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  • Writer's pictureGreg

Who Will Accompany You?

"You're the most interesting person in the world!" my friend Nic gushed. I laughed hard. "You think so? Well, then you obviously don't know about Meg Stafford and her daughters." Stafford's novel approach to the family travel memoir in Who Will Accompany You? is both refreshing and delightful to read. The engaging travel tales alone make for a wonderful book, but, when combined with a touching mother-daughters tale of love and adventure, it's simply irresistible. Here's an excerpt. Enjoy! - g

Breathing deeply, I slowly turned, taking in the depth of this valley tucked into a bowl of the Himalayas. We were on day four of our trek to the Annapurna Base Camp. There were no more vehicles to be seen, nor even donkeys or horses laden with provisions.

I felt relaxed and energized at the same time The panorama continued to evolve, revealing frosted peaks even as we remained comfortable in pants and T-shirts. I had heard so many warnings about the cold and snow, but I hadn’t thought about how warm it could be (probably in the high seventies and eighties at midday at this point, dropping into the forties or perhaps fifties at night). I had never considered how comfortable sandals or flip-flops might have been to wear off the trail.

The sun highlighted some tiny white flowers of early spring. We had not seen rain since the beginning of our trek, and the twigs and dried grass crackled in response to our quick but measured steps.

Lila was in the lead, carefully calibrating a steady but not exhausting pace. We were not hurried, as he had planned our daily walks with an eye toward arriving at each milestone on time. Amar, our porter, had long since passed this spectacular vista, his youthful strength speeding him ahead, even with the bulk of our belongings tied up with his own.

I began to hear a faint musical tune, which I didn’t recognize until I sensed a pattern. My phone! Jwalant had given me a cell phone in Kathmandu in case we needed to get in touch. I raced to answer it.

“Hello?” I breathed.

Jwalant’s distance voice asked, “Is that Meg or Kate?”

“It’s Meg!” I shouted. The signal cut out abruptly. I called back, but the call cut out again. We repeated the same frustrating process. Shiiiit!

There was nothing I could do, but I felt queasy and unnerved. I knew Kate would solve any problems on her own before asking for help. Still, I was unaccustomed to being so completely unavailable to my family and I struggled to calm myself.

I worked to keep my heart rate under control as we walked on. I was no longer noticing the stunning vista around me.

A few minutes later, the clear ringtone of Lila’s phone pierced the air. After a moment, he handed it to me.

Jwalant’s voice said, “Don’t worry. Not a big problem. We just need a copy of the other side of Kate’s student ID for her visa to Bhutan.”

I blew out my breath. This was a minor stumbling block, not a tragedy.

That evening, I was able to secure a few minutes with a functioning computer, a task that required a hike from our lodge. It was worth the twenty-minute jaunt in each direction, even after seven hours of hiking.

“You sure jumped into Mama Bear mode,” Lisa commented.

“Wouldn’t you, if you thought your daughter was in some kind of trouble?” I countered.

Her voice was soft “I’m not criticizing, just noticing.”

I realized I was being defensive. Worry had been so far from my mind that it had caught me off guard.

I thought the call might leave me on edge, but in fact it renewed my confidence in my family and the resourcefulness of those around us. I relaxed again into the semi-meditative state that our trek inspired.

I realized that I could happily take my place in this universe—both vast and intimate enough to connect with those close to me—no matter the time and space between us.

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