30 Oct

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For the First Time

14 days ago I returned from Nepal. For the First Time.13 days ago I started writing this post. For the First Time.12 days ago I realized that I don’t ever want to finish writing this post, because that would mean I would have to return to Earth, to my home country. That, too, was for the First Time.I have traveled quite a bit in my life so far, but this is the First Time that I feel like “I don’t want to go home”. Like a child that is visiting friends and simply refuses to go home at the end of the evening. Not because it does not love its own home, but because it feels SO good in this other place. Well, this child is still pretending it has not returned home, that it is still somewhere far way, visiting.

11 days ago my guilty conscience started gnawing at me, for not yet having shared these incredible impressions with other people… I have not shared them in written form, but every single person that has met me since my (semi)return has noted that I am radiating something, there is a glow about me of things healthy, significant, new…For the following 10 days I made notes here and there, but I knew I was just putting it off – typical procrastination. I was levitating, floating between Nepal and Serbia. At night I am mostly in Nepal – dreaming of trails, climbs, peaks, my trusty hiking poles and backpack, all the lodges, waterfalls, ginger lemon tea, dal bhat, and the people – so many different people… And these dreams continue on, earnestly and indelibly. This is the First Time that this post-journey haze has lasted so long, and I see no end to it.

I repeat, 14 days ago I returned from Nepal for the First time. The First Time because I will be returning, many more times. Because I will go there many more times again. I must. This time I: got to know (and fall in love with) Kathmandu; spent 10 days hiking the Anapurna Base Camp Trek; climbed to the altitude of 4130m for the first time; learned how to haggle with merchants; realized that it is possible to wait three days for a flight and never get on it, and that that’s totally ok; was taught many climbing knots (Vesna), songs (Natasa) and jokes (Rasa); learned that every time you lift your eyes in the Himalayas your breath is taken away; realized that everything is possible, and LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.

The day we arrived at ABC was Natasa’s (milestone) birthday, and we managed to secure a chocolate pancake to act as a birthday cake, a candle, and cracked open the bottle of wine we had been secretly carrying with us ever since Belgrade, despite having discarded excess luggage at regular intervals along the way. We even had some of Vesna’s excellent pork rinds left over to sweeten the moment and be reminded of home… it was a spectacular celebration! With a view of Anapurna and my favorite, Machapuchare (“The Fishtail” or as the Nepalese would say, Pishtail), the sound of the glacier moving, under the strong sun, and even stronger emotions.

Our guide Rasa (Aleksandar Rasin) stated several times that this journey is full of First Times, but perhaps, when he said this, he didn’t realize how many there actually were… He has extensive mountaineering experience, and all this is new to me. I started only 7 or 8 months ago, when I met Jacim, when I contracted the “mountain bug”, so it comes as no surprise that there are a thousand Firsts happening to me now. If the rest of our team also experienced some Firsts during this trip, that is the ultimate compliment for our Nepalese adventure.

Rasa turned out to be a kind of superhero throughout the journey. The very first day, after nightfall, while we were still trekking, we were silently joined by a lone trekker at the very back of our small group (who had obviously set off unprepared, with no flashlight, in dainty city shoes) because he had realized that we have a guide who will bring us safely home, i.e. to shelter that evening. A couple of days later we came across two middle-aged gentlemen from Brunei who were fascinated by the fact that our group was made up of just three women, marching behind Rasa like pros. When they learned that he had climbed peaks over 8000m and heard his stories from various expeditions, he instantly became a celebrity in their eyes! But mostly it was because he is so easygoing, open and generous, at every moment, with every person, despite everything. And when we finally arrived at Machapuchare Base Camp (3700m, the last stop before ABC) he had to help a young Korean girl deal with altitude sickness, perhaps mostly to hold her hand at the end of a difficult day and ease the mind of her worried boyfriend… But whom else would you want by your side at such a time if not our dear Rasa? We met all of those people several more times later on during the trek, and it was clear from their smiles, every time, how much these encounters had meant to them. It was something beautiful.

For our guide, this was the First time that the itinerary changed so many times – we had many obstacles before getting to Kathmandu, and even more after that. It was the First Time that he leads an entirely female group. The First Time that he doesn’t make it to Lukla airport, because of days and days of bad weather. The First Time he has trouble with porters, but that was resolved – not without trouble, but the trouble was soon forgotten. The First Time that the guide and team members show so much care and affection for each other – hugs and kisses were a staple on this trip. From the very first day, we were a small, harmonious, joyful tribe that could reach the ends of the Earth together.

And for me? This was the First Time that I didn’t know IF I was going on a trip, where I was going, where I would be tonight, tomorrow, in two weeks… and I still truly enjoyed every moment and all the uncertainty. The First Time that I truly listened to and obeyed the advice/orders of a guide (that were sometimes given in verse or in the form of a joke, the easiest medicine to swallow).The first time that my whole body hurts but I am actually in no pain at all. The fist time that everything goes wrong, but everything turns out just right.

Despite all this, it was all so Simple. Despite all the problems we encountered, all the changes in plans, the endless waiting, the little disappointments… it was all EXACTLY as it should have been. I could not have imagined anything better, and there wasn’t a single moment that I wished I was anywhere other than where I was – even when I was wishing I’d arrive in Lukla with all my heart, when I had butterflies in my stomach, I was still glad that I was (alas, again) on the floor of the crowded check-in area at Kathmandu Airport with my wonderful team. That is because this was the Right Time.

I can’t wait for many more First, Simple, Right Times. They need not be actual journeys (though I never turn those down), it may be a First Time on a city bus, at the market, waiting in a line. First Times happen every day, one need only recognize them, embrace them, and simply enjoy them. And never forget.

Thank you, endlessly, Jacim, Rasa, Natasa and Vesna. And thank you Nepal for being there and welcoming us. Until the next First Time!


Katarina Tosic



  • B -

    Beautiful description of how one finds oneself…looking forward to reading “The Next Time” post :)

  • Pat -

    You expressed my feelings about India….this is my fourth trip, and I hope I will return many more times… It’s in my blood and my heart.

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