Adulthood at 12,000 Feet

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Two days after leaving home this past June, I stood alone amidst thousands of people, not knowing a single one. I heard no English, saw no familiar sights, and was caught up in a dusty, polluted, hectic metropolitan whirlwind. I was in Kathmandu, Nepal, and I was traveling alone for the first time.

My first step into adulthood started not with a Bar Mitzvah or a Communion but with successfully navigating the Hong Kong International Airport en route to Kathmandu. While my friends back home were busy finding their freedom behind a steering wheel, I found mine crumpled up in the back of a smelly, over-loaded city micro-bus. I was a world away from my family, my town, my culture – from everything that I thought would hold the keys to adulthood – but, as I then realized, that was exactly the point.

Two weeks later, I looked out across the foothills of the Himalayas from the steps of a Buddhist convent, partway into my stay in a high-altitude Sherpa village called Bigu. If I had felt removed from home while staying briefly in the city, I was now truly a world away. The village was completely cut off from Kathmandu, let alone the United States, and the nearest town was a hard three-day hike.

My job there was to teach English to the...

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