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Thursday, March 17, 2011

What's In A Name?

Above the Clouds clients taking a lunch break on trek on the Milke Danda ridge.

September 1980,

It was Day 5 of what was to be a one month trek from the outskirts of Kathmandu to Ilam, on Nepal’s eastern border with India.  I was trekking with my artist friend, Steve Lowe, fresh off the plane from New York on his first visit to Nepal. 

We would spend long periods of time walking the trail, enjoying the sights and sounds all around us, with sparse conversation.  That morning, after more than an hour of silence, my usually low-key friend suddenly exclaimed, “That’s it!!!”  After my surprise abated, I asked, “That’s what??” 

“I’ve been wondering what feels so different about Nepal from any place I’ve been before, and I just figured it out.  I’ve got my feet on the ground, and I’m looking down at the clouds,” he declared.  Having already logged several thousand miles around Nepal in the previous eight years, I didn’t think too much about his comment, but stored it away in long term memory. 

A year and a half later I was running my own photo studio in Kathmandu, and managing a trekking business for a Nepali entrepreneur.  Now married, and about to become a father, my wife and I decided to move to the US to start our own trekking company.  In those final days of residence in Kathmandu, I began to toss prospective names for the company around in my head.  Every major Himalayan peak in Nepal had already been claimed by one company or another.  Virtually every name that came to mind was rejected almost immediately.  I was stumped.

And then I remembered Steve’s ahah moment from 18 months prior, and the more I bounced it around in my head, the more I liked it.  It wasn’t dry or boring, or limiting (why would anyone go trekking in Patagonia with a company named after a Himalayan peak?).  Nor did it sound too business-like.  It didn’t address the nuts and bolts of the experience, but rather the emotional and spiritual essence of the experience.  By the time our plane landed in Boston a week later, I knew we had the right moniker.  And 30 years later, many of our trekkers have sent us notes or told us in person how much they liked our name, and had a good impression of our company just from hearing our name.  Sometimes inspiration comes from an unexpected source, and you just have to be open to hear it.

~Steve Conlon
Above the Clouds

Above the Clouds
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Two Young Nepali Girls, All Smiles.

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