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5 Mindful Tips for Travelling in Nepal

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5 Mindful Travel Tips when Traveling in Nepal by Hannah Cromona

Did you ever spend enough time in a country to truly observe the behaviour of locals and culture?

As travellers in developing countries such as Nepal, it is our responsibility to behave consciously, make ethical decisions and support local businesses having a good impact on the social, economic and ecological aspects of the country. But when we’re pressed for time we find that we miss out on certain behaviours and perhaps do not make the best of choices when it comes to preserving the environment, and respecting culture.

This is why I’m listing these 5 Mindful Tips for visiting Nepal:

  1. Greet Consciously

“Namaste” is the greeting used in Nepal amongst all locals. It involves putting your hands together, fingers pointing up and thumbs close to the chest, usually at the centre of your chest or more respectfully up to the head, with a slight bow. Whilst doing this gesture you say “namaste”, which actually means “I bow to the divine in you.” This powerful message is so beautiful. So please be mindful when saying it, and say it like you mean it. This single word could be the gateway to new connections and opportunities making your stay in Nepal more meaningful.

 

A Nepalese woman greeting Namaste

Nepali woman greeting Namaste. Photo credit: Niranjan Shrestha (permission granted)

  1. Pay Courteously

If you are observant you will see how locals make cash payments to each other or at a shop. It is courteous to use your right hand to give cash, placing your left hand behind your right elbow, and offering the money directly into the receivers hand. I often see tourists throwing money to the counter, or giving cash haphazardly with the left hand; this is considered rude. The same gesture applies when receiving money or your change. It can be seen like an offering even though you are paying for a product or service.

 

A market vendor elling veg in Nepal

Local vender and customer exchanging money. Photo credit: Niranjan Shrestha (permission granted)

  1. Volunteer Sensibly

If you are visiting Nepal for short period and are keen to volunteer, avoid going into the classroom. Rather find other ways to support communities that would be mutually beneficial for all. There are various agriculture and construction programs that accept short-term volunteers. Also seek travel programs that give back to the community.

My personal volunteering experience was with Maya Universe Academy (link to https://www.facebook.com/maya.universe.academy.nepal/) where I had volunteered at on and off for a number of years. This social enterprise is the first chain of private schools offering quality education in rural Nepal in exchange for time instead of money. The parents of students enrolled pay two days of labour per month instead of tuition fees that they cannot afford. Maya Universe Academy provides short term and long term volunteering opportunities in agriculture, construction and academics.

For other volunteering opportunities I recommend searching on Giving Way and Go Abroad.

  1. Be Eco Conscious

Nepal does not have an effective waste disposal system. Unless the owners of establishments have made conscious decisions on how they dispose of their waste it is our responsibility as consumers and tourists to do our bit and respect the eco system.

 

For the Ladies menstruating: As a woman I find that the menstruation cup has been the most efficient product to use. In the majority of toilets there is water where you can easily clean your cup without having to exit the toilet cubicle! Most times, water is safe and I haven’t experienced any problems. If you are concerned about the water quality, simply take in your own bottle.

 

Food Packaging and plastics: carry your own water bottle and avoid buying plastic bottled water. Many establishments serve purified drinking water in large canisters. Ask if you can refill your bottle, sometimes this is free and other times you make a small contribution. It is very habitual that shop owners would pack your shopping items in plastic bags, please be mindful and take your own re-useable bags.

 

Request your drink without a straw. Break the habit! We often find ourselves sipping on our drinks with straws and later to realise that we should have requested not to serve with a straw! Take small proactive choices. I recently went to Green Organic Café in Thamel and they have introduced bamboo straws for most of their drink items.

 

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What change do you want to see? I'm going to take a moment to jump on the #plasticfreejuly movement for a sec. Care for the environment was instilled in me thanks to the strong environmental values that my school laid. I was brought up on an island. Plastic in the sea made me feel so ashamed of human behaviour. I find myself in the Himalayas and this feeling repeats itself on a daily basis with plastic waste blocking streams and gathering up on the side of the road. ∆ Today I drank from a bamboo straw, actually my first time being served with a bamboo straw in Nepal! 🙏 . ∆ Please do not accept your drink with a straw. Can you imagine how many other straws would be thrown away today alone? Can you see this accumulation? ∆ Have you seen other places remove straws? Give them a little bit of spotlight so that others may think of following suit! ∆ Do your little bit of care. It helps. ∆ #banplasticstraws #bamboostraw #ecofinds #plasticalternative #doyourbit #carefornature #backtobasicd #plasticfree #ecoliving #ethicalhour #ehinstachallenge #wisdomwednesday #thereisnoplanetb

A post shared by Naturally Hannah (@hancremona) on

 

Use organic toiletries especially in rural areas where there is no proper drainage system and your waste products go into the fields and contaminate the water. I have started to use organic products made in Nepal that include a small range of soap bars, shampoo bars, conditioner bar and mosquito repellent oil with re-usable or biodegradable packaging.  

  1. Shop Ethical in Kathmandu

Kathmandu is a bustling trade market for the locals and this resulted in flooding retail outlets with unethically sourced garments and fashion accessories from sweat shops in Nepal or China, Bangladesh and other sources. As a tourist, shopping ethically and sustainably can be tricky as it’s not so easy to determine where and how the products were made. The first step is to ask ‘where is this made?’ If you have time inquire about the factory location, staff conditions etc.

Here are my top 3 ‘go-to’ stores for personal ethical and sustainable gift shopping:

 

The Local Project Nepal (link to https://www.facebook.com/thelocalprojectnepal/) : situated in Jhamsikhel (Patan) and run by two young Nepali entrepreneurs, is a platform for native and indigenous products whereby consumers are given direct access to a diverse range of 100% locally made items. The Local Project team source high quality and sustainable products with the aim of aiding growth of the local market and provide local entrepreneurs with sustainable livelihoods. Their product range is varied from handcrafts jewellery, journals, lifestyle accessories and clothing.

 

Timro Concept Store (link to https://www.facebook.com/Timroconceptstore/ ) in Jhamsikhel (Patan) opened in 2017 by young entrepreneur couple Anouk and Yogen. The cosy living room like outlet is showcasing a number of local sustainable and ethically made brands. It’s so easy to spend time (and your money!) in this outlet as they serve Nepali organic coffee and fresh homemade bakes.

 

Baber Mahal Revisited (link to http://www.babermahal.com/shops) is a unique building comprising of 6 courtyards that hold an array of fine dining and shopping experience of fine dining and shopping experiences. As I entered this historical building the first time I really felt as though I was entering a King’s palace in a different. I would say that it’s one of Kathmandu’s most up-scale shopping and dining sites showcasing Nepali craftsmanship at luxury level. Most notable is a small showroom by Marina Vaptzarova (link to https://www.instagram.com/marinavaptzarova/ ); a designer brand preserving Nepali artisan trade in handmade paper, textiles and fine metal work transposed in contemporary design. The sustainable luxury brand is a member of Positive Luxury.

 

When traveling it is recommended to constantly keep mindful of local culture and that your stay is a positive one from all aspects. Let us make tourism sustainable across the globe, and let our positive marks be left in people’s hearts and memories.  

Main feature photo by Andrei Dumitrescu on Unsplash

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