Hi, my name is Emily, and I recently took part in an oversees program in Nepal with Challenges Abroad!
This trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity, with Nepal having many cultural differences to the UK. From monkeys wandering around the streets, to the hilarity and slight concern over their more relaxed health and safety standards, memories were made that will last forever. This particular area of Nepal, Bhaktapur, was a beautiful city within the Kathmandu Valley. Our hotel, Vajra Guesthouse was situated right in the centre of Bhaktapur, next to Durbar Square, a section of the city with beautiful architecture, including temples and other places of worship. Many wedding parties would dance through the square, loud and bright, visible from the rooftop area of the Guesthouse. The Guesthouse itself was accommodating, with lovely staff and comfortable lodgings. The view from roof was magnificent, stretching all the way to the hills that enclosed Kathmandu Valley.
Before arrival, I remember being very nervous and unsure about what was ahead. Although organised through my college, I didn’t know anyone on the trip, and this was quite daunting. However, we all became close, bonding over this incredible journey we were on. Upon arrival we were greeted by the amazing in-country team who were there for the duration of our trip to guide us and answer any questions we may have.
As a group we came up with engaging activities on the topic of health and sanitation. It was amazing to see our workshops make even the slightest of differences. The children would often sing the songs that we came up with the day before or show us their drawings from previous workshops that they had gone home to finish.
My favourite workshop we delivered was on the topic of healthy eating. One section of the workshop included a parachute game, which is a classic British childhood game. It was great to be able to bring some of our culture to them. In return, we learned a few of their games through one-on-one time with the children. Bonds were formed with the children which made saying goodbye even harder. The school and the staff were so welcoming. When it was their annual Paddy Day, we planted some rice with them. As well as this, they celebrated the birthday of another girl on the trip, offering us cake. On our last day in the school, they hosted a goodbye ceremony in front of the whole school and offered us thanks, we then exchanged parting gifts with the school which showed their kindness and generosity. Overall, our time in the school was both eye-opening and amazing!
Our first meal was dhal bat, which we ate with our hands at a local restaurant. Being our first taste (literally) of Nepalese culture, it made me realise just how different even some of their small customs are to England. The staff would come round and ask if you wanted more of anything on your plate, which was definitely a culture shock for me. We also toured our local area, Bhaktapur, within the first few days of our arrival, seeing local temples and historical buildings. Each building felt unique. Another culture shock was the number of motorbikes that would whiz past you or beep and you. It was very tricky navigating our way around the squares and streets of the local area due to all of the motorbikes.
A weekend excursion to the capital was also included in our trip. We stayed for one night in a hotel right in the centre of Kathmandu, which is much more modern in comparison to Bhaktapur. We ate many delicious meals, including Nepalese pizza and curry. To finish off our weekend, we travelled to a monkey temple where we got to see hundreds of monkeys running around. This made for some hilarious moments with the monkeys attempting to take things from of other tourists. Possibly the funniest part of the day and one of my favourite memories from the trip was when a monkey climbed into our bus and attempted to come back to the hotel with us at the end of the visit. It was so strange and caused lots of chaos, even stealing someone’s water bottle!
we helped to plant trees*. This was exhausting but incredibly rewarding. This was another shock as, although I knew it was not going to be the most glamorous thing, I never expected to have to climb up the side of a hill to plant the trees. But this just produced even more hilarious highlights and fun memories.
For the majority of the trip, I was immersed in the experience and not really thinking about being back home in England. However, I faced some challenges with home sickness and particularly with the food aspects of the trip. Whilst I tried everything and enjoyed Nepalese food, I also missed many of my ‘home comforts’ in the form of English food. These were probably the most challenging parts of the trip, but I would not have changed any of it.
Overall, the trip was incredible and really well organised by Challenges Abroad. The in-country team were lovely and helpful, and even the hotel staff and school staff were amazing too. We did smaller activities in the evenings like making our own momo’s which we got to eat for dinner or bracelet making. We were also offered plenty of free time to do what we liked, sometimes opting to just cool off from the hectic day or spend time with others on the trip. Nepal is a beautiful and friendly country and definitely somewhere everyone should have on their bucket list.
*For more sustainable travel ideas, click here.
Emily's experience in Nepal is a perfect example of how what might seem like a nervous and daunting experience, can be transformed into a lifechanging journey, full of memories and friends for life! Through her resilience, adaptability and confidence, Emily was able to dive straight into Nepalese culture and try things she'd never done before. If you're ready to step outside your comfort zone and try something new, or if Nepal has been on your bucket list for a while, then it's time to start planning your next adventure!