The trip has been filled with inspirational moments that make your spirit and imagination soar. Imagine the passion and enduring loyalty that drove a grieving emperor to build a tomb to his beloved dead wife, embarking on a dream that took 22 years, employed 20,000 workers, and cost an unimaginable sum. Clad in shimmering white marble inlaid with precious stones, perfect in its symmetry, set off by fountains and gardens, it is breathtaking. Humbling yet exalting.
Another inspirational moment was sunrise in a boat on the Ganges River, joining the many faithful who make a pilgrimage to this sacred river seeking blessing or fulfillment of a wish. Along with others I lit a candle in a tiny flower boat and watched it dance along the current with the others, bearing our wishes out towards the sea.
A third inspiration came at sunrise again, on a flight out of Kathmandu over the legendary Mount Everest. Despite the persistent smog that plagues Asian cities, the sky over the Himalayas was a fierce, crisp blue, and the sun lit the white glacial peaks in perfect detail. Everest is but one of dozens of jagged, terrifying peaks around it, but its power lies in the human dreams that it has inspired. Cold and solitary, it still carries with it those legions of climbers who have dared to dream big, who've fought and triumphed and sometimes died on its rugged slopes.
There were many other touchingly inspirational moments as well. Watching a young rickshaw driver who couldn't have weighed 100 pounds, valiantly struggling to pedal his large charges around the markets. Watching young mothers trim the excess silk from the scarves and fabric bolts in the silk factory in Varanasi, sitting on the floor in a circle with their babies and toddlers by their side.
As Aline said in her Monday post, writing is about stepping into another person's shoes and imagining their world. Travel not only offers us other shoes, but other worlds and lives beyond our own. Not only will that enrich our writing, but our humanity as well. I will carry the inspiration of these moments with me for a long time.