We are searching data for your request:
DURING THE LAST FEW WEEKS OF MY YEAR of traveling, I decided to go on a meditation retreat at Kopan Monastery, just outside Kathmandu, Nepal. My stay was part of a larger program offered to foreigners who wanted to learn the basic tenets of Tibetan Buddhism and devote time to learning many forms of meditation. Buddhism and meditation had never been a part of my life before, and this was my first time attempting to learn about both.
After my stay, I realized that my 10 days at the monastery made me a better traveler than I had been all year. I left somewhat regretting that now, nearing the end of my travels, I didn’t have more time to put my learning into practice.
Of course, I haven’t become the perfect traveler since then, and I still make plenty of mistakes. But ultimately, my experience at the monastery made me view travel differently, and made my travel experiences afterwards far more meaningful. Here’s how:
Before the monastery, I was often in need of constant stimulation. In fact, that constant urge was a large reason why I traveled so much in the first place. While other backpackers seemed to tire after a few months on the road, I couldn’t get enough. The more “newness” in my life, the more it seemed exciting and “real.”
But at the monastery, I learned that I don’t necessarily need external stimulants to satisfy this feeling. Instead, I needed to focus on making the internal be enough. And I could do that by slowing down, and fully engaging in the present moment. At the monastery, for the first time, I noticed the millions of things actually happening in every moment of each day. There was less of a need to create so much stimulation when I recognized how much was already happening around me all the time.
Whenever I’d see something beautiful while traveling, my first instinct was to capture it. In some ways, that instinct was symbolic of a fear: I was afraid of happy moments disappearing into nothing, I needed reassurance that great things would last.
At the monastery, I was taught that this “attachment” to anything that made us feel good ultimately made us less happy in the long run. If we only worried about holding on to what was beautiful or pleasurable in our life, we’d miss out on the opportunity to fully experience it as it happened. Before the monastery, I believed moments were meant to be caught. But the inadvertent result is that then they were rarely fully enjoyed.
After, I realized that if something is breathtaking, then I should actually let it take my breath away. It’s far better to sit and enjoy that feeling of awe for a while, to allow it to soak in as it happens, rather than quickly trying to “save” it for the future.
At the monastery, we practiced a valuable meditation on food. Before eating, we were asked to think about the long line of people that were needed to bring this meal to where it stood in front of you today: the farmer who grew the vegetables, the truck driver who shipped them to the store, the grocery clerk who stocked them on the shelf, the kitchen staff who prepared and served it for us each day. By taking one minute to reflect on this, meals became a reflection of community: no meal was possible alone. What we ate required connection with so many people around us. Taking the time to remember that made dinner seem less like an obvious routine (“of course, it’s dinner time…”), and more like a cause for celebration (“my dinner made it all the way here!”).
Objectively, travel never got easier. Flights were still cancelled. Bus trips got unexpectedly overbooked. Road trips came with flat tires. Hiking trips came with sprained ankles. Dinners ended up in the flu.
But at the monastery, I was taught that suffering was not a concrete thing: I can’t quantify it, or measure it with a value. The amount of suffering I experience instead relies on how I react and respond.
So instead of focusing on the negative, I learned how to make the positive a larger presence in my life. I took time out of each day to recognize when something good happened, so that when something bad happened, it didn’t take over the day. Travel mishaps became the exception to my mood, instead of what dominated it.
I’ve always enjoyed being alone, but my time at the monastery made me realize how healthy it actually made me feel. Only when being forced to stay silent for most of the day did I notice how much anxiety in my life was created by being around others. I noticed so much of my energy and concentration each day shifts to analyzing what others were saying, deciding whether I agree, how I’m going to respond, how I’m being perceived, what will happen next. In contrast, by being alone and being required to not speak with anyone, I felt instantly relaxed.
Noticing this, I began to look at time alone not as something I only enjoyed if I came across it, but something I actually acknowledged as a vital part of my health.
Coming from a Christian background where I was taught that God provided me with my destiny, Buddhism in many ways was a refreshingly different take. In my teachings at the monastery, there was no superior presence taking care of you. Instead, we focused on how we had the power to discipline our thinking in a way that would make our lives better.
