We met in Nepal.
One morning, in the winter of 2010-2011, exactly nine years ago as of this month (December 2019), I woke up in a cold and damp hostel room in Thamel, downtown Kathmandu.
Despite its limited amenities, the place provided 24 hour security, a cozy inner court yard, and running water. In other words, more than sufficient.
Except this morning.
The toilet was broken.
As I stepped outside onto the second-floor courtyard walkway, I turned to my right to find another traveler squinting towards the sky. He seemed friendly and fit, and more importantly, not in a rush to go anywhere.
I decided to reach out.
“Hey. Is your toilet working?” I asked.
He turned with a smile and said something like “All yours my friend.”
This was my first encounter with my life-long friend and business partner-to-be, David.
Over the next 2 months we found ourselves meeting up frequently over coffee or whiskey, talking about our travels, the world and the amazing Nepali people and their history, all while taking turns working on the Sudoku puzzle in the morning paper.
David was intrigued to know that I, a dancer and guitar wielder, had totally immersed myself into the city's underground dance and music scene, practicing with the local B-boys and jamming with local legends that I had been so graciously introduced to.
I remember being surprised at his enthusiasm, fearlessness and generosity. Not only had he walked to Kathmandu from Europe, but he ended up living in and helping at a local orphanage on the outskirts of the city. I too visited every now and then and played and studied with the children and even had the honors of breaking bread.
We would walk with a few of them down to the local market and watch as the merchants cut up our catfish for dinner. We played road-side table tennis using sandals with the propane dispensary workers as they filled our tank, which we carried back straddling a scooter, three to a seat.
Towards the end of his stay, David took it upon himself to find a more suitable home for the children and their caretakers and even orchestrated the whole move.
Riding together on the back of an industrial sized pick up truck with the whole family, their entire belongings fitting into the dusty truck bed as we departed for their new abode, full of dreams and excitement, eyes glimmering with hope, and faces hallmarked with gratitude, I couldn’t help admiring the moment and wondered why and how we had all arrived here.
It was a crossroads for all of us.
We had been humbled, lost in the realization of a world bigger than our immediate surroundings.
A few weeks later after David had gone, recommencing his journey by heading to Tibet, I also found myself spending my last night at the orphanage.
They sent me off with a heartfelt ceremony and I walked out of Kathmandu with my backpack and guitar, headed for India.
Years later, on a three-month honeymoon in Europe, I had the chance to introduce my wife to David as he had recently arrived back home to Budapest after his four year journey.
We ended up staying with him for a month.
Fast-forward a few more years and I’m back in Japan—my home since high school—and I get a message from David who was now in Vietnam, inviting me to join his new project in contributing to saving the environment.
Somethings in life feel so set in stone and familiar it’s hard to imagine that reality ever not being the case.
Other times, life can feel so fleeting and illusionary, so out of your control that you freeze in its void.
Whatever take on life your day presents to you, no matter how certain or uncertain you are, no matter how dusty your ride might be, you always have that guiding smile of gratitude.
Who knows where our endeavors will take us.
If we knew, the jig would be up.