Heather O'Neal

I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan where I live today.

 

In 1986 while a student at the University of Wisconsin, I spent my Junior Year Abroad in Kathmandu, Nepal.  I fell in love with the Nepalese people, the city of Kathmandu, the culture, the mountains and all aspects of my new home there.  I did not want to return to the USA - but I did - in order to complete my education.  I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1989 with degrees in English and South Asian Studies.

While living in Kathmandu that year, I kept a detailed journal, now self-published as:  Writes of Passage Through Nepal.

 

In hopes of returning to Nepal I applied to the Peace Corps in 1990, just after the fall of the Iron Curtain.  I was sent to Hungary where I spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching English and learning Hungarian in the northern town of Salgótarján.  After my service in 1992, I enrolled in the Returned Peace Corps Fellows Program, a scholarship, where I taught English as a second Language for four years at a middle school on the border of Mexico - also while completing a Masters Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso.

 

In hopes of returning to Nepal and teaching at the American school in Kathmandu, I instead ended up spending one year learning Spanish and teaching English at the American School of Madrid in Spain in 1997.  The next year I quit my job so I could finally travel back to Nepal.

 

In 2000 I started my company, Of Global Interest LLC Adventure Travel.  Over the last many years, I have organized and led several tours to Nepal, mostly trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp at 17,600 ft, and including one Mt. Everest expedition in 2002.  While at Base Camp I listened over the radio as our climber, Sean Swarner, became the first cancer survivor to climb Mt. Everest.

 

As part of my adventure travel business, I had a bed and breakfast in my home in Ann Arbor from 1999 to 2011, The Trekkers Lodge.  I also sold imports from Nepal in my garage, mainly at Christmas time when it was snowy and cold.  I called my store The Himalayan Bazaar in my Garage.

In 2011, after many years working with my Nepalese business partner (a two-time Everest climber!),  Pem Dorjee Sherpa, we joined forces in Ann Arbor, Michigan and opened The Himalayan Bazaar on Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor.  Although still involved - I left the store in 2019 to pursue other creative projects, including my art (drawing and photography), and typing up 30+ years of hand-written travel journals.  Pem has since opened a Nepalese restaurant in Ann Arbor, Everest Sherpa Restaurant.  We continue to work together to promote Nepal and educate about the world and adventure travel!

 

In 2012, my B&B became The Himalayan Lodge, a vacation rental home near downtown Ann Arbor.  I have been hosting guests in my home 8 years longer than Airbnb!  I continue to share my house with travelers and occasionally host events, including movie nights, singing bowl concerts, Himalayan Festivals and Wellness Retreats. I enjoy sharing my growing collection of singing bowls, which create relaxing vibrations - a sound-bath or chakra tuneup - an easy form of meditation.

 

In addition to hosting guests, guiding tours, selling imports, sharing my art, photography and singing bowls, I have been the Bell Lady (Chime Master) at Kerrytown Market and Shops since the bell tower was built in 2000.  I facilitate the Kerrytown Chime, a world-class, 7-ton instrument that is open for the public to play!  Our weekly concerts are Wednesdays and Fridays at noon and Saturdays at 10:30am.  There are over 200 songs written out by number from which to choose. The instrument is a set of 17 bells in a small clock tower.  The largest bell is 500 pounds and can be heard up to 3-4 blocks away!  Playing the bells at Kerrytown is free, easy and fun for all ages.

 

In 2017 I became the 'Kerrytown Ambassador' at Kerrytown Market and Shops.  I help with the occasional tour group, showing people around and offer historic tours of Kerrytown and its many interesting features, including the Chime Stand - which can be opened anytime for visitors.  I plan and organize a few annual events such as a Leprechaun Parade in March, Valentines Card Making Workshop in February and a frightfully fun Halloween Parade in October.

Most proudly, I am a mom!  I live in Ann Arbor with my wonderful husband and our amazing son (9)!  Our dog, Khumbu, was born in Lukla in Nepal at 9,500 feet.  As a puppy he came home with me to Michigan (five flights!) in 2009.  We later acquired another rescue dog with a Spanish name, Paquito, who came to us from a shelter in Chicago by way of Sasha Farm in Manchester, Michigan.

Today I continue to travel - when I can.  Although it's hard to leave my family, they are supportive of my need to wander.  Traveling with my son is my greatest joy!  I am lucky to have seen and experienced so much of the world.  There is always more to explore.   

         Everest Base Camp April 2018                                    Machu Picchu, Peru April 2019 
Syambunath, Kathmandu, Nepal