People like their comfort zones and planning to travel to a disaster-shaken country adds a significant dilemma to one’s travel plans. If we were to concentrate on the positives, there are actually perks hidden in places that have recently felt the wrath of Mother Nature. To name one, volunteering opportunities- to help those in need.
I want to shed light on some really good experiences that can be learned from such visits.
From my travel experience to five of the major earthquake affected zones in Nepal, I feel it is worth sharing what I have learned and internalized. One thing to note is that I am trying to describe tourism not as a mere activity but as a responsible travel.
Let me remind you first that Nepal has already re-opened most of its cultural heritage sites, including the UNESCO World Heritage Sites which were severely affected by the earthquake.
1. A different perspective to a regular travel
The damage caused by the recent Nepal earthquake was mostly on buildings so traveling to places was never a problem. The first place I went to was Sindupalchowk, as a relief aid worker. While there, I noticed that people were already helping each other build temporary shelters and distributing aid materials. In this duration, we traveled on the back of a truck, slept under the open sky and kept alive on packed food and water.
Furthermore, traveling post-disaster also inspires people to help and support. There are a lot of examples where travelers have turned into volunteers. In fact, a lot of tourists present in Nepal chose to stay here and help needy people with foods, clothes and tents instead of leaving at once.
Read here to learn about how Himalayan Glacier took initiatives for the emergency response.
2. Getting your spiritual side on
During my first-hand experience at the disaster hit area, the aroma smelt like a clash of God and Men. God unleashed his wrath and left, but men simply did not submit. People looking for their valuables in the earthen ruins strongly emphasized their efforts to go back to their normal life. We rose again, and although we were no match for the almighty, we stood. Hearing stories of survival, and future plans to cope with the possible disasters was a proof that we indeed passed the ‘natural selection’ process and that we will never cease to survive in the race. Personally, it was a development of self-confidence and believing that anything can be achieved if we adapt.
3. A decision-maker to become the Agent of Change
I remember one phrase from a psychiatrist who counseled us for the post-disaster trauma, “Disaster is an opportunity”. That moment I realized that I could do something for the needy people. I’ve been inspired from good people like Holly Miller and Brian Sokol, who stayed in Nepal for documenting and reporting the disaster.
One can actually be a part of the recovering phase just by being here, experiencing the reconstruction and providing relief in whatever way possible. The perk is the release of ‘feel good’ hormones besides self-realization and intuition.
If you need some inspiration, watch this video of a backpacker-turned-social worker Maggie Doyne, who won the CNN Hero 2015 title for supporting orphaned children in Nepal.
Source: (CNN Channel in YouTube)
4. An opportunity to experience a different Nepal
We are a country that gets flocked by visitors from all over the world. So this could be your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Nepal in a different light, far from the glamour of extraordinary landscapes and rich cultural heritage. The ruins of the heritages are in no way less spectacular than before, fighting to bounce back on their feet.
5. Tourism for a cause
Tourism has been a part of our national economy since the hippy movement in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Simply put, our wealth grows with every penny spent by tourists.
So if someone somewhere is reading this blog right now and planning a visit to Nepal, I would say that this is the best time to contribute and give back to the place that has long-served as one of the best tourist destinations in Asia.
Make this year’s vacation a chance to take part in good deeds in the land of the Himalayas.
Go here to browse through some of the volunteering opportunities provided by Himalayan Glacier.
You can also watch this YouTube Video to see our team in action during the emergency.