“You know, you should travel more!”

“Girl! You need a break”

“Dude, just go and travel. It’s life changing”

I have heard these phrases a lot, a lot more than I actually can recall. For someone like me who mostly travels for some specific job to be done, I picture myself wandering on a gravel footpath, birds chirping, luscious green forest and breathing that fresh air or either with the wind of mountains and losing myself to nature. But I haven’t got chances to travel much, sometimes because of the finance, personal and  professional commitments, academics, and basically every excuses that I can find.

So what is it that is actually holding me back to travel? I could just pack my bags, grab my shoes, pocket some of my savings and just run to the adventure. Maybe my adventure story could perhaps create another “Into the wild” movie but the story where I get out just fine and alive(spoiler alert for the original movie). I mean I could actually do that but for a non-spontaneous person like me who loves travelling but is stuck in the first and foremost question “where do I actually start from?” . The first step is the most difficult, isn’t it? 

So if you are a person like me who is actually tired of their own excuses, this article from a completely amateur traveler but your travel well wisher is here with some handy tips that might help you in your upcoming trip. Yes, I gotchu buddy!

Save up!

Yep! Travelling is quite expensive but you don’t have to rob a bank to get to the winds of mountains nor do you have to squeeze every ounce of the money from your wallet. You just gotta save up in a smart way. Every month I save up 10-15% of my salary for my travel expenses. It’s like every other expense I separate the cost for. If travelling is a priority for you that you’d want to invest in, you gotta make some changes in how you spend your money. Thrifting clothes, cutting off unnecessary expenses and spending on only things you’d actually need would save you a lot of money and you can fund a trip for yourself. Be your own funder. That would be so worth it!

Separate a date!

You know how working on a plan for an event or a project, you fix a certain deadline and somehow magically you get the job done right near the deadline so similarly separate out a date for your trips. It’d be very easy for you to visualize your actual travel plans and would help to mentally prepare you, when you fix a certain timeline. Plus for someone like me who is missing some spices in life,as the date comes up close that builds enough anticipation to make things exciting for yourself. Create your own piece of happiness from that.

Research Research Research!

This very topic could come up in every article for travel up there but it is very very important. The destination remains the constant but it will depend on your own research how you customize it to your own interest. Lemme explain, you are planning to go to Bhajang to explore Khaptad National park. The time of the year you pick up really matters. You could pick up months like March and April to see beautiful rhododendrons and beautiful meadows with rare wild flowers. Or Mid-september to November could be the best time to observe winter migratory birds and resident birds. And if you are into understanding and experience culture you could target Poush month of Nepali calendar which either falls in December or January, where locals of Bajhang and other farwestern region celebrate Bhuwa Parba and it is celebrated gloriously and locals reenact longest religious epic of the world Mahabharata and joice pandavas victory over kauravas. The destination is the same but possibilities are endless with the right research. So folks do your own research about the place.

Contact a local person

Well this part kind of falls under research but I emphasized it on a lot because no one knows the place like the locals. If you get your hands on the contact details of a local person do make your enquiries about the place, food, accommodation and local culture. For beginners, hotels/guest houses could charge a lot if you aren’t good at negotiating prices. so contacting a local person could help you cut off unnecessary expenses and can also make you familiar with local etiquettes as well. And you might as well try local delicacies and surprise yourself.

Find your travel buddy 

Adulting is tough especially when you have no one to accompany you for places. Everyone is carried away by their own hustle. If you want to travel solo, good for you but someone to befriend during the travelling could change the whole journey and is a much safer option for beginners. You could pitch in your friends to accompany you but we all know those plans get postponed every now and then so, there are facebook groups like Nepali travellers, Travel Nepal, Solo travel Nepal, Nepali female travelers (घुमन्ते सखी) and lot more others where you could ask for suggestions about the place, contact details of focal person, find a travel partner and every other information. This group of frequent travellers will help you give information on travel and encourage you more for travelling so you can count on them!

