I picked up Basa Village Foundation's progenitor, Jeff Rasley's, new book You Have to Get Lost Before You Can Be Found (available at Amazon, both in Kindle and paperback). I started reading it last week and am already close to being done, and I have to say, if you are even remotely wondering why a retired lawyer from Indiana got the inspiration and drive to start a nonprofit serving a small rural community in Nepal - thousands of miles away - this is a great read for you. I could sum up the poignant introspection, the harrowing adventures and the falling in love with a kind and loving people, yet I will let this summary do the job:
"Jeff Rasley’s latest book is an adventure travelogue through the Himalayan region in prose and photos. This memoir traces his transition from an adventurous trekker and mountain climber to a committed “philanthro-trekker”. The flatlander from Indiana fell in love with the Nepal Himalayas trekking the Mt. Everest Base Camp Trail in 1995 after his wife told him to “go take a hike” as therapy for a mid-life crisis. He came back home but left again to learn mountaineering skills in Ladakh, India, from one of America’s greatest mountain climbers.
After several Himalayan expeditions and resolution of the mid-life crisis Jeff began leading trekking and mountaineering expeditions in Nepal. He returned to the Himalayas fourteen times in trekking and climbing expeditions from the Indian border with Pakistani Kashmir to Tibet and throughout Nepal. Over time the meaning Jeff found in the Himalayas went beyond mere adventuring to a deeper connection with the local cultures and communities. He closely studied the Tibetan-Buddhist culture of the Sherpas. But it was with the lesser known Rai people of Basa that Jeff developed a special relationship. The subsistence farmers in that remote Himalayan village turned him on to a simpler way of life, agnostic animism and super environmentalism.
Jeff’s relationship with Basa Village began through his friendship with Niru Rai, the owner of a mountain-adventure company based in Kathmandu. Niru, who grew up in Basa, staffed expeditions Jeff organized with Basa villagers. Their friendship deepened into a partnership to do “culturally sensitive development” in the Basa area of Nepal. They created sister foundations in the US and Nepal and have worked together on numerous development projects since 2007.
Age and injuries, and the hassles of international travel, have probably sidelined Jeff from anymore Himalayan adventures, but his work with the Basa Village Foundations continues. In this loving farewell he shares experiences of figuratively and literally being lost in the Himalayas and finding a new purpose in life. Along the way he encountered members of Sir Edmund Hillary’s family, Buddhist lamas, Hindu gurus, yaks, yetis, the highest mountains in the world and mountaineers who climbed them. His photos capture iridescent peaks, vast and melting glaciers, gigantic river gorges, Hindu and Buddhist artwork, temples, monasteries, and festivals, and people of many different ethnic-tribal-groups in the Himalayan region. The memoir includes tales of a deadly avalanche, frostbitten toes, a helicopter crash, snow leopard’s footprints, a murder-suicide, chanting monks, a dancing shaman, and becoming “dhai” (big brother) to the strongest and sweetest people on earth.
The book is a narrative of heart-wrenching suffering, leavened with wry humor, intertwined with poignant personal relations and breathtaking beauty."
I highly recommend reading You Have to Get Lost Before You Can Be Found. Not only does it provide an account of Jeff's adventures, he also includes a great narrative of the history of mountain climbing and trekking in the region, the political unrest that has shaped the industry and compelling reasons why we should (literally and figuratively) tread lightly when visiting Nepal.