“Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.”
I have walked into a National Geographic IMAX documentary, into a world where time stands still. The people of Far Western Nepal live removed from society in a peaceful, exquisite world all their own.
A beautiful girl with wide brown eyes, no older than seven, approaches with her baby sister tied to her back with a scarf.
They are mountain children, children who have grown up chasing goats along small rocky footpaths that wind down to the valley below.
Their nails are caked with dirt and their stained clothes are torn in parts, but they are happy. They are free, living in an off-the-grid universe of their own, where they rely solely upon themselves for survival.
They cultivate crops, tend to their livestock, and make tools from wood. It’s a universe where leaves turn into plates, burning sticks into flashlights, and old clothes into toys.
These children grow up with an education in nature, learning from a young age how to cultivate rice and make sugar from plants. If they want a formal education, the type held in a classroom, they have to walk three hours each way, with a grueling 2,000-meter elevation gain on the way home.
As the girls squat beside me on the dirt, we are met by another small child, waddling and giggling with one hand outstretched toward her friend and the other cradling a broken sandal.
Her hair is sticking up every which way and she has dirt smeared across her forehead, a sign of a girl being raised by the land.
As the two small children meet on the path and grab for each other, they shriek with glee and stumble and fall, like little girls everywhere.
In the distance I see an elderly man, hunched over and leaning on his cane. He is followed by one lone goat, a runaway he is escorting back up to the herd.
There are a few more people around, two ladies collecting leaves and grass for the baskets on their heads, and an older woman squatting barefoot by an open fire as she prepares tea.
A young boy makes his way up the other side of the road. He is no older than eight, and yells confidently at the herd of cows he is ushering home.
This world is void of car horns, bartering, or noisy shop doors slamming. The sizzling of the fire and the scurry of the chickens pecking around my feet are the only sounds I hear.
While much of our world continues to change rapidly, I have found a corner of the world where time stands still.
Where people live one hundred percent off the land.
Where beds don’t exist and money means nothing.
Where old women squat barefoot by open fires cooking rice they themselves hand picked from the field.
Where electricity is still a fare-fetched idea for the future.
It is a simplistic lifestyle, hard at times, but it is freedom.
This post is part of a 4-part series on Far Western Nepal. For Part 1, click here.
Shirine Taylor is a 20-year old solo female traveler cycling around the world, and a regular contributor to The Happy Passport. Follow her journey at awanderingphoto.wordpress.com.
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1. There are still parts of the world where people live completely off the land, without electricity, money, or any education to speak of.
2. To guest poster Shirine, this off-the-grid lifestyle accounts for the unparalleled happiness of the people in Far Western Nepal.
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