Nyah’s Journey in Nepal
In June 2018, 12 high schools students and 4 No Barriers Ambassadors with physical and invisible disabilities embarked on a two-week expedition in Nepal designed to break through perceived barriers and grow as a team.
Nyah, 17, grew up in the mountains of Colorado. She struggles with anxiety and depression, a challenge that not many people can see. On the Nepal expedition, Nyah’s goal was to develop her confidence and bravery, to better believe in herself and be able to find the courage to handle anything that comes her way.
Overcoming Obstacles and Making New Discoveries
It’s almost impossible to feel fully-prepared when you’re traveling halfway around the world, especially if it’s your first big adventure. Between the jet lag and culture shock, it can be a bit overwhelming. But for Nyah, the most challenging obstacle she had to overcome was not being afraid to be herself among a group of total strangers.
“I wasn’t prepared for illness while traveling to Nepal. I also wasn’t prepared for such positive reactions from people for me just being me,” Nyah recalled.
The welcoming and supportive response she received from her fellow explorers — her rope team — helped Nyah get through what would have otherwise been a stressful and uncomfortable experience.
“When I got very very sick on the trip, I had a huge anxiety attack and I was just ready to go home. I was crying and freaking out, but then I looked in my journal and found the poem I had written for a friend who passed at the beginning of this year. It made me think of all the advice I’ve ever gotten and given and all the help and care I’ve shown for people. I decided I couldn’t leave the trip because I would be letting everyone else down and I’d be letting myself down. I knew that I needed to stay because I was going to discover so much. So that night during dinner, I opened up to the team about my past.”
Ultimately, she shared things about herself with the team, things she never expected to say, and they never expected to hear.
“As days progressed, I shared more and more and I didn’t expect how well things would go and how some little things can change you so extremely.”
Learning a New Language
During the Nepal expedition, Nyah was able to practice and learn some sign language.
“We went to the school for the deaf and I knew very, very little—only the letters of my name—but over the course of the expedition, I learned so much more,” she explained.
She said communicating with the Nepali locals often involved a blend of sign language, body language, and English words.
“Now when I talk to someone who is deaf or when I want to look back on my experience I realize I never thought I’d know sign language, but here I am—I’m helping other people.”
Understanding and Appreciating Another Culture
“One fact about Nepal that I learned is that by the Buddhism religion in Nepal, the girls and the boys both have different schooling situations and on certain days in the monasteries, they do certain worships where the boys go practice in front of the Buddha as schooling,” she observed.
Nyah also saw first-hand many of the challenges that people in the Nepal face, especially young children, due to poverty, homelessness, and lack of education and medical needs.
“I was really surprised when we went to the school for the deaf and you could tell that that’s also where the students lived. I was shocked and very surprised to learn many of those children are abandoned.”
Nyah said she’d like to return to Nepal and explore more of the ancient sites (and ideally reunite with her rope team companions).
Advice for Fellow Travelers
Despite her past traumas, Nyah holds tight to a positive outlook.
Her advice is this: “Don’t let anything—I mean anything—get in your way or tear you down or separate you from what you love or tell you that you can’t.”
She says when she went to Nepal, she expected it to just be a trip. In the end, it was an adventure full of overcoming barriers, shared with new friends.
“I wasn’t expecting to open up about myself, but because I did, I was able to go home being stronger, happier, and more confident.”
“If I could recommend one thing for anyone going to such places, I’d say no matter what disability or barrier you have, don’t be afraid to say ‘yes’ and don’t say ‘I can’t’ because I know you can—you can do anything. That’s why I showed my scars, my god-awful scars, to all the strangers around me. That little thing made me so much stronger than I ever thought I was.“
“I went to the other side of the world and traveled so far into a country, seeing different places and meeting new people. I even felt like when we met those people, we were an inspiration to them. I was fascinated to see how different Nepal is compared to where we live. It really spoke to me.”Nyah
Returning Home with a New Family
Nyah says the experience taught her the importance of teamwork and sticking together no matter what.
“We encountered so many situations where if one person wasn’t there, the whole team just would’ve fallen apart. We were just like a real rope team. I learned that there really is such a thing as family that really does love you and care for you.”
See all the photos, stories, and memorable moments from the expedition team.