Heather O'Neal

I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan where I still find myself 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 home 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.  It was just after the fall of the Iron Curtain, and in 1990 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.  In 1992, I was then 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 - while also completing a Masters Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso.

 

In hopes of returning to Nepal and teaching at a 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.  Our climber, Sean Swarner, was successful and became the first cancer survivor to climb Mt. Everest.  That was an exciting year!

 

As part of my adventure travel business, I operated 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 during Christmas time, which I called The Himalayan Bazaar in my Garage.

In 2011, after many years working with my Nepalese business partner (and 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 begin other creative endeavors.  Pem has since opened a Nepalese restaurant in Ann Arbor, Everest Sherpa Restaurant.  We continue to work together to promote Nepal, global education and adventure travel!

 

In 2012, my B&B became The Himalayan Lodge, a vacation rental home near downtown Ann Arbor.  I began hosting guests in my home about 8 years before Airbnb!  I continue to share my house with travelers and occasionally host events, including Himalayan Festivals and Wellness Retreats. I enjoy sharing my growing collection of bells and singing bowls, which as a performance creates calming, soothing, relaxing vibrations - a virtual sound-bath - a chakra tuneup!

 

I am also, most proudly, a mom!  I live in Ann Arbor with my wonderful husband and our amazing son (8)!  Our dog was born in Lukla in Nepal.  He came home to Michigan with me in 2009.  We acquired another rescue dog who we think is from Mexico.  We also have two kitty cats who were found in an old barn in Ohio.

In addition to hosting guests, guiding tours, selling imports, sharing my art, photography and singing bowls, I have been the Bell Lady or Chime Master at Kerrytown Market and Shops since the 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 100 songs by number to choose from. The instrument is a set of 17 bells in a 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 and fun for all ages!

 

In 2017 I became the 'Kerrytown Ambassador' at Kerrytown Market and Shops.  I help with tour groups, showing people around and tours of Kerrytown.  I can open the Chime Stand anytime, and I plan and organize a few annual events such as the Leprechaun Parade in March, Valentines Card Making Workshop in February and a Frightfully Fun Parade in October!

 

Today I continue to travel far and wide - when I can.  Although hard to leave home, my family is supportive of my wanderlust.  Traveling with my son is my greatest joy!  I am lucky to have seen so much of the world.  There is always more to explore.   

         Everest Base Camp April 2018                                    Machu Picchu, Peru April 2019