When A Casual Hobby Becomes Your Passion

I was fortunate enough to visit the beautiful country of Nepal last year, which came after a great deal of research and contemplation about how I wanted to experience the country and what I wanted the experience to feel like.  I didn’t want a vacation.  I wanted an authentic experience.  Authentic in the sense that I didn’t want to have the options of laundry and room service in a hotel.  I was drawn to Nepal because of the Himalaya, but got so much more out of my experience with the people of the country and my housemates, than I did with the sights (although they were quite breathtaking).


I wanted to live with Nepali people and explore places in Kathmandu outside of the tourist district of Thamel (although I loved what Thamel had to offer and spent much time there drinking and editing photos).  I had one main challenge, which was budget.  This challenge translated to time.  I was only able to stay in Nepal for a little over a month, which was not nearly enough for me, but it was still a really amazing experience and one that primed me for a return one day soon.


My pursuit of authenticity led me to sifting through a number of volunteer opportunities I found from various organizations online.  I found an internship experience that sounded intriguing.  My only problem, I’m too damn old to be an intern (this was all in my head).  However, I put that self-defeating mindset aside, and I decided on an opportunity to practice photojournalism through one organization, who basically outsourced this opportunity to another once I arrived in Nepal.  This seemed to at first be a logistical nightmare as I was taken to three different home placements on my first day in Kathmandu after being picked up at the airport.  If you would like to know details about the organizations I worked with/ended up with, please shoot me an email at info@rickgallina.com and I will answer any questions.  At the end of the day, the confusion of my arrival, payment, and placement were well worth it.


I was placed in a home with a wonderful Nepali family and many other international residents.  I had some trepidation knowing I was the oldest “intern” in the house, but everyone was gracious and made me feel welcomed.  Side note, not sure why this made me feel so self-conscious, definitely something I need to work on.  Anyway,  I tried to focus on my craft and go from there, but it was a really fun group.  Made up entirely of students at varying points in their education, there were participants from Canada, France, The Netherlands, and the U.K.


Routines were solid.  Work on your internship during the day, hang out and have dinner, maybe a few drinks, and usually a little recap and socializing at night, all while getting to know each other.  These people I lived with ended up being such an inspiration to me, and I don’t know if I ever told any of them this specifically, but their energy, enthusiasm, compassion, wanderlust, thirst for knowledge, kindness, intelligence, and their varying viewpoints on a wide range of subjects helped me realize and learn so much about myself and the things that I am thirsty for in life, and the kind of life that I want to pursue.  They were such a big part of this experience, an experience that solidified for me that photography isn’t just something that I want to be a hobby or make money doing, but something that fills my heart and makes me happy.  Whether they ever read this or know it, I will never forget the role they played, albeit very brief, in my personal journey for transcendence in life.  Perhaps the universe will let us all cross paths again one day, this side or the other.  


So here I was, in this house with these amazing people, taking photos for a little over three weeks in the gorgeous and spiritually rich Kathmandu, exploring amazing Buddhist temples, going to Thamel (the tourist district) most afternoons or evenings, meeting other people from other spots around the globe and swapping stories, drinking good drinks, searching for reliable WiFi, and editing photos.  I literally was living in a dream world.  Then...I departed for Pokhara via bus, met some more cool people from England, was stuck on a bus hung over for like 12 hours because of a landslide (monsoon season is a real thing), but finally made it.  


I went to Pokhara to trek on the famed Annapurna Circuit located in the Annapurna Mountain Range of the Himalaya in Central Nepal.  My only disappointment came in that I didn’t have a large enough window to make it to Annapurna Base Camp.  This still bothers me.  Hopefully I can achieve this one day, it’s the perfect excuse to go back, although I do want to go to the Everest Region as well.  Life is short.  Decisions...decisions.  

The unfortunate part about trekking during monsoon season is the limited views of the mountains, but when they finally lifted on my last day, the views of the mountains from Pokhara were breathtaking.  Prior to that day I was on my trek, or “Jungle Walk” as my guide referred to it as.  It rained on us every day, but it was very beautiful, and very mystic in a way.  The tea houses were a nice treat, my favorite was potato soup after a long, very wet day of walking.  After our last day of trekking I returned to Pokhara for a final night.  In the afternoon the clouds lifted and I sat on the roof with a few kind strangers from Hungary.   We simply sat and looked up at Machapuchare (meaning “Fishtail” in Nepali), which was stunning.  I live in Colorado, a state famed for it’s many beautiful 14,000 foot peaks, but looking up at a 23,000 foot peak was...humbling.  I only snapped a couple photos.  Mainly I just sat there, drank, and stared.


I left Pokhara in the morning, stayed  few more nights in Kathmandu, said goodbye to some new found friends, drank some beers at Phat Kath in Thamel, and then flew home.  When I returned home I tried to stay busy, went backpacking, climbed a few 14ers, failed to climb a few others, went out with friends, and maybe had a few too many drinks.  No matter what I did, life seemed a little desaturated, not as vibrant.  I mean, not quite black and white, but definitely was no longer jumping off the page.  It stayed that way until I poured myself into portraiture, then some of that came back.  No matter, though, I foresee Nepal in my future again.  One day.

Peep some shots below and click on an image to expand...