Friday, September 30, 2011

Adventure called her, changed her

After trip to Nepal, woman marries Sherpa guide

Express Staff Writer

Caryl Sherpa

Even when you know your destination, you never know where travel will take you.

For Caryl Sherpa, a journey to Nepal resulted in marriage to her trekking guide, Nima. But that union was just one of many life-altering outcomes from a trip around the world.

"I really went on this journey to discover what's life about and what do I want to be doing," she said.

Sherpa shared stories, lessons and perspectives during a presentation at The Community Library in Ketchum on Thursday, Sept. 22. The stop was one of 40 she is making on a national tour to promote her book, "I Taste Fire, Earth, Rain: Elements of a Life with a Sherpa." The book tour also serves as a farewell tour: She and Nima, who have been living in the United States for 20 years, are moving to Nepal.

According to Caryl Sherpa's website, fire, earth, and rain represent three of the five elements of Tibetan Buddhist astrology that sustain life. Fire is heat, light and passion; earth is the foundation; and rain purifies and sustains.

Those elements helped the couple grow, flourish and transform, she said.

In an interview with the Idaho Mountain Express, Sherpa relayed a saying: "You go to Nepal for the mountains and return for the people."

The Sherpa, an ethnic group that has become to Westerners synonymous with the expert mountaineering guides in the Himalayas, are open, friendly, hospitable and "incredibly intuitive," she said.

"You've never met a group of people more in the now," she said.

It's with that love of the Sherpa that she put her experiences to print.

"I want to expose (readers) to the Sherpa people," she said.

Rather than just writing a love story, Sherpa chose to expand the tale to include trials the couple experienced, including Nima's adjustment to American society.

"In Nepal, he was a climber," she said.

Climbers are highly regarded for their skill and knowledge, but that status did not readily translate to success in Los Angeles and Ann Arbor, Mich.

"Suddenly, he's working as a busboy or waiter," she said.

Caryl Sherpa continued her job as an architectural project manager while reconciling the new elements of her life.

Some of those were joyous, some challenging and others heartbreaking.

"People aren't always that welcoming to immigrants," she said. "Unless you experience it beside someone else, you don't see it. People still struggle."

The couple adjusted, staying—and growing—together. After two decades, they decided to return to the country where their story together began.

Welcoming change

Travel can open people up to different landscapes, unusual cuisine, new relationships. But ideally, Sherpa said, it can do much more.

It can move people toward "a broadening of consciousness, the ultimate destination after any journey," she says on her website.

It's with that sense of adventure and openness to change that Sherpa wrote her book.

"I want people to feel empowered to change their lives and do drastic things like marry a Sherpa guide."

More young people travel now than when she set out in 1991, she said.

"But still, a lot of people stop themselves before they start. (Travel) is a wonderful experience."

Rebecca Meany:

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