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 Himalayas 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, 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 near the border of Mexico - while also completing a Masters Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso.

 

In hopes of teaching at the American School in Kathmandu, I attended an international job fair in California.  When I got there, I learned the representative from Nepal had canceled due to illness(!).  I ended up interviewing with six other international schools.  Each one offered me a job on the spot!  In 1997 I moved to Spain where I taught English as a Second Language at the American School of Madrid. Though I loved Spain, Madrid, my school and my students, my heart was still in Nepal.  The following year, I quit my job, and with a friend, I finally went back to Kathmandu.

The capital city had changed so much since I had been there - 12 years earlier!  The town was nearly unrecognizable.  Walking through the streets, I easily became lost.  My quaint and quiet Kathmandu had become a busy, noisy, polluted place.  There was too much traffic.  The tourist area had doubled in size. The ancient traditions I had experienced in the 80s felt less important.  Now there were so many cars, busses and motorcycles.  All the new, modern amenities like computers and cell phones were distracting, even western clothing had taken over.

 

In order to keep up and keep current with the Nepal I knew in the 80s, in 2000 I started my company, Of Global Interest LLC Adventure Travel.  Over the last many years, I have shared my experience by organizing and leading several tours to Nepal, mostly trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp at 17,600 ft, and including one Mt. Everest expedition in 2002.  That year 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 travel business, I opened a (one room!) bed and breakfast in my home in Ann Arbor in 1999, 'The Trekkers Lodge' (8 years before Airbnb!)  I  met travelers from around the world - right in my living room - daily!  I also sold imports from Nepal in my garage, mainly at Christmas time when it was cold and snowy.  I called my store 'The Himalayan Bazaar in my Garage'.

In 2011, after many years working with my Nepalese business partner,  Pem Dorjee Sherpa (a two-time Everest climber!), we joined forces in Ann Arbor, Michigan and moved The Himalayan Bazaar to Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor.  Although still supportive - I left the store in 2019 to pursue other creative projects, including my art (drawings 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 adventure travel and Nepal and to educate about the world, its people, cultures and traditions!

In recent years, I've added Peru as a destination.  I work with well established tour operators in both Nepal and Peru who help me develop my itineraries and offer support so we can make the most of our travel time and travel dollars!

 

In 2012, my B&B became The Himalayan Lodge, a vacation rental home near downtown Ann Arbor.  I continue to share my house with guests and occasionally host events, including indoor and outdoor movie-nights, happy hours, singing bowl concerts, Himalayan Festivals and Wellness Retreats. I enjoy sharing the positive, healing vibrations of the singing bowls, a relaxing form of meditation.

 

In addition to hosting guests and leading tours, I have been the Bell Lady (Chime Master) at Kerrytown Market and Shops since 2000.  I manage the Kerrytown Chime, a world-class, 7-ton instrument, a small bell tower that is open for the public to play!  Our weekly concerts are Wednesdays and Fridays at noon and Saturdays at 10:30am.  Choose from over 200 songs written out by number.  It's easy, free and fun for all ages!  There are 17 bells in the tower; the largest is 700 pounds, the smallest is 35 pounds.  The Kerrytown Chime can be heard up to 3-4 blocks away!

 

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

Most proudly, I am a mom!  I live in Ann Arbor with my wonderful husband and our amazing son (10)!  Our dog, Khumbu, was born in Lukla in Nepal at 9,500 feet.  As a puppy in 2009 he came home with me to Michigan (five flights!).  We later acquired another rescue dog with a Spanish name, Paquito, who came to us from an overcrowded shelter in Chicago by way of Sasha Farm in Manchester, Michigan.

Today I continue to travel - when I can.  Although hard to leave my family, they are supportive!  Traveling with my son is my greatest joy!  I am lucky to have seen and experienced so much of the world.  And I know very well - there is so much more to explore.

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Kathmandu
Syambunath, Kathmandu, Nepal
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Nepal IMG_7470.jpeg
         Everest Base Camp April 2018                                Machu Picchu, Peru April 2019                                     Nepal 1986
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