Alone but not lonely in Nepal

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By Topaz Maitland 3rd Year, Engineering Design

Topaz Maitland shares her excitement of working in a new country, the journey it takes you on and the wonderfulness of having a new culture to embrace.

Three Spaniards, one Nepali, an Austrian and one Italian join me around the table. We share our stories while waiting for our dhal bhat, the national dish of Nepal. That morning, the seven of us had met for the first time at a chaotic bus stop in Kathmandu to embark upon a spontaneous weekend trek to a vista of the Himalayas.

Despite our different backgrounds, nationalities, mother tongues and ambitions - we share much in common. We all chose to work and live for an extended period of time, alone, in Kathmandu.

My companions are quietly self assured, an essential quality for this type of adventure. None of them hesitated to join an impromptu hiking trip with several strangers. Living alone in a wildly different culture means making friends quickly and recognising every opportunity for discovery. With uncertainty and new experiences the daily norm, anxiety over impulsive decisions or changing plans becomes something of the past.

I am spending this year at a small NGO, focusing on small hydropower turbines to provide power to remote off-grid communities.The organization runs projects to help communities sustainably develop, often via renewable energy projects. I create fluid dynamics simulations, assist with lab testing and final design modifications, while acting as a link to researchers back at UoB.

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Epigram / Topaz Maitland

Despite leaving behind my family, friends, culture, and a long term relationship, I already know that choosing to do this year of work experience has been the best decision of my life. In the busy bubble of university life, I found it very hard to juggle the workload and the strain of a long distance relationship. It wasn’t until I experienced a truly stress-free lifestyle out here that I realised how stressed I had been.

Here, I learned that to be alone is not to be lonely. Now that I am unafraid to leave everything I know behind, I am truly free to follow my ambition and interests wherever they may take me. Understanding the beauty of being content, alone, is the root of a deeper personal stability. With an ever-increasing number of mental health problems in our society, such stability is not to be underrated.

Contentment can also be found from living differently, which is a necessary part of living abroad. Although Western culture can offer luxuries such as washing machines and running hot water, it is riddled with pressures that are proving to be toxic for younger generations. The Nepalese lifestyle involves eating well, dressing colourfully and dancing often. During festival season, there is a Hindu festival almost every day. That’s not to say that Nepal is without its own problems - it is still a developing nation after all, but living in a such a way can dislodge the unhealthy habits of a Western routine.

Perhaps what we all need is to try living abroad. To challenge ourselves in such a way is to understand exactly how fearlessly we are capable of living. Such an abrupt disruption to the stress laden conveyor belt of Western life can lead us to new understandings of how to live life whilst enjoying it.

Around the table, similar such understandings are expressed. All of us have found, to our surprise, that we have no regrets about coming out here. Our dhal bhat arrives. It is delicious.

Featured Image: Epigram / Topaz Maitland


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