About 6 months ago I received a box of old letters. I put them in a drawer and it wasn’t until the other day that I opened them-up. I couldn’t believe they were all handwritten letters from friends and family who were corresponding with me while I was a college student, studying abroad in Nepal over 23 years ago.
The timing was so strange because just two weeks ago, I also celebrated the 15 year anniversary of starting Anna Beck. We had an opening party for our new showroom/design space that doubled as an anniversary celebration. I shared with everyone at the gathering a little bit about my journey and how it all started when I was a young bright eyed student who landed in Kathmandu, Nepal. Now here I am leafing through old letters from that very trip. I can’t help but think it was synchronicity. Did I mention I also found an old journal I had kept from that time as well? My jaw was on the floor as I was transported back in time with each letter and each entry.
I was 20 years old, attending Boston University. A friend of mine had done a year abroad outside of the school curriculum. My interest was peaked, so I set a meeting with the company who facilitated these programs. I sat down and the guy I was meeting with put a globe in front of me and said point anywhere. Intuitively I knew the world awaited me.
I pointed to Nepal because I remember seeing this picture of a beautiful field of poppies amidst the Himalayas a while back. And so began my love of travel and understanding of my deeper purpose.
Some very profound things happened during my time in Nepal that would shape my life, but it wasn’t until recently that this became super clear.
When I landed I was so moved by how connected, raw and colorful the Nepalese people were. There was a whole different flow to humanity by the way they lived and interacted that I could see from the minute I was driven through the streets of Kathmandu. Some may have thought it was chaos, but I saw magic.
I was one of 18 students from all over the US. We lived with local families, volunteered and worked for various internships.
I chose to volunteer at Mother Theresa’s Orphanage and to work with a local silversmith that was teaching jewelry making.
It was my first time volunteering for charity. All of the children at the orphanage had been abandoned because they suffered birth defects but the love and compassion from the staff and volunteers that I witnessed was life changing for me. It was quite possibly the first time I experienced first hand how being of service to others could change lives.
Nepal was transformative in more ways than one. It was the first time I felt totally like myself. There was this incredible freedom amongst the hustle and bustle and the local people’s joy was completely contagious. I was also moved by their generosity and how excited they were to meet me and so quickly invite me into their homes to meet their families. Not to mention the breathtaking views I was surrounded by.
I remember vividly one particular day when we drove for hours high into the Himalayas and the view was so unbelievably stunning that you couldn’t speak. The mountains were giant and magnificent, all you could do was sit on the cliff, stare and take it in.
As I was taking it all in, I peered down over a grassy plain and I saw these three beautiful children all quietly seated, shoulder to shoulder, just staring intently at the view. That was the moment I saw stillness for the first time and it was remarkable. I thought to myself, this is what true peace and happiness looks like. It was a magical day.
Another internship that I dove into included working side by side with a silversmith. I never thought of myself as a creative person, so jewelry making felt very much outside my comfort zone. I remember my teacher telling me to sketch what I wanted to make, so I did and I immediately fell in love with the idea that I could turn a sketch into a real piece. It wasn’t as easy as it looked, but a few weeks later those earrings I dreamt up had come to life and I could now wear them.
About five years after that trip to Nepal I landed in Bali and once again my journey continued as I met another man who was making beautiful handmade Balinese jewelry. I couldn’t resist the idea of designing a few pieces for myself, my friends and family and hence Anna Beck was born. It was in Bali that once again I learned the true gift of community and stillness.
That trip to Nepal changed my entire life.
As I have been thrust into nostalgia flipping through the pages of this journal and reading the letters from that time, I realize it is creativity and service that embody the heart of Anna Beck and who we are today.
So here I am at the age of 44, feeling as though I’m on the precipice of something new, all the while discovering that coming full circle the underlying theme has always been stillness and curiosity.
I am a seeker, it’s not about getting to the top for me, it’s about the journey. And this box of letters allowed me the space to slow down and appreciate every loving word that was written. Every memory and peace.
It inspired me to reach out to my loved ones and thank them for being in my life. I even reminded them of what they wrote to me and the overwhelming response was "I totally forgot about that time.”
Life is happening so quickly and it’s so different then what it was 20 years ago. We live through text and social media when years back we wrote letters and picked up the phone to hold conversations.
I now so appreciate my mom for emphasizing the importance of writing letters when I was a kid. I laugh aloud as I type that, but it’s so special when you get to look at those words years later and reflect on a time that shaped your life.
Did I mention at the end of my Nepal trip we went to that field of poppies that I immediately thought of when asked to point to where I wanted to go on that globe? Whenever anyone says imagine a peaceful place, I transport back to that field and go back to where it all began.
Becky (Designer, Founder)