Fredinburg’s memorial, a friend of mine from Boeing. He was here about to embark on an ascent of Everest to capture images for Google Earth when the earthquake of 2015 occurred and an avalanche swept through base camp. Neither time were tears shed purely in sadness. The first set were shed in awe and amazement of Nature’s creations; the second in acceptance of her power and appreciation of this life we’re given. Dan lived big and I bet he has no regrets of the actions that brought him here in April 2015; I wouldn’t, especially after having seen this place with my own eye. I bet he was one of those shooting starts up there, in search of the next world to explore, making a dent somewhere else in the universe.


We trekked on, opting to skip the last pass in liu of lower elevations and a pack-less summit of Chukhung Ri when my energy didn’t look like it was going to bounce back. The scenery continued to “wow”, but it couldn’t match the feeling of those first ascents of Renjo La and Gokyo Ri. By my 17th day of almost continuous trekking, I was sad to be leaving these magical mountains, but I was ready for a break. The universe had one more adventure in store for me though… My flight out of Lukla was first thing the next morning, and although weather often deterred flights, the few clouds in the sky weren’t enough to keep the morning’s planes from rolling in. One by one they landed, loaded, and whisked tourists back to Kathmandu. All the planes, that is, except mine. Then the clouds thickened and it became apparent that Lukla wasn’t accepting any other flights for the day and the forecast didn’t look favorable for the next few days either. But where there’s a will there’s a way, and that afternoon we ran at a full sprint (carrying full packs mind you) following a complete stranger holding stacks of our Nepalese Rupees down slick trails to a helipad in village below the clouds where there was a promise of transport to Kathmandu. Once we were airborne it occurred to me that I should probably let my mom know where I was in case the chopper went down; I’m betting traceability regulations in a situation like this are slightly looser than they are for a commercial aircraft. We landed safely though, back to the buzz of the city, in plenty of time for me to have a decadent vegetarian meal and incredible fresh fruit cocktail back in Thamel. The next day I’d have the opportunity to visit the impressive Bouddha Stupa and Shree Pashupatinath to witness public cremation, and In two days I’d hop a bus to the much quieter lakeside village of Pokhara and join the Sadhana Yoga retreat for a week, but in that moment I was fully present with appreciation of my trekking venture and every single physical and emotional ascent and descent along the way.


Waiting for the moonrise over Everest

I want to take this moment and put it in a box that I can open to savor again and again and to share with others, letting them know that beauty this divine does exist

But no photo will do it justice

And I feel even attempting to put a description into words cheapens the experience

But I’ll try my best…
These Himalayas are illuminated by a moon that’s still making the journey from the horizon past Everest’s summit

Her crown graced with an ever present cloud sharing the moon’s light as she ascends

The yaks play an involuntary song, their bells sounding as they graze the hillsides
Glaciers calve and Avalanches tumble down the mountains around
Perfect shooting stars fly across the sky as if on cue, crossing past Orion, the gemini twins and cassiopia
I almost don’t care that the young Nepali man is arguing loudly on the phone with his mom, or that my toes are losing feeling (who brings flip flops to Everest in October?)
Or that I may not see the moon herself tonight, just the light she shines on this perfect world below

Salleri to Ludghen

Ludghen to Gokyo, Including Renjo La Pass

Gokyo to Dzoghla, including Gokyo Ri

View from Gokyo Ri

Dzonghla to Lobuche, including Cho La Pass

Lobuche to Gorak Shep including EBC and Kala Pattar

Gorak Shep to Lukla including Chukung Ri and Imja Lakes

Bouddha Stupa and Shree Pashupatinath

Share the love!

Bringing Solar Power to the Necha Bedghari Basic School

I’ll be honest – my involvement with the Himalayan light foundation was first very selfish in nature. I am transitioning my career into one of environmental conservation, and figured that volunteering on a solar power installation works be the perfect opportunity to get hands on experience in a renewable energy technology. A quick Google search unveiled a handful of possible projects. But when I clicked the link for “solar sisters” offering projects in Nepal I knew I’d found my match. I couldn’t think of a better place to volunteer than a country that also has the world’s largest mountains, satisfying my other main passion in life. I have many friends that have visited Nepal and all day they were generously welcomed by the kind, smiling communities. I also learned that late fall was a great time to visit as it is the end of the monsoon season and thus has mostly clear fall days, lining up perfectly with the end of my European travels.

So I reached out to solar sisters, who put me in touch with Yadavraj Gurung of the Himalayan Light Foundation, the program manager of the overarching nonprofit organization. He informed me of a potential program at the basic school in the remote village of Necha Bedghari. The Necha school had just received a grant for 3 new computers, but the town’s rudimentary hydropower system did not supply the necessary amount of power

I put my frequent flyer miles to work and on September 11, my birthday no less, I touched down in Kathmandu. Yadav and I got together to finalize our plans and discuss the last of the project details, and the next day we embarked on the 12 hour journey to Necha. The Jeep was packed to the brim with myself, Yadev, the technician Binod and the driver nestled between 10 solar panels, 4 massive batteries and all the other necessary tools and equipment with the racking and our luggage strapped on top. We bounded over rocky roads, forded rivers, got stuck and unstuck and eventually made it to our destination.

After dropping my bag off in my room, I joined the others for some delicious dal bhat. I was the odd woman out, using a spoon while the others scooped up mouthfuls with their hands, something I’d never experienced and frankly was impressed by their efficiency. We were all exhausted from the journey so we each called it a night with anticipation of our installation to begin the next day.

In the morning, after stopping for breakfast at a home along the way, we hiked up to the Necha basic school. After a tour of the school, group discussion on the project and a generous acknowledgement of appreciation by the schoolmaster, teacher and children, Binod & I got to work wiring the soon to be “computer room” for it’s new solar power system. We prepared the batteries, wiring them together first, then to the inverter, and thereafter into the room’s existing power line, successfully testing our work with a flip of the light switch. We ran electrical lines and outlets to three locations to be utilized by the new computers. In the next room over we staged the panels for installation to the racks that would house them. Outside the schoolchildren sang the national anthem, stretched, had a quick lesson, then spent the day playing an be occasionally peeking in on our work; it was national children’s day so regular lessons were cancelled. The next day, after wiring the panels and installing some supports to the roof, we enlisted some fearless locals to help us heave the panels up onto the roof and into place. Binod put this final touches on the wiring layout, ran the wiring down through the skylight into the computer room, connected it up to the controller and voila, our 10 panels were charging our batteries and the system was ready to power some computers!

The locals held a quick ceremony thanking is for our contributions to the school and the community, then I had another 4 hour rough ride to catch to get me to my start point for my trek to the Everest region, complete with 2 chickens along for the ride in the bed of the pickup.

I learned so much from my patient and willing teacher Binod throughout the installation process. More importantly, I felt so great that my contribution would provide the children I met with the doorway to the world that computer education can provide. Thank you Binod, Yadav and the Himalayan light foundation for the experience of installing a solar power system; the opportunity to contribute an invaluable life skill to the children of Necha, and for making me feel at home in Nepal!

Share the love!