Phew! Travelling for the first time could be quite overwhelming but as you travel you gain quite a lot of experiences to make you wiser in no time. The tips are more for a Nepali traveler, travelling within Nepal but some of it might help you to take that first International trip and you gotta start somewhere. So manifest the travel energy and reach your dreams. Happy travels!

Author Details

Author Name: Sristika Shrestha

Phew! Travelling for the first time could be quite overwhelming but as you travel you gain quite a lot of experiences to make you wiser in no time. The tips are more for a Nepali traveler, travelling within Nepal but some of it might help you to take that first International trip.

Many countries like France, Italy, India, Poland and others are under strict lockdown and Nepal is also one of them as the second wave of Coronavirus has struck following the crisis in India. The second phase of the lockdown started from April 29, 2021 started from Kathmandu valley and then to other cities across Nepal. As many people are  mentally restrained because of  the lockdown and traveling seems almost  impossible in this current situation, yet we have brought some interesting alternatives to ease our stress through the international virtual travel opportunities to keep up your travel interests and hopefully get rid of boredom. Despite the Humanitarian crisis, here are the lists of some spectacular destinations which will awe-struck our sensation after the virtual tour at your convenience from home.

  1. Everest Base Camp Experience:  Everest Base Camp is arguably the most popular trekking destination for many travel enthusiasts across the globe. Thousands of national and international visitors come for a trekking as it is considered adventurous because of its elevation of 17,598 ft/ 5,364 metres which is comparatively higher than some of the popular mountains in the world such as Mont Blanc- 15,771 feet / 4,807 metres, Matterhorn- 4,478 metres / 14,692 ft, Mount Rainier- 14,411 ft / 4,392 m and Mount Cook- 3,724 metres / 12,218 feet which makes the trek both fun and strenuous. https://www.google.com/maps/about/behind-the-scenes/streetview/treks/the-worlds-highest-peaks/
  2. Sir David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef: When it comes to nature documentaries, there is always one name in most people’s mind which is, Sir David Attenborough. Honestly speaking, there is not a dull moment while watching any of the documentaries about planet earth and natural wonders he has presented or narrated throughout several decades of his life as a narrator and presenter. His utmost passion on natural history and contribution for the support of environmental causes and its conservation is truly an inspiring one for the younger generation like us. http://attenboroughsreef.com
  3. Best Travel Films: Watching travel movies is one of the fruitful activities we can engage ourselves during this isolation period. It helps us not just to entertain but to boost knowledge about different places and the cultures that expand our horizons into reflecting different aspects of travel. The movies such as “Into the Wild”, ”The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and “The Beach” are eye-openers to many travel enthusiasts and see the world through unique points of view and approach it subjectively. https://www.cntraveler.com/galleries/2015-01-07/50-best-travel-films-of-the-past-50-years
  4. Experience US National Parks: The United States has 63 protected areas which are known as national parks spread around. From the renowned Yosemite National park to Hawaii, US National Parks have a variety of landscapes and wilderness to offer the visitors. Here are some of the astounding National Parks that will blow your mind and give you a hunch to travel soon in the future.https://artsandculture.withgoogle.com/en-us/national-parks-service/parks
  5. Explore the Virtual Heritage Tour of Bankatta, Chitwan with British Council Nepal: Chitwan National park is mainly famous for its rich natural area in the Terai area especially for jungle safari however it also holds a buffer zone area with beautiful villages such as Bankatta. Story Cycle in partnership with The British Council are organizing a Virtual Heritage Tour of Bankatta, Chitwan which is scheduled for May 28, 2021. Please follow this link for the registration process and enjoy the virtual tour. Register your name here, if you are interested to do virtual tour. 
  6. The longest wall: The Great Wall was built 2,000 years ago during the Ming dynasty, from 1368 until 1644, which took more than 100 years. The cost in both effort and resources were phenomenal. The wall was largely forgotten after the Ming Dynasty. Mother Nature has reclaimed sections of the wall. It wasn’t until recent history that the wall became the tourist destination.The Great Wall meanders through China’s northern mountain ranges from the Yellow Sea to the Gobi Desert—a distance of over 3500 miles! You’ll learn some of the fascinating history and legends of this engineering marvel, you’ll ride a lift up to the highest point of the wall. https://www.circleonestudios.com/360/Great_Wall_China/
  7. Visit the largest cave in the world with National Geographic: Nature has its miracle to display its beauty in different forms and caves are one of the wonders mainly of it’s mysterious structures hollowed out by the water over the period of time and the paintings or carvings done by our ancestors thousands of years ago reflects the ancient civilization. Caves have been a fascinating study for the historians and also popular among the people in general for the exploration in many countries.   https://martinedstrom.com/projects/son-doong-360/
  8. Arts and Cultures: The basic fundamentals of human lifestyle are revealed in the form of arts and cultures in every part of the world. The civilization has been evolving through experiences in adapting new culture and tradition and evolving in communication leads to change in the arts in general. You will get to explore the various arts, national museums, the history of politicians, world art exhibitions through this page.  https://artsandculture.google.com/explore?hl=en
  9. Learn a new language: The bold way to connect with different people and their cultures is clearly to learn a new language that drags you closer to the people and places. It will definitely help to make your travel more convenient and immersive. Learning a new language improves your memory power and a multitasker. Duolingo has 120 million users around the world, and currently teaches 19 distinct languages. The most popular courses are available for speakers of a variety of languages: for example, you can learn English from 21 different languages! https://www.duolingo.com/
  10. Explore the Gre village of Rasuwa, Nepal: Gre is an ethnic Tamang village located in the northern part of Nepal at Rasuwa district which is 132km away from Kathmandu city. The legend has it that the term “Gre” refers to a Tibetan word which means the place to discuss and come into peace as many kingdoms were fighting with each other for the territory back in ancient history and Gre used to be a settling point for peace negotiation. This village was completely devastated during the earthquake in 2015 and so many people lost their lives and hundreds of people were homeless but they are slowly getting back on their feet and going towards tourism by running a Gre community homestay. Recently, there are five different homestays which are led by women. Girls Empowered by Travel Nepal provided the homestay training to these women in 2019 as it has the potential to be the starting trekking route for Langtang National park who wants to immerse in ethnic Tamang culture and explore its traditions along with trekking. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YB42ZMWS-Y

