A Himalayan Journey Born as a Dream

Living in her native India, Susan Jagannath fell in love at first sight. She was just 16. But she would have to wait until she was in her 60s to realize her dream, a closeup view of the object of her affection.

In Chasing Himalayan Dreams, Jagannath describes her journey on the Singalila Ridge Trek along the Nepal-India border to Sandakphu, where she gazes across 30 miles of blue sky to Kanchenjunga, the sacred mountain. On the 38-mile guided walk, she travels through villages, soaking up local culture.

The peak she first glimpsed at 16 is not just any mountain. Billed as the world’s tallest until 1852, Kanchenjunga elevation is 28,169 feet. It resides among four of the tallest peaks, including Mt. Everest. And Kanchenjunga has never been summited. By tradition and out of respect for its sacred designation, climbers stop short of its tallest point.

Her book is a quick, easy page-turner. I celebrated when the author, who lives in Australia, climbed to the viewpoint at Sandakphu, at an altitude of 12,100 feet. I had my fingers crossed that clouds would not stand between her and her mountain. If they had, I think Susan Jagannath would not have quit her dream to get a clear look at her first love.

UCSB: What Is a University?

A former roommate’s note sent me back to my UCSB La Cumbre yearbook, where I rediscovered my published essay next to a photograph of me at 20 years old.

Would these words resonate in 2021?

Ideally the University is an institution of higher learning, a place where students expand their horizons into the realms of discipline and intellectualism. To reach this peak, it requires listening attentively to lectures, cramming books into your mind and getting rid of emotion that might make you identifiable with ordinary people.

The University carries on the American capitalistic tradition of instilling the sense of competition in all its subjects in order that the country reach new highs in technological advancement. But what is all this worth in a world filled with hate, fear and hunger?

In my view, the University is an extremely valuable part of our world, but not in these ways. It is a place where we can learn to understand people, not only the type we identify with or like, but also people we might otherwise condemn.

We study different cultures, political systems and individuals and through this we gain an understanding of the world in its present state. This is the basis for revision–we cannot bring about effective change without understanding what we want to change.

But perhaps the most valuable part of life in the University is the constant contact with people and the opportunity for involvement in a variety of experiences. This is the University–a place where books and classes play a secondary role to people meeting and enjoying each other.

My generation, which came of age during the tumultuous late 1960s, vowed to change the world. How did we do?

Camino Sunrise: Thank You, Readers!

I am grateful for two reviews of Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows that arrived this week via Amazon. Also, I am thankful for my wife Sue’s ink-and-watercolor art. There is rarely a shortage of signs on Spain’s Camino de Santiago. To everyone who has shared our journey: Thank you!

From the United Kingdom: “While reading this book I was transported to the Camino. The descriptions of the people, difficulties and triumphs are so vivid and told with humour and insight. I got totally engrossed in it and could imagine myself walking with the author and his wife. They would be such entertaining companions. Great read.”

From the USA: “I’ve lived vicariously for years reading others’ adventures hiking the Camino. This book was my favorite! Down to earth, funny, moving, heartfelt, loved it, felt like I was taking the journey along with the author. I would definitely read other books he writes.”

Our adventures on Scotland’s West Highland Way, the Alps’ Tour du Mont Blanc, Italy’s Way of St. Francis, and England’s South West Coast Path are getting closer to publication. Stay tuned!

Chasing Dreams in a VW Bus

In 1972, Jerry Steimel graduated college, jumped in a VW Beetle with his lifelong friend, and set out to live his dream, a cross-country trip to California. But his VW Bug had other ideas, quickly ending the trip with mechanical breakdown.

Steimel’s dream wasn’t deterred. Forty-five years later, he jumped in another Volkswagen, a 1973 air-cooled van, and set out from his home in Massachusetts for another try, this time solo. But Jerry Steimel hardly traveled alone.

In Chasing Zorba: A Journey of Self-Discovery in a VW Bus, he is guided by author Nikos Kazantzakis and his book, Report to Greco, whose life lessons begin each chapter. He names his van Zorba after Kazantzakis’ book Zorba the Greek. Steimel’s goal: California. And so much more.

Some call his plan lunacy. But Steimel is out to discover comfort in taking risks rather than living as if he is just waiting to die. He doesn’t hurry, neither in his writing nor his driving, and his literary and physical journeys are a meander. But, in the end, the book rushes up and grabs readers before leaving them with memories anchored in what it means to live life to its fullest.

Steimel goes to great lengths to find places, like the West Virginia site where four high school boys launched rockets and their lives to heights beyond their wildest dreams. It is the site of the film October Sky, which Steimel watched a dozen times. That figures, you see, because Jerry devoted 45 years to social work, lifting kids who needed an extra push.

Steimel weaves places and American history with the people he meets as he drives mostly back roads, having to stop more than now and then to take Zorba to mechanics for adjustments. The journey tests Steimel and Zorba in ways they could never have anticipated.

The author and his VW Bus still miss the turn of the key every morning. And I miss wondering what is around their next turn.