After spending a year traveling, many times alone, this felt far more comforting. Here was a philosophy that, much like traveling, put me in control of the course of my life, and me in control of shaping how it would be.
Our teacher, Ani Karen, had once been a backpacker herself. In fact, she originally came to the monastery just like I had: towards the end of her year spent abroad moving from one hostel and country to the next. During that time, she even admitted to us (refreshingly) that she had spent a lot of time smoking cigarettes and chasing parties, before realizing that constant pleasure alone won’t make you happy. While traveling, no matter how great it felt at first, every pleasure ultimately become tiring, unless it had a more meaningful foundation to back it up.
After nearly a year of hanging out on beaches, seeing beautiful mountains, eating dinner with romantic views in Rome and Madrid, I felt the same. Even pleasure and beauty can get old, unless there’s something more.
The unknown years of Jesus (also called his silent years, lost years, or missing years) generally refers to the period of Jesus's life between his childhood and the beginning of his ministry, a period not described in the New Testament.  
The "lost years of Jesus" concept is usually encountered in esoteric literature (where it at times also refers to his possible post-crucifixion activities) but is not commonly used in scholarly literature since it is assumed that Jesus was probably working as a carpenter in Galilee, at least some of the time with Joseph, from the age of 12 to 29.   
In the late medieval period, there appeared Arthurian legends that the young Jesus had been in Britain.   In the 19th and 20th centuries theories began to emerge that between the ages of 12 and 29 Jesus had visited Kashmir, or had studied with the Essenes in the Judea desert.   Modern mainstream Christian scholarship has generally rejected these theories and holds that nothing is known about this time period in the life of Jesus.    
The use of the "lost years" in the "swoon hypothesis", suggests that Jesus survived his crucifixion and continued his life, instead of what was stated in the New Testament that he ascended into Heaven with two angels.  This, and the related view that he avoided crucifixion altogether, has given rise to several speculations about what happened to him in the supposed remaining years of his life, but these are not accepted by mainstream scholars either.   
Upon arrival at Kathmandu Airport you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel in Kathmandu. Relax at your hotel, explore the bustling streets of Kathmandu and get ready for your trek.
Kathmandu is a fascinating city bursting with energy. Your guide will take you on a journey exploring the classic sights such as Durbar Square, Swayambhunath and Patan as well as those hidden gems only the locals know. Your trip ends with a farewell dinner at a traditional Nepali restaurant.
After a private transfer to the airport you will board the plane for a spectacular 30 minute flight to Lukla. Sit on the left hand side of the plane for the best views.
After a refreshing cup of tea in Lukla a three hour walk brings you to your first overnight lodge in the village of Phakding. An optional afternoon visit to a prayer ceremony at the local Buddhist monastery completes a perfect first day.
Walk: 2 - 3 Hours, 200m Descent
Overnight Height: 2610 m
The snow capped mountains tower around you as you criss-cross the valley bottom on suspension bridges. On your way to Namche Bazaar a final sustained climb brings the welcome sight of the village.
Walk: 5 - 6 Hours, 1000m ascent, 100m descent
Overnight Height: 3440 m
Acclimatisation days are crucial for a successful trek to Everest Base Camp. Your guide will take you on a delightful walk to Hotel Everest View and the Sherpa Villages of Khumbu including Khumjung and Khunde. The afternoon is free to relax, shop or perhaps visit the famous bakery.
Walk: 4 - 5 Hours, 460m ascent/descent
Overnight Height: 3440 m
As you continue high above the Dubh Kosi the views of Everest and Ama Dablam really start to open up. The walking is sublime and the views even better.
Tengboche is the largest monastery in Nepal occupying a high ridge with views in all directions. You should be able to attend a prayer ceremony in the evening or morning.
Walk: 4 - 5 Hours, 750m ascent, 350m descent
Overnight Height: 3860 m
A lovely day of walking through colourful Sherpa villages takes you back down towards the agricultural village of Monjo. Trekking today will seem much easier compared to the previous days.
Walk:5-6 hours, 1027m descent
Overnight Height: 2840 m
Retract back to Lukla after breakfast passing through Banker and Phakding and following the trail to Lukla. You spend your final night in the Everest region here. This is also a good time to give your gratitude to your porter and trekking crew for their wonderful support and to bid them farewell.
