Curious, welcoming, inquisitive, friendly, outgoing, hardworking, resilient, and friendly again for good measure – these are all words that very well describe Nepali people. I’ve been lucky enough to visit their country nearly 10 times and have been overwhelmed by how incredibly welcoming and seemingly happy they are, each and every time. Whether it’s in the capital Kathmandu, or a far-flung rural village, it’s the same vibe and reception time and time again – warm smiles and inquisitive questions.
What’s more is that this nation of 30 million is made up of roughly 90 distinct ethnic groups, and each I’ve met seems to have an infectious sense of hospitality, grace, and kind spirit. When magnitude earthquakes hit the country on April 25 and May 12, my mind, like many peoples’, was on the Nepali people, imagining their struggle, wishing I could take on some of the burden, and knowing that despite being from one of the least developed corners of the planet, they’d soldier on and emerge stronger.
Living in a Kuala Lumpur condo, the 13 security guards at my building are all Nepali. From the day the first quake hit, they managed to maintain a game face despite knowing what was happening at home. Part way through multi-year contracts and saving money, jumping a plane home wasn’t an option. They are stuck here. A couple of them lost direct family members, homes, and their communities have no doubt been rocked in ways I can’t comprehend. But there they are, smiling and be friendly to me. Wow – champions. Nepali people show their indelible spirit again.
I’ve been thinking about my experiences and personal exchanges in Nepal for the last couple of months, trying to come to grips with what’s happened to some of my favorite people in the world, longing to set foot back in their borders. And I will, not only because my thirst for this nation will likely never be quenched, but visiting and spending money is the best thing I can do to help.
While just 600,000 people visit Nepal each year, a study suggests that every tourist provides income for nine persons: from your guide to the farmer growing food you and your trekking crew eat, the trickle-down-effect is sizeable. What’s of great concern to Nepalis and expats in Nepal I’ve talked to since the quakes is the ‘second-disaster’ scheduled to hit in October-November 2015 – tourists not coming. This period is one of two peak seasons for tourists. If they don’t come, the money doesn’t flow in, and 5.4 million people from all walks of life don’t get the wage they’ve come to depend on.
So let me wind-up by being very clear: Nepal is one of the most intriguing, captivating, and friendly places I’ve ever been. It’s a big small country, so mountainous that if you flattened it, it would be 25 times larger. There’s a rudimentary road network, meaning you walk 30 minutes off (and up from) any road and you’ll walk days without seeing another tarmac strip. Hell, you may not see another road, period. This means there are many lifetimes worth of trails, corners, peaks, and villages to visit. And around each bend, at every crest, and in all peak-side teashops, you’ll be greeted by vibrant, welcoming faces; belonging to people whose spirit will dazzle you.
Two travel companies that do great trips in Nepal: