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Nashville to Nepal, Vol. 3: The Company

This is where the idea happened. Walking trail at Burns Park.

(Continued from Nashville to Nepal: Vol. 2, The Plan)

August passed into September which eased into October. Being an unemployed person was, frankly, unbelievably fun. I cooked for the family almost every night, gleefully making meals by watching those little instructional videos you see on Facebook.

Sometimes people other than me actually ate those meals, too, which was an added bonus.

I was home every afternoon to greet the kids as they meandered down our wooded street from the bus stop. In a moment, the atmosphere of our house would change from that of a church to a Saturday night pool hall. From my upstairs office, I could listen to the cacophony of clattering snack plates, beeping microwave ovens, and the general ball-busting, post-school conversations between three siblings in the kitchen below. It was something I had missed for 13 years.

I stayed busier than I would’ve guessed. My days were consumed with job applications, freelance writing gigs, and the home projects that I had been ignoring for years, like picking up that candy wrapper that had been in the same spot on the floor since 2015.

Almost every day, I would either walk the up-and-down streets of my neighborhood or go walk laps at our local park, my first attempts at “training” for our upcoming adventure in Nepal. The thought of the Everest Base Camp trek nagged at me constantly and I would share it with anyone who would listen.

“Guess where Holly and I are going next spring?” I would say to startled strangers in the check-out line at the grocery store as I affected a Barney Fife-type demeanor. “Everest Base Camp. Walking to it. Not climbing the mountain or anything. We’re not that crazy! But yeah, we’re heading over to Nepal.”

Some of these conversations would predictably end with the person saying, “Good for you, sir,” and moving away quickly with their groceries or child, to which I would wave and shout “Namaste, my good friend!”

But in many cases — usually when I was speaking with someone I actually knew — the person would respond with enthusiasm. “Holy cow, that’s awesome! I want to do that! How much does it cost?”

It’s funny how seemingly obvious ideas sometimes must germinate slowly, taking their own sweet time before revealing themselves to a comparably inferior brain like mine. It was mid-October as I walked around Burns Park in Kingston Springs when this particular idea decided I was ready to receive it. It popped into my head with an audible DING!

Dawa has a young trekking company in Nepal but no marketing experience here in America. I have a vast amount of marketing experience, but no trekking company in Nepal. Nor do I have a job in America. A lot of people we talk to about Nepal seem to want to go with us. There’s a vibrant community of outdoor enthusiasts in Middle Tennessee. Why not partner with Dawa and start our own trekking company?

My first reaction to this idea was, “Where did that audible DING come from?” My second reaction was, “Johnson, you’ve got to be out of your mind. What do you know about trekking and Nepal and all that? You’re not qualified to run a trekking company!”

But it was too late. The idea had already embedded itself into my head like some insidious, tentacled alien from a horror movie. It wasn’t my own consciousness making me speak and move any more, it was the alien’s. I dutifully walked back to my truck and called Holly.

“OK, I just had an interesting idea,” I began, and related my idea to my shocked wife. Apparently, the alien also possessed Jedi Mind Trick capabilities, and before I knew it, Holly was agreeing with me that this was a great plan and we should do it. I remember distinctly that her voice sounded kind of strange, as if it was a robotic version of herself speaking. Weird.

This launched a frenzy of online research at the Johnson house. Every available hour over the next two months was consumed with study of other trekking company websites and viewing of YouTube videos. Instead of watching “Our Shows” every night after dinner, Holly and I would sit in the living room, TV off, and discuss our plan. We peppered Dawa with questions over text: How much does that trek cost? What’s the difference between a guide and a leader? Who owns the yaks? How many hours is the flight? When do you pay for the tea house rooms? What are the trekking seasons? Are yaks mean?

One day in early January, we spent an entire afternoon batting around names for our company. Should it appeal only to the Nashville market? Should it be generic or quirky? Modern or vintage? We made a list of possibilities and debated them for hours until Hobnail Trekking Co. emerged as the victor. Within hours, I had registered the domain and had created a simple website.

There it was. We had birthed a company. We quietly stepped back and viewed the computer screen from a distance, the way you view your Christmas lights from the street after you first put them up. Then we looked at each other in panic.

Oh, crap. Now what?

(To be continued…)

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3 Responses to “Nashville to Nepal, Vol. 3: The Company”

  1. Faith Kuhn says:

    Your crossfit post got me following you. Your journey towards Nepal got me to your website. I’m looking forward to what’s next.

    • Mark Johnson says:

      Well, that makes two of us, Faith! This is a crazy life sometimes. I’m so happy, though, that you’ve stuck with me through this new direction. I think I’m going to have a lot of interesting stuff to write about!

  2. K Helmers says:

    Namaste, Tallman!! So glad you finally picked up that candy wrapper–you’re an inspiration!! And sign me up for Hobnail 2019 . . .

Let me hear from you!

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