Have you ever wondered about your existence and felt how tiny space you occupy on the earth ? If not, you haven’t let your body travel or you are missing travel. To travel is to live, to travel is to explore, be courageous and sometimes adventurous too. Nothing is a barrier except our desire  when it comes to travel. Moreover, if you travel with a purpose to serve yourself, it’s like experiencing serenity.

Travel is not only satisfying your whims or not like reading bulky books and still worrying about the exams. It’s about experiencing nature and it’s phenomena and preparing to evolve. Travel also helps to add the experience of different food, culture, society, religion and other human aspects. Travel has its own guts to empower people. We get life-changing experiences through travel as things are going to happen that we never knew existed.

In Nepal, we mostly take travel as a tool for fun and refreshment. People mostly travel with family members or with friends as leisure activities. Their sole purpose is to reach the destination, enjoy the scenario for a moment, lookout  and return back. But travel is not only limited to fun and joy as many assume. Travel is about knowledge, self-awareness, mental health, confidence and passion. It also develops adaptability, increases connection and connects to new people. Travel from time to time empowers people to identify what we want from life. Sometimes, during travel, you may get stuck up into various issues but if only wonderful things happen to us, we can’t be brave. Trusting ourselves and building self-confidence are the gifts we gain from travelling to new places.

By being exposed to new places, people and cultures, you will develop a wider perspective in life and help to make a better-rounded society. It’s a great reward and a big reason why people love to travel. Learning is a strong reason why people love to travel. They want to experience something unfamiliar and leave with new skills or knowledge.

