Travel With Mission takes volunteers to Nepal!« Back
Part 1 of 2 of our interview with participants who combined their holidays with volunteering
Sadly, summer has come to an end in Poland, and many of us are entering the “hibernation” season, which means that we will spend most our time cuddled up on our sofas in front of our TVs slash computers. As for vacations… well, they have become either a remote memory, or a distant dream, and we slowly get accustomed to the thought of „next year’s holidays”. But does this really have to be the case?
Actually, the best time for an adventure of your life doesn’t necessarily have to be during summer months. It is true that September for many people is a painful time of getting back to reality after their share of exciting ventures, but for some - it’s the perfect opportunity to begin their journey. Today, we would like to share with you the stories of six people, who did not know each other before the trip, but had one thing in common: a craving for an out-of-the-box experience. And it was this strong yearning that caused their paths to cross with Travel With Mission, and board on an adventure together. How did it go? Stay with us for the first part of their encounter.
Our group consisted of 6 participants:
- Lidia, traveler, mother of two, and founder of Travel With Mission,
- Agnieszka, our guide, partly also responsible for organizing the trip,
- Małgosia, who on a daily basis is involved in marketing,
- Monika, whose natural inhabitant are numbers in the insurance industry,
- Marta, legal councilor and partner in a law firm, also involved in the Ama Canem Foundation & Kooperatywa Spożywcza - a non-profit organization in Lodz.
- Monika, who also in Poland is a volunteer.
Part of the team already had some experience with travelling to exotic destinations, like Kenia, Cuba, India, Hawaii or China. Nonetheless, as Małgosia put it: „all those trips seemed ‘perfect’, until I tried volunteering in Nepal. It was then that I realized, that apart from spending my time in a fantastic way, surrounded by amazing nature – I can feel true happiness and fulfillment – as when we helped children for three days in a Nepalese school.” But we will share more on volunteering abroad in Nepal in the second part of our encounter. :)
Here is what we had in store for our volunteers:
STAGE I: Katmandu, where participants saw:
- Durbar Squer – the oldest part of the city, with the royal palace and numerous temples – including the famous temple of the Living Goddess Kumari
- Buddhanath – the center of Buddhist life and the district of refugees from Tibet;
- Swayambhunath – also called the temple of monkeys, one of the most important places of cult in Nepal, important both for Buddhists and Hindus alike;
- Pashupatinath Temple – a place especially worshiped by Hindus, in the close precinct of a crematory.
STAGE II: Travelling to Pokhara, and:
- crossing by boat the lovely Feva (Phewa Tal) lake, and then “minitrecking” to Pokhara Shanti Stupa, also called the World Peace Pagoda or the White Pagoda, built on the Ananda slope at 1100 m above sea level;
- exploring the city center of Pokhara;
- visiting the International Mountain Museum, where you can admire numerous exhibits from expeditions to the high mountains and amazing photographs which document how peaks were conquered, also showing the breathtaking beauty of the high mountains;
- admiring the sunrise from hilltops of Sarangkot with a view on the snowy tops of Annapurna
- exploring a local bazar located nearby the house of the family which hosted us.
STAGE III: paying a visit to two schools:
- Mani Jyoti Lower Secondary School Sarangkot (here we painted the school for three days);
- and Sijana Primari School Lalagau in Pokhara (here we gave toothpaste we brought from Poland to all the children).
STAGE IV: Travelling to the Chitwan National Park
Here our team spent two nights, during which:
- we took a trip to the jungle in the company of a guide;
- participated in a cultural evening, learning about local culture & customs;
- went canoeing down the river, which turned out to be a perfect opportunity to do some bird watching and to experience a close, but safe encounter with alligators;
- we rented a jeep to see the national park, where we stumbled across a baby bear, and followed the trail of a rhinoceros and a tiger;
- at sunrise we explored the jungle while travelling on elephants – and finally where able to see a rhino!
As for getting ready for Nepal, apart from the obligatory vaccinations and shopping, the trip didn’t require any special preparations. Lidia wanted to explore Nepal before going there and read various articles and guidebooks. However, as one of our participants noticed, the luxury of taking part in organized trips is not having to organize and prepare everything yourself. Małgosia tells us: „In the case of this trip – I felt totally comfortable. After all, isn’t this what vacations are for? :-) To have a free mind to just wonder with your thoughts and daydream…”.
A few doubts before the trip
It’s natural, that questions come to our minds before taking part in an expedition to such a faraway place as Nepal. Let’s see what our participants were most concerned about:
- will our Partner in Nepal raise to the occasion and do a good job? This is what occupied Lidia’s thoughts prior to the trip. But, as it turned out – everything was prepared tiptop.
- are the participants really and truly prepared for the conditions of the trip? These were Agnieszka’s concerns. And she tells us: „this fear of mine DID NOT materialize even in the slightest degree :-)”
- how will I manage with a backpack? Wondered Marta. „The last time I travelled with a backpack must have been more than 10 years ago, and I have to admit that I was slightly scared by the thought of travelling with a heavy piece of luggage. However, everything was organized extremely well, and moving from place to place didn’t require a lot of effort and carrying large weights.”