Walk:5-6 hours, 36m descent
Overnight Height: 2840 m
The early morning is the best time for flying back to Kathmandu and after a short transfer to your hotel you can enjoy a day of rest and relaxation.
Enjoy one final day in Kathmandu with some time to explore at leisure.Your trip ends with a farewell dinner at a traditional Nepali restaurant.
We will transfer you to the airport in plenty of time for your flight.
Five women share their stories…
I’m a travel writer, so at least once or twice a month, I head to the airport and embark on a trip with a group of absolute strangers. And over time, it has become my very favorite thing to do, but it doesn’t come naturally to me.
The first time I ever really took a solo trip was to an ashram in upstate New York. I had just been through a traumatizing breakup and I needed a major reset. I had a long weekend and about $500 in my bank account. The ashram was offering a happiness workshop for the holiday weekend with surprisingly affordable tuition, so I got on a bus and headed up.
I was petrified (I’m an introvert by nature) and spent the first few hours glued to my phone. But then, an older woman walked up to me and introduced herself and just like that the ice was broken.
Over the next few days, I meditated, hiked, ate, took yoga classes and spent several hours in the sauna with the fifteen or twenty women who were at the ashram that weekend. We cried, we laughed and we majorly over-shared the minutiae of our life stories. Seriously, those women know more about me than any therapist ever will. It was wonderful and so easy. There were no judgments, just willing listeners and a lot of love and support.
Years later, I’d love to say that those women are now my best friends, but the truth is that I don’t keep up with a single one of them. But in a way, I think that was part of the magic of the experience. We opened up to complete strangers, shared our deepest secrets and helped each other to return to our daily lives a little bit happier and more whole.
The greatest gift they gave me? The confidence to travel alone. So much so, that I have made a career out of doing the very thing that once so deeply scared me. And in turn I have been able to visit countries from Argentina to Egypt. And what a gift that is, to give someone the world.
Read on for stories from five other incredible, inspirational women who embrace solo travel (and brave retreats all on their own). You just might get inspired to try it too. If so, we have your answer: FP Escapes.
Kalisa Augustine, Energy Healer
Booking a retreat on my own always seemed like a luxury, an unattainable freedom, something out of my reach. I had a daughter when I was very young, and have always worked many jobs to provide for her. I carried that irrational motherhood guilt-trip story that I should sacrifice for her and do nothing for myself. But ultimately, that’s all bullshit. The universe always supports our desire to heal ourselves, claim our rest, and take ownership of our wellbeing. So finally, I let myself take some retreats.
When I was younger, I wanted information and training. I wanted community. One time I booked a yoga and meditation retreat where a group of women took a sailboat up the Hudson from NYC, and we did yoga on these old ruins on the banks of the river. It was so beautiful to meditate on that boat under sacred starlight on our way back home after asana on the shore. Later in my career as an energetic healer and mystic, my needs changed. Spirituality and counsel are my life. So, I am in a place where I need solitude on my retreats. I like to book lone cabins deep in nature, and spend time with myself completely unplugging and meditating in total silence. Nature rejuvenates me. These days I absolutely look forward to moments alone where I can commune with my higher self, surrounded by my crystals and wildlife.
If you want to take a retreat you should ask yourself, are you an introvert or extrovert? What do you want to gain out of a retreat? What is going on in life right now? Do you want to make new high-vibe friends? Do you want to tune into your physical body? Do you need silence? Perhaps it would be wise to reset your nutrition game? Is it information you’re after? I think just knowing what you need, and then being a boss and taking action towards making it happen, always attracts good things.
What is more powerful than a woman making the decision to take action steps towards her healing, and walking that path alone? There is just something poetically intimate about holding space for yourself and your highest potential, outside of the many hats we wear as females. It’s soothing to the soul to be present, with an open heart, on a healing retreat, whether you are alone or with a group.
Brittany Blake, Publicist
Not long ago, an acquaintance was leading a women’s wellness retreat at Jungle’s Edge in Nosara, Costa Rica. She just happened to check-in with me days before her departure. As it happened, I was in major need of a getaway and some quality time to focus on my wellbeing, so I decided to join.
