Immersion in Nepal: How to go of the beaten path in the “Roof of the World”
Nepal, commonly called the “Roof of the World,” lies nestled between the worlds highest mountain range, the Himalayas, to the north and the humid jungles of India to the south. Known as one of the most popular mountaineering, trekking and climbing destinations in the world, Nepal brings many western visitors here every year during the peak trekking months.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, the amount of tourists that find their way to Nepal every year is growing and last year exceeded 700,000 people. With the tourist influx increasing, it is becoming more and more popular to find the untouched and authentic experiences that the ancient kingdom of Nepal can give.
Here are some tips for going off the beaten path according to locals and expats living in Nepal:
Get out of dodge: Kathmandu valley, containing more than 2.5 million people can feel claustrophobic at times. Get outside the valley, try trekking in regions that aren’t as populated and attract less tourists. You’ll find the pace of life is a lot slower when you leave the valley. Try volunteering your time on a farm during harvest season, help the locals with building projects, or learn how to cook Nepali food. Experiencing rural life will give you an unforgettable impression of how Nepal used to be.
Look for the back streets: Where do the locals go? Nepalis are very open and love to show foreigners their culture, sometimes all you have to do is ask where the best local spots are. A lot of times the best places aren’t always in plain sight, so take the time to search and you’ll be rewarded with some hidden gems.
Try new food: Have you been to Nepal before and done the touristy thing? It’s easy to gravitate toward the restaurants that are most like home. Get outside the normal western food bubble and ask the locals where the best place to get authentic local cuisine is. Or take a risk and try some authentic hole-in-the-wall restaurants.
Learn the language: Learning and speaking the language can be a major way to develop real relationships in communities, be humble and learn from those around you. Most high school aged youngsters will speak both English and Nepali, so ask them to teach you some local phrases. The phrase dictionary won’t help you with pronunciation, so get out there and don’t be afraid to fail.
Live on less: Try budgeting a little less than you normally would for foreign travel. Many times this will force you to avoid the overpriced tourist parts of town.
Drink tea: Nepalis love tea (chia) shops, spend some time chatting with the locals at a tea shop in an area you want to explore, you’ll be surprised by the fast friendships you will make.
Give your time: Volunteer with a local NGO or non-profit organization, it’s amazing what giving back to a country that’s not your own will do. Not only that you will be bettering the place you are visiting but it’s a great way to make connections in a city if you don’t have any.
Above all have fun, be curious and humble. There’s so much to learn from every culture.
Written by: Ben Loecken