by Ana-Maria Lupu
I guess I have had a sense of adventure since I was a kid. I’ve always spent my time climbing trees and hills, discovering hidden places at my grandparents’ countryside home, and sometimes even getting in trouble because of that.
New beginnings sometimes start from ashes.
I don’t think I ever acknowledged my passion for travel and adventure as consciously as I did in 2019 on a trip that I made to Nepal at 37, after a painful breakup, while trying to find some peace of mind in such troubled times. That moment offered me so much in the long run that I wouldn’t change it for anything. Sometimes, what we perceive as suffering or loss can unlock the door for extraordinary change and insights within ourselves.
Nepal is such a beautiful country — colorful, diverse, and so alive! I discovered the Chitwan Jungle and Pokhara, the most touristic city in Nepal, where all adventurers go before starting their adventures in the spectacular Himalayas. And the wild Trishuli river, which took our rafting boats on a great ride through its waves.
This trip was so special to me. First, because it marked an end and a new beginning at the same time. It also offered me a great gift: discovering my passion for travel and writing. Being so far away from my home, I had the opportunity to know this different culture and all of the beautiful people I met along the way. They inspired me to start writing, so I started my travel blog after returning home.
Nepal – so many cultures and religions living peacefully near the most astonishing mountains on Earth
124 languages are spoken in Nepal. There are people from different ethnic groups and religions living together peacefully. Here you will find Hindus (most of the population), Buddhists (Nepal was the birthplace of Buddha), Muslims, Kirant, Christians, and others. I felt so welcomed and wonderful to see all the different people coming together, having fun, and socializing. Locals and travelers from all over the world had their own place at the table and their own stories to tell.
Nepal is also the first state in Asia to extend full rights to LGBTQ citizens and recognize a Third Gender category for citizens who are not “male” or “female.” However, there is still discrimination based on sexual orientation in day-to-day life, so many more steps are to be made in this direction.
In Pokhara – the gateway to the Himalayas – people from all over the world arrive to start their great adventure to the “Sagarmatha” (Mount Everest in Nepali). “Alaya” is the Nepalese word for “home,” and “hima” means snow. The Himalayas in fact means, “where the snow lives.” If you’re a fan of spending time in nature, hiking, or trekking, Nepal is a place you must not miss. If it’s your first visit, you’ll be mesmerized by the beauty and immensity of the mountains you’ll find here. In Pokhara, you must take a boat ride on Phewa Lake! The lake is the heart of the small city, reflecting the beauty of the Annapurna and Fishtail peak on sunny days. It’s an image that has stayed with me to this day.
Rituals and traditions – different ways to express suffering or joy, the same feelings we humans experience all over the world
I had a lot to learn while visiting Nepal. One special ritual caught my attention and stayed with me long after leaving Nepal: I witnessed a cremation ceremony while visiting the Pashupatinath Temple. This temple is situated on the shores of the Bagmati river, which is considered a Holy river.
There are 3 types of funeral ceremonies in Nepal:
- “Funeral in the sky” – a ritual practiced by the Bonpo people. They live in the mountains and offer their bodies to the vultures after death.
At the Pashupatinath Temple, the cremation ceremony happens in the open air. You can see everything as a tourist from a small hill over the Bagmati river. It is a unique experience and not for everybody for sure. After the cremation, the body’s ashes are sent away into the river. This ritual is believed to free the soul of any attachments to the body it used to reside in.
Witnessing the fragility of life from such a small distance makes you more aware of the immense privilege you have by opening your eyes every morning and enjoying each day. It’s a unique experience. Grief is the same when we lose our loved ones, regardless of religion or ethnicity.
“We plan, God laughs” – Yiddish proverb
When I returned home, it was clear that I needed something a bit different in my life to feel fulfilled. I remember this moment when I entered the elevator heading to my cubical on the first day after my holiday to Nepal. You know, those little things we all do almost on autopilot each day and not paying too much attention to them? I felt trapped while moving up in the airtight metallic box next to all the people. Everyone was so absorbed in the virtual worlds on their mobile phones, holding their coffees and not saying a word to each other.
It was there and then I decided that I’ll do whatever is necessary to build a lifestyle that allows me to travel, discover new places and cultures, and meet new people. I started my own travel blog where I wrote on my weekends about the beautiful places I had the chance to discover over time.
I had no idea what the future held in store for me.
A year later, in 2020, the pandemic started, and travel stopped. As if it wasn’t enough, in addition to the uncertainty and chaos happening in the small country where I live in Eastern Europe, I suffered a hernia in my spine. In less than a week after this painful crisis started in my lower back, I made a decision to go into surgery. My right leg was seriously affected, and I couldn’t even walk or stand. I saw my traveling dreams shattered in a matter of hours. But somehow, I kept hoping that no matter how bad it was at that moment, I would eventually recover. And fortunately, I could still write while lying in bed, and using an arrangement that held up my laptop, so that I could type.
Two months after my surgery, I started a long and challenging recovery program, as my leg was still almost paralyzed from the knee down.
With all of this happening, I couldn’t see myself returning to my sales job at the multinational company where I had worked for the past 2 years. So, I quit my job, went ahead with my physical recovery, and searched for other professional opportunities. I decided to try my luck and find a job that is a better fit for me, totally remote, which would give me a sense of purpose.
When you’re open to the opportunities the world brings along your way, magic happens.
It was pretty clear that making a living out of traveling and writing on my blog was not a realistic idea for the next couple of years. I could barely drive my car or walk to the store next to my home and buy groceries. So I just let go of every expectation and looked everywhere for opportunities. Not long after this moment, I started to apply for remote jobs. I applied for every job I could find, project-based or long-term, but still stayed away from multinational, and big companies that offered the classic 9 to 5 jobs.
After a while, I found the Customer Success part-time job at Participatory Culture Foundation for the Amara project. At first, it seemed to be a great combination of sales and customer care. Little was I to know what an incredible team I was about to discover.
I immediately resonated with the mission of Amara, to make information accessible all over the world — and overall, make our world a better place. Amara is where people dedicate their time and knowledge to make other people’s life a bit better in a genuine way, not for profit. My colleagues at Amara are from all over the world, so even if my physical mobility is damaged, I feel I travel all around the world each time we have meetings and share our everyday moments with each other.
Our diverse cultural and ethnic background here at Amara reminds me of the beautiful experience I had in Nepal. I had so much to learn back then, and now as well. The most rewarding thing about being part of such a culturally diverse environment is that you see so many perspectives and ways of thinking — it’s almost impossible not to enrich your own perspective. My time here at Amara has made me more open and curious to know all the fantastic people I work with. It’s a job that challenges me on every level to become a better person and professional.
“Travel. As much as you can. As far as you can. Life’s not meant to be lived in one place.”
I wanted to share my story with you here because we do not always get what we want in the exact manner we imagined. But if we keep our minds and hearts open to anything life will throw at us, our most passionate wishes may come true in unexpected ways.
Amara was my way of becoming a digital nomad in a time when travel was restricted entirely here in Romania. Today in many parts of the world, travel restrictions slowly disappear, and I have managed to recover a lot of the mobility of my right leg. Lots of great changes — especially now I know that no matter where I decide to go next, I’ll be able to continue bringing my contribution to the Amara Project and being part of this amazing team.