Sure, I was hesitant to drop everything and travel out of the country with 15 strangers for a week. I was almost looking for reasons not to go. “Maybe flights will be too expensive” or “maybe I won’t get approval from work” I thought. But in the end, I decided that I needed the adventure and it was surprisingly affordable, so I booked a flight and 24 hours later I was on my way to Central America.
The experience really cleared my head and helped me to press the reset button. There was such a simplicity to living in this amazing, stress-free environment. Waking up to monkey chatter is surprisingly nice. In fact, I missed it the first morning I woke up back in New York.
I returned from that retreat with a wealth of knowledge about nutrition and wellness from the locals. I met incredible women from around the world who had amazing stories and I made new friends, many of who will be in my life forever. I had such an amazing-life-changing experience, and can’t wait for the next time I can take an adventure by myself. Taking that “you time” away from your day-to-day is crucial for self-love and growth.
Alexandra Bonetti, founder of Bari Studio
The best time to go away is never. There’s won’t be a great time to leave your life and responsibilities behind. So the first challenge is making the time. I own a business, have a puppy I take care of every day and a husband whose slippers I fluff every night. But if travel is important to you, you have to decide to give yourself the time and allow the pieces to fall into place. They will because they always do.
This past January, all the “it’s not the right time” odds were stacked against me. January is the busiest month for fitness, I was spearheading a few new projects, and we were launching a big campaign at Bari. Oh, and I was attempting to leave all of that behind to take a trip alone. For an entire month. I love traveling with my husband, family and friends — but at the start of the new year, I was craving introspection, exploration and clarity, all things I felt I needed in order to hit the proverbial reset button in a purposeful way.
So I did it. I left — by myself, for a month. And it was one of my favorite adventures ever. Traveling alone creates opportunities for conversations with yourself that are ‘inconvenient’ to have when we’re living in busy mode. Could you have these conversations with yourself on your couch with a Friends episode in the background? Maybe. But having the time, space and opportunity to explore the world on my own terms opened me up, gave me insight into myself and sent me back home feeling like a lighter, clearer, more ‘me’ version of myself.
Morgan Yakus, hypnotist and healer
The first time I traveled alone, my dad put me on a plane from NY to Los Angeles. I was eight years old. I was nervous and remember my face being red with tears. But, there happened to be another little boy around my same age traveling on his own. They brought him to sit with me and we chatted the whole flight. We remained pen pals for the next 20 years and I recently saw him and met his wife.
Anytime you take a trip, with someone else or by yourself it can be stressful. There are so many unknowns and what ifs. But, the experience of traveling alone can be freeing too.
Years ago, I decided to take off for eight months on a ’round the world ticket. First, I went backpacking through Southeast Asia and Australia. I started out with a friend from London who I had met the first time I traveled to Europe alone at age 23.
Four months into the trip it was time for me to venture out on my own. I remember the night before I set off, a traveler who was at the dinner table with me heard me say that I was leaving for Malaysia the next morning. She saw how nervous I was and said something to me that has stuck in my mind: “you are only as alone as you want to be.” And she was right! As soon as I arrived at the border city between Thailand and Malaysia, there was a couple that wanted to share a cab. Once I arrived at my destination, I met two funny Dutch guys who were staying in the huts across from me. One of them became my long-term boyfriend!
Since then I have been to many gatherings, conferences and retreats on my own. And sometimes, despite all my experiences, I still get nervous. As a hypnotist, I know that when the mind doesn’t know the future, it can trigger a fight or flight response. A helpful tool? Visualize yourself arriving safely at your destination, meeting great people and having fun. This allows the brain to feel that you are safe, which means you have more time to actually have fun!