Looking at the current datas, the travelling rate of youth and the earning population has led to a surge in the travel industry of Nepal but still the ratio of female travellers is less. Lack of adequate understanding of female courage and the patriarchal thoughts has always been a bottleneck for the female travelers. There are female focused travel companies that empower women. There are also dozens of independent organizations around the world which exist with the sole purpose of empowering women through travel. But, still the taboos and misunderstandings of family and our culture leads women tied in social boundaries. 

Slowly, our country is developing the youths who have started to realize the power of travel. Various solo travelers, travelers groups, women travel circles, travel agencies are growing day by day. Both male and female have been issued tour guide licenses and involvement of females are also rising at a commercial level. If we understand the transformative and empowering nature of travel, our perspective on travelling may be broadened more which can have a better impact in travel and tourism.

Therefore, travel when used as a method of self- improvement can also empower the community around us and the whole nation can be changed with responsible citizens. Either you travel alone or in a group, travel always heals your brain and develops your inner self. You learn to hold yourself with grace, trust and embrace the perfect moments. You can also increase knowledge of management and coordination during the trip. So, let’s explore the destination and develop a plan, let’s embrace the place and let’s raise the place with our empowered notion. 

Generally speaking, mental health is a state of being in which one is free of stress, depressive tendencies or any psychological issues that may stop one from feeling light and happy. Monotonous life due to work routine, family obligations or other daily rituals can lead to boredom, dullness or a general lack of interest in things. Therefore, travel can be a necessary pause or break in the routine which can lead to one’s well being that is necessary for maintaining mental health or preventing it from deteriorating. Needless to say, travel is a physical activity primarily but it is also an emotional journey. Together, the physical and emotional aspects of travel combine to produce changes within our body systems that are essential for our welfare. The anticipation of travel excites us, which allows our brain to release hormones that are important for reducing stress level while adding to the feeling of happiness. As we leave home or work or daily routine to explore places, people, nature and everything in between, we witness and encounter moments, situations and relationships that expand our ways of seeing and understanding this world. Something like this has important benefits.

For instance, knowing about new people and their culture and social environment may help us realize that our own problems and affairs that permanently occupy our mental space may not be the center of the universe or they may not be as big of a problem as we initially thought. So it helps us become less self-centered and more open-minded and extroverted in the way we understand ourselves in relation to the world that surrounds us but that we had never met before a particular trip. It goes without saying that adding new people to our list of friends always adds to the emotional depth that we call life.

Travel is also a journey with self depending on how you travel. It is a process in which you are on your own. This means it is up to you to deal with situations that you come across that may be unexpected and/ or challenging physically, emotionally or mentally. In this type of situation you have no choice but to dig within you to take care of yourself in whatever way you can. Doing so may enable you to come up with new ways of taking care of yourself and new ways of feeling independent. Together, such feelings are crucial to one’s personal growth.

Travel is not only good but also necessary for our mental health because it allows us to appreciate not just the human world but also the world inhabited by non-humans like: trees, rivers, mountains, butterflies, and animals of all kinds. Encountering the non-human world makes us see how there are things and beings that exist in nature, in wilderness, without any boundaries, borders, rules, and regulations. Seeing such a world provides our mind a sense of calmness, freedom, and liberty.

In the end, I would like to emphasize that it is necessary to highlight the importance of travel with regard to mental health, more so in the context of south Asian societies such as Nepal. In our society where travel is viewed primarily as having fun. People rarely introspect or reflect on the multiple benefits of travel as I have tried to show in this piece.

As a poet Rumy once stated, “ Don’t wait any longer, dive into the ocean, live, and let the sea be you.” Travel more, stay active and let your mental world be healthy.

