Eli Warriner visited Nepal at the urging of  a family friend, traveled to India, too

Young adults often experience a sense of independence while living on a college campus halfway across the country or jumping into the workforce. But for 21-year-old Eli Warriner, discovering independence came in the form of a solo trip overseas for one month, without a travel companion, without any knowledge of the language and without any idea just how difficult a journey lay ahead of him.

“I’ve traveled the country and Europe with my family, but this was the first time that I traveled solo,” said Warriner, a Woodstock resident.

Just as his semester at McHenry County College wrapped up in May, the college sophomore set off across the ocean, landing at Katmandu, Nepal, and eventually making his way to India.

This once-in-a-lifetime trip was set in motion several years ago by a family friend in Nepal.

“He kept asking me to visit,” Warriner said.

Warriner had always wanted to travel to Nepal, but he hadn’t been ready to take that step. The hesitation ended this summer.

Eli Warriner

“He asked me again, and, after I grappled with the idea for awhile, I decided to go,” Warriner said. He explained his parents were supportive of his decision. “My dad was excited for me to explore. My mom was a little more cautious, but she also was excited for me.”

For one week, Warriner hiked through the rough, mountainous terrain. He took along his journal during the cathartic trek.

“From the day I decided to go to the day I left was one week. I met our family friend [in Katmandu], but three days later, I took an 11-hour bus ride to begin a seven-day trek through the Himalayan Mountains with a 35-lb. backpack,” Warriner said. “… It was the most physically difficult thing I’ve ever done, I think, but it gave me a tremendous sense of accomplishment to have reached the highest point – 12,000 feet – and to look out over the country. It was pretty incredible to have done that.”

That trek inspired confidence for him to tackle the next phase of his trip: taking on the streets and sights of India. Without knowledge of the language or a travel companion, Warriner truly was on his own. He hadn’t purchased a compatible SIM card, but he was able to use the spotty Wi-Fi available to communicate with his family through Facebook. He saw the Taj Mahal, went on a camel safari and explored the country on his own.“It was an enlightening experience – just me, without anyone to reflect on the trip with or anyone to share the memories with, I realized that I had made my own memories apart from my family, apart from my best friends,” he said.

Warriner said he was amazed by how well he, a total tourist, was treated on his trip.

“This trip really gave me a sense of humanity. … I had run out of money and hotel keepers went out of their way to take me to ATMs or helped me out by letting me pay what I could. It was incredible how much they helped a stranger,” he said.

“One thing that struck me was how content people were. The kids in Nepal were thankful to be with their families after the large earthquake devastated the area in 2015. They were thankful for what they had – everyone was. It was definitely eye-opening,” Warriner said. “… I realized how much there is to see and learn all over the world. I hope to include more travel in my future.”

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