I am currently directing and producing a short documentary film about female guide Durga Rawal in Nepal. More detailed info on the film can be found on our crowdfunding campaign page. Whenever I speak about DURGA: Forging a New Trail, the title of our film, I am typically asked how I came to know Durga and her story. For those interested, here’s the story behind the story.
My story with DURGA starts in 2015, when I was working for One World Play Project in Berkeley, California. Around the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, we launched and ran a marketing campaign called All Girls Can Play. Through the campaign, we collaborated with Women Win to give ultra-durable soccer balls to organizations working with girls and women in communities around the world.
Intrigued by Women Win’s global network in the female empowerment and gender equality space, I spent time on their website reading about their partner organizations and what each of them does. Empowering Women of Nepal, a nonprofit organization that trains and supports Nepalese women to become hiking guides and work in tourism, caught my interest immediately for its connection to outdoor adventure as well as female empowerment and gender equality. I had never heard of an organization doing such work, or with such a mission, in the United States, let alone elsewhere in the world.
That week at work, I told my boss, who collaborated closely with me on our company’s storytelling about the impact of play, in all its forms, around the world, that I felt there was a story with EWN worth exploring, telling and sharing. She agreed, and while we never pursued that story at One World Play Project, the idea remained with me.
Life is pretty wild and serendipitous. Three years ago – on February 16, 2017, to be exact – my friend Laurel sent me a message on Instagram with a photo of the coziest-looking dome in Chilean Patagonia. “Apparently, this is in Chile,” she wrote. “I think we should try to find it when I come visit you!”
“OMG! Yes! How soon can you get here?” I responded.
We chatted a little about dates and travel plans and left it at that. Nothing really came of it that year.
Then, in December 2017, my story with Torres del Paine began, as I spent five days hiking and camping the “W” with my friend Lindsay. I’ve since written about that experience for Stay Wild Magazine and Osprey.
There’s magic in the park. I firmly believe that. Be it the water, the calafate berries, the larger-than-life mountains, the ever-changing [and dramatic and intense] weather or something else altogether, there is something to Torres del Paine.
The park, and southern Patagonia, seem to always leave me wanting more. More time. More moments of connection. More adventures. Just more.
This year has been a big one, so to speak, in countless ways — and it’s not over yet. It’s a year full of some of the most difficult days of my life, and those of my family, and simultaneously a year of abundance and blessings. I fully feel the second part of that statement. God has shown up time and again this year, and I’m encouraged by the challenges and the victories because I see how He is there in all of it. He is a good, good God. Every day, I’m learning more and more that so much of life truly is about our perspective, the way we choose to see and respond to what’s in front of us — no matter who or what we believe in.
Shortly after Christmas last year, my dad was hospitalized. On January 3, 2019, he was diagnosed with B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The doctor who broke the news to us, while kind, was vague in terms of my dad’s chances of beating this and how long he might have to live. We learned a week or so later that, were he to continue without treatment, the cancer would likely take his life in 4-6 weeks.
So once an abscess in my dad’s intestine was treated — another story altogether, one where I also 100 percent see God’s hands at work — he started a month of inpatient chemotherapy at University of Michigan Hospital. Another round of outpatient chemo followed in March. In April, we learned my dad had several strong matches for a bone marrow transplant, and at the end of April, he successfully received a bone marrow transplant from a 20-something-year-old man in Germany. While the transplant was successful, my dad was not in the clear, and I would argue that May and June — though still full of blessings — were his toughest months and the most challenging for all of us. I know they were for me.
“Home is not a place; it’s a feeling.” – Cecelia Ahern
I feel fortunate to have found and known—and continue to find and know—home, a sense of home, in places around the world and among people around the world. I often find the people are more important to that feeling than the place itself. Though the two in combination, when the feeling is right, are quite a powerful force.
Of the places I’ve lived and traveled, Michigan and Patagonia carry the greatest feelings of home for me.
There’s seemingly always been a pull between here and there. But when I was unexpectedly back in Michigan in January and February and then again in May and June, that pull on my heart was different. It felt stronger in that I could more clearly see the value I find and feel in each place, if that makes sense. I could more clearly see what each place holds for me.
It was also different in that I wouldn’t describe this pull as a tug of war. It’s a gentle pull. There’s a respect between these two places that occupy my heart. They each carry meaning and importance. They each carry a significant part of me.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to sit down and just write in recent months. To write about how I’m feeling. To write about the mountain tops and valleys of life and everything in between. To write about my family. To write about the pull that I feel between here and there — at a time when “here” was Michigan and “there” was Patagonia. That pull is the same, but “here” is once again Patagonia and “there” is now Michigan.
I feel as though the wind has been knocked out of me in recent months. I feel as though life is a bit of a blur these days, and I’m having a tough time bringing everything into focus. I feel as though I’ve been running on autopilot — I can’t imagine how my mom, or my dad and sister, must be feeling — trying my best to support, take care of and be there for my family, those I love and myself.
I’ve felt dried up, void of emotions and words. At times, I’ve felt as though there’s nothing left for me to give to those I love or myself. I’ve felt numb.
The last 2-3 months could be a novel in and of themselves. I suppose all of our lives are that way to some extent. Each day carries so many ups and downs and details that are small but important.
I’m getting ahead of myself. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure where this story begins, but I think this is a place to start.