As we are facing a massive downfall in the economy and adverse effects globally due to the pandemic. However, one thing that is taking advantage of this situation is nature. It is healing firmly in places  which have been destroyed since capitalism took place globally. The mountains that have been engulfing a tremendous amount of trash left by the tourists  have got some time to heal from the halt in the tourism industry specially Everest region which is popular among many tourists. Travel and tourism contributed to 7.9 percent of its GDP last year, rising from 3.6 percent but it is nil this year since March 2020 in Nepal. Even the most anticipated Visit Nepal 2020 was postponed because of the pandemic which withheld lots of trekking and tourism bookings and faced a loss in promotions too. Now, the lockdown makes everyone limited with supplies and distribution of every goods and services nationwide which leads  people to depend on local farming and agriculture. People are realizing that sustainable living is the solution in tough and unprecedented events like this  and many people are going back to old lifestyles. Hence, for being a land-locked country, it will be a very wise move to promote agriculture and sustainable ways of living life to get rid of human crisis.For this, Eco tourism is likely one of the best alternatives to recover as it is both relatively easier to start by using local resources and also it could be beneficial for a long run both to the people and the country itself.

What is Ecotourism?

Ecotourism is a form of Tourism that prioritizes the conservation of nature, community development and economic development by low or non-consumptive use of local resources. It is best defined as to run tourism by respecting nature, the communities and their cultures. We  can find many kinds of ecotourism such as; community based ecotourism, ecosystem ecotourism, cultural ecotourism, and nature based ecosystem, protected area ecotourism and rural ecotourism to name a few.

In Nepal, Eco-tourism has been flourishing for a couple of decades now because of diverse culture and ethnicity, abundance of nature and wilderness and uniqueness as a whole. Nepal is gaining popularity in ecotourism around the globe and best known for its hospitality and unique culture and tradition . The government officials related to tourism are  cooperating with local communities to improve and implement the services in the tourism industry and also helping in research and promotion of sustainable ecotourism development. Here are some of the works that has been implemented in ecotourism industry:

It is one of the main attractions of Community based and Cultural Ecotourism. Community homestay is successful in Nepal because of our diverse culture and ethnicity as well as vivid geographical distribution. Nepal consists of 125 ethnic groups and 123 different languages despite being a small country. Geographically, it is rich from jungle safari in the southern part to the enormous himalayas in the North. Most of the community homestays are allocated according to the natural attraction as well as the cultural values. Visitors not only get an opportunity to stay at the traditional village but also get to explore scenic natural trails full of wilderness, witness and learn the cultural values and performances  which is one of a kind experience. For instance, Ghale gaun community homestay and Gre Community homestay from Hilly region has more of a cultural attraction and scenic beauty of mountains whereas Bardia Community homestay from Terai region have nature and wildlife safari as it’s main attraction along with different cultural values than other parts of Nepal.

  1. Heritage Trail

HeritageTrail is another perfect example of Cultural Ecotourism.Countries like Jamaica, Hong Kong and India have successfully implemented it as a sustainable tourism. Nepal offers Tamang Heritage Trail In Rasuwa district to promote the cultures of Tamang ethnicity and the gateway to the majestic Mt. Langtang Trek. The eight day trek comprises the trail passing through Buddhist shrines, Monasteries, interesting architectures and stay at a traditional home decorated in ancient Tibetan style. The Government of Nepal  put forward the Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Program (TRPAP) in Rasuwa to alleviate the cycle of Poverty in 2007. If Nepal could tap more heritage trails focusing on other interesting ethnicity with good research and implementation, it would be a major benefit to the local communities and helps to rejuvenate the Tourism industry post pandemic.

  1. Domestic ecotourism

Apparently, domestic tourism is taking a big leap in the tourism industry. Many people want to explore new places to explore different ethnicity and culture along with natural exploration. Until there is uncertainty in the tourism industry for international tourists, we can work on promoting domestic tourism with exciting offers and packages to travel in various travel destinations locally. Youths are energetic and  excited to travel to new destinations during their leisure and they are always after a place that has good scenery and hospitality. Managing the reasonable packages to them will increase the footfall in all ecotourism business and boost the economy locally. This will also help ecotourism business survive without depending much on international tourists until the right situation arrives. By then, international tourists will be a bonus for the tourism industry and economy.