Gabriella Campagna, actress
I took my first ‘yoga class’ in high school via a VHS tape from Kripalu. My friend Doug and I did it together. We were ballet dancers but also interested in spirituality and eastern thought. We kept doing those video classes and eventually the interest grew and led me to India. I spent a year there before college studying the language and culture, and immersing myself in all things meditation and yoga. Along with three other American students I spent 10 days doing a Tibetan Buddhist meditation retreat at Kopan Monastery in Nepal, as well as other shorter retreats at centers in Bodhgaya and Sarnath. The summer after my freshman year in college I found myself living at home with my parents in NYC without a job and at my mother’s encouragement signed up for a month-long 200 hr teacher training at Atmandanda Yoga, a studio in NYC. At 19 I was by far the youngest in the group of 10 women, and kind of nervous about doing it alone. As the days went on and we got to know each other, sweat together and chanted together, I found an amazing refuge in this little wolf pack of strong, interesting women. I loved hearing their stories and experiences about motherhood, spirituality, and health. We became our own community separate from the chaos of this crazy city (and in a way from my own friends who were out partying most nights). They didn’t judge me for my age and I got to come into the space and be whoever I wanted to be. To close the training we spent a weekend upstate in retreat all together. It was so special and I will keep those days close with me forever. I found such a sense of peace and freedom in nature, together with these beautiful beings supporting each other in our journey. Go on retreat alone! You will get out of your head, and free yourself from associations in a way that going with a friend, partner or family member will never allow. You can be alone when you want to be and connect when you feel inclined. It is a gift.
Dhanakosa, on the banks of beautiful Loch Voil, near Balquhidder in central Scotland, is truly a place to stop, breathe, unwind and take stock. Amid the glorious scenery, you eat delicious, healthy vegetarian meals (and can even take a recipe book home), do yoga, hill walk, learn to meditate or reinvigorate your practice and your life. It’s the perfect place to come if you just want some time out to reset yourself. I’ve come here for the weekend and for a week. They operate on the Buddhist principle of Dana or generosity. You pay the deposit of £75 (for a week) or £50 (weekend) and then from a suggested scale (from £285 to £445 for a week). It’s a magical place.
Guardian Travel readers' tips
Every week we ask our readers for recommendations from their travels. A selection of tips will be featured online and may appear in print. To enter the latest competition visit the readers' tips homepage
My Nepali language teachers acted as my tour guide, they were sister pair, Pramila and Urmila. Together, the sisters structured my days to see the best things in Kathmandu each afternoon. The goal was to have us understand the culture, history, and language before heading deeper into the rural areas of the Kathmandu Valley. On this round the world trip, I’ve made a point to collect UNESCO World Heritage sites—these are spots that are natural or manmade sites provide an important contribution to the world’s history and development. The Kathmandu Valley is home to seven UNESCO sites: Hanuman Dhoka, Patan and Bhaktapur, Swayambhunath and Boudhanath, and Pashupati and Changu Narayan.
This a large square that sits opposite the series of temples and buildings that were once used by royalty. This area was built throughout a large swath of Nepal’s history, developing between the 12 th and 18 th centuries. Durbar Square functioned as the seat of royalty for thousands of years — the nation’s kings were crowned here and ruled from these former palaces. Three separate squares are known collectively as Durbar Square, but each used to serve a different function. Now, some palaces and buildings serve as museums, others were rebuilt in the 20th century. Through it all, you can explore the square and make a scavenger hunt of finding the many images of Hanuman, the monkey god.
Although much of the square is still filled with history and beauty, many major structures were reduced to rubble during the devastating, tragic 2015 earthquake that struck the Kathmandu Valley. But there is still so much history and beauty to see. If you have the time, I recommend packing a lunch from your favorite cafe, then sit on the steps like the locals watch the pigeons, people, and sadhus wander the square.
The part of the square I found most fascinating is the set of elaborately carved doors on the Kumari Ghar. The Royal Kumari of Kathmandu is a living goddess and it’s worth researching to see if you’ll be in Kathmandu during one of her handful of appearances.
The story of the Kumari leaves me equal parts fascinated and baffled. The Kumari is believed to literally be a living incarnation of the Goddess Devi. This living goddess lives in the temple from the time she is selected as the next incarnation of Devi. Each new Kumari is chosen as a three- to five-year-old from group of girls who share similar characteristics. To become the next embodiment of the Goddess, the girls have to meet a slew of restrictions that range from the date, hour, and minute of their birth to physical features like eye shape, skin color, and voice.