- will I enjoy the food? This was another enigma for our participants, which luckily also turned out that they needn’t have worried about. Even more, all participants recall eating in Nepal as a wonderful experience, as you will be able to find out from the second part of our article.
First thoughts upon landing
We made it! After a long travel and many weeks of preparation, finally, we landed. But – not without some minor adventures. :-) Part of our team made a short stop in India as the pilot decided against landing in Kathmandu due to atmospheric conditions. Luckily, after only a few hours, we made a second attempt - and this time landed in Nepal’s capital without any difficulties.
As for first impressions upon landing, here is what Małgosia has to say: „the first thing I thought about was ‘let the adventure begin!’ What does Nepal have in store for me? By the time we reached the train station in the evening, we had a taste of everything Nepal has to offer: people, noise, traffic… and questions started popping up: will it be as loud and dirty as in India? Will I have a good time?”
Monika: „I am making my dreams come true. I have waited for this moment for so long, and in just a few days I will get to see the highest mountains in the world :)”
Marta: „O man, my girls are in India – and I am in Kathmandu, ALONE :-)”
One of the most important ingredients of a successful trip are the people you travel with. And it quickly turned out that this group of people who have just met feels great in each other’s company, is open to others, and to new experiences. What exactly surprised our participants?
For Agnieszka, the most positive experience was observing the work of the local teachers who became excited about volunteering at school: „During the first day, only one person helped us – an English teacher, Krishna, who was also responsible for organising our stay. On the second day three more people joined in, and on day three – the whole school worked together. :-) Marta had this idea of inviting also the children to help, so they would feel being part of the team, and that the school is really theirs. As it turned out, Krishna had a similar idea. The day after we were to leave, it was planned that the children would join in on the work under their teacher’s supervision.”
As for Monika, she will always remember trekking with Agnieszka. „An absolutely unforgettable experience, with a surprise in the middle of the jungle: stone steps and platforms and also a stupa, a Buddhist chapel".
However, not all the observations or experiences that surprised our participants were that positive. Marta recalls poverty, a lack of social engagement and a certain passiveness of Nepalese people, although at the same time she emphasizes their openness in communication… and the wide availability of the Internet. :-)
If you are wondering whether this trip is for you…
… listen what the participants who volunteered in Nepal have to say:
Lidia: „I personally think this form of travelling is perfect for anyone who is afraid to travel alone. My feelings are that a trip to a far away and exotic place combined with volunteering draws a certain type of people – open and curious of the world, so chances that you will find yourself in good company are really high. Having said that, I would like to stress that our trips are not the all-inclusive, five star hotel types ;)”
Małgosia adds: „travelling in a group definitely reduces the stress level ;-) and even experienced travellers will feel very comfortable in Nepal. I heard somewhere this sentence, which I still hold fresh in my memory: we know ourselves only as much as we have experienced. I often catch myself thinking about a particular situation and feeling all kinds of doubts, even fear, and most often I am very pleasantly surprised by reality ;-) This is exactly one of the reasons why I think it is really worth travelling – to learn more about ourselves and discover our boundaries.”
Monika sees it this way: „It’s very natural, that we are afraid of what we do not know. But that’s good, because it keeps us alert in case of danger. What I can advise is this: trust the organizer of your trip. Ask them questions so they can address your doubts. Overcome your fear”.
As for Marta - she thinks that there really is nothing to be afraid of. "It’s a regular trip, the only difference is that participants feel the need to help others and become socially involved."
As for how the trip was organized – there were no problems or difficulties. We had a guide with us at all times, who also was involved in volunteering activities, just like the rest of us. Everyone worked according to their possibilities. Nobody was rushed or forced to do anything. We had our own, internal motivation, to as much as we can, and as best as are able to. It’s worth feeling this.”
Was it worth it?
Well – it’s certainly a good question to ask. A long trip, sometimes tough conditions, working while being on vacation… is this really how people want to spend their free time? Lidia collected the impressions of our participants about volunteering abroad, and this is what she learnt “after making a summary of the first trip organized by Travel with Mission I am certain, that this is the right direction, that travelling combined with volunteering makes sense, and that I will soon organize more such trips in 2017 for 100% we have NEPAL in store again, and now we are working on Peru and one more direction. We have so much to do!”
OUR NEXT TRIP TO NEPAL IS ALREADY PREPARED, JOIN US IN OCTOBER 2017, READ THE PROGRAMME HERE!
We would like to thank all participants for sharing their experience, and at the same time invite you to join us for the second part of our story on volunteering abroad to Nepal with Travel With Mission. Next: first-hand accounts about Nepalese cuisine, the volunteering experience and adventures from the jungle. SO READ our 2nd part of article HERE!