When a new Kumari is needed (when the current Kumari first menstruates), the handful of young girls that meet the tight restrictions are then put through one further test to decide which one is the actual incarnation of the Hindu Goddess Devi (the universal goddess). Each child is locked in a dark room where they hear scary noises and see flickering lights and watch gruesome animal heads and scary scenes. The theory is that the little girl who shows no fear—or the least amount of fear—must be the Goddess.
That chosen one is then taken to live in the Kumari Ghar with her family. She is only allowed to leave the temple 13 times a year for religious festivals. As a westerner, this entire story struck me as stranger than fiction when Pramila shared the history and details. It’s a unique and small part of the city’s quirkiness, culture, and history, and it’s worth reading up on the Kumari if you’re interested. One former Kumari wrote a memoir about what it was like to grow up under all of that attention and power. That book is hard to find, however, so your best bet for more history on the Kumari is The Living Goddess, a fascinating, painstakingly researched account of the history of the Kumari. It’s recent, and it serves as an anthropological study of the interplay between this goddess and the Nepali religion.
On our afternoon sightseeing in Kathmandu, Pramila and her sister brought me to Swayambhunath, which is also known as Monkey Temple because of the hundreds of monkeys living in the surrounding trees. Like Durbar Square, the Monkey Temple is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As one of the holiest sites in Nepal, the Swayambhunath complex is just beautiful. The Stupa is set high up on a hill (pilgrims and visitors ascend 365 steps to get to the top). From there, the Stupa stands tall and proud overlooking the Kathmandu Valley. Once you stumble up the last of the 365 steps, a massive gleaming white dome looms ahead. From the center of the dome blooms a spire. On all four sides of the spire is the painted image of the wise and all-seeing eyes of Lord Buddha (the middle symbol is the third eye). When you visit, be aware that the monkeys will aggressively steal food from your hands!
Boudhanath is also a UNESCO site and is thought to be the largest Stupa in existence, and it’s the largest spherical stupa in Nepal. Although Boudhanath was damaged during the 2015 earthquake, restoration efforts quickly restored this structure to its previous glory and stature. Boudhanath is the center of Buddhism and the stupa is simply enormous. The Buddha eyes also peer from this stupa and look outward, watching over the Kathmandu Valley. This stupa is located in a popular area of the city. Boudhanath was one on the ancient trade route between Tibet and India, and as the Tibetans fled their country in the 1950s, many followed that same route and decided to make a home near this holy spot. And this stupa is so important that it is said to entomb Kassapa Buddha, the 27th of the 29 named Buddhas.
This is a sacred site for the Hindu and it’s not to be taken on a lark. As a Westerner, consider observing the temple from the other side of the Bagmati River. Also a UNESCO site, the position across the river allows you to respectfully watch from above as they regularly perform ritual cremations in the ghats on the river’s edge. Pashupatinath is a sprawling complex as well, so the bird’s eye view on the temples and ashrams is unique to other temples you will visit in Kathmandu. But it’s all worth seeing up close to, so eventually head across the river to see the images and structures.
All of these sites are right in the Kathmandu Valley and are believed to relate not only to the formation and development of the Valley, but each one is directly tied to the country’s Buddhist and Hindu spirituality. The mix of religions in this part of the world is unique and quite harmonious.
One of the temple complexes that I visited featured a stupa, a Hindu structure, and even some influences from nearby India. Three types of architecture and multiple religious beliefs all shared the same place and all of the worshippers commingle without conflict. It’s a fascinating mix of cultures and religions that inhabits every heartbeat of Nepali culture and society.
And one gorgeous nuance to the entire experience of sightseeing in Kathmandu is the presence of Tibetan prayer flags. The lines of flags cascade like colorful waterfalls from temple peaks and treetops. There is a good reason these flags start in high places, too. Each flag on the string contains a full mantra. When the wind blows through the prayer flags it carries the mantra throughout the world bringing peace and harmony. I just love this idea. The concept is simple and the faith behind these prayer flags makes it all the more beautiful. Likewise, the Tibetan prayer wheels inside the various temples run on a similar concept. Inscribed on each prayer wheel is a series of mantras and prayers. When you spin all of the prayer wheels in succession, you are sending one complete prayer into world. I love the universality of many of these beliefs. The religion aims at gently spreading peace throughout the world as well as using their prayer and spirituality to better their own lives, too.