A Gap Year Experience in Nepal
I was eighteen years old and had just finished school. I hadn't ever travelled on my own before. I decided that I wanted to do something completely different, and consequently chose to travel alone to a country that I knew was a slightly unusual choice. In addition, I decided that I wanted to teach at an orphanage whilst I was out there, so therefore started to search through various gap year companies in order to plan my trip. I ended up booking my trip through Real Gap Experience where they would organise an orphanage for me to work at and arrange a place for me to stay whilst I was working there. Furthermore, because I really wanted to truly experience another culture, I opted to stay with a Nepalese family in order to completely immerse myself in a different way of life. I had to organise and book the flights myself, as that was not included in the Gap Year package.
I arrived into Kathmandu airport, which was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. From the moment that I stepped off the plane and arrived into the remarkable city you are submersed into a different world of hectic hussle and bussle, pollution and colour. You are taken on a sensory explosion of different aromas, visions and noises. In Kathmandu, I stayed with a Nepalese family whilst it was being decided where I would go to live and teach. There was no electricity or hot water in Kathmandu owing to the fact that the electricity supply cannot cope with the vast amount of people. This will also be in the case in hostels, however upmarket hotels will have their own power generator.
I attended basic language lessons with other volunteers who had also booked through Real Gap in order to prepare us to live with a Nepalese family, to teach or to participate in other charity work. I also had the opportunity to explore the exciting city and visit its extraordinary artistic, cultural and historical heritage. The sites that I would definitely recommend you visit if you are travelling to Kathmandu are; the breathtaking Bodnath Stupa, which is believed to hold the bones of Buddha inside it. The spectacular Changu Narayan temple, and the Swayambhunath Temple, which is known as the 'Money Temple' owing to the fact that it is completely invaded by monkeys!
In the second part of my travels I got transferred to Pokhara where my placement at the orphanage was to begin. Pokhara is an incredibly pretty town surrounded by the picturesque Annapurna Mountain Range (which includes Machhapuchare, which translates as Fishtail Mountain) and dazzling lakes. I would thoroughly recommend visiting Pokhara to anyone who is travelling to Nepal as it has a particular beauty and laid back charm as it lacks the touristy feel that is prevalent in the capital of Kathmandu.
In addition, I would strongly recommend Pokhara to any traveller who enjoys an active lifestyle. Pokhara acts as a popular base for trekkers as there are various different companies and shops supplying treks and trekking gear. Furthermore, Pokhara is a world-renowned destination for paragliding as many Americans and Australians travel there purely to paraglide off the magnificent mountain ranges over the impressive lakes and take in the stunning scenery.
The Nepalese family who I stayed with in Pokhara was also extremely friendly and I was immediately felt to be a part of the family. There was also no hot water, and electricity would come on a couple of hours a day at random times. The fact that Pokhara has a smaller population than Kathmandu enables it to get electricity slightly more frequently than Kathmandu. During the Holi festival however, there was a water shortage and I had to bathe in the springs in the rainforest!
At the orphanage I taught English and Mathematics, supervised all meals, and played games and sports with them. I was determined to improve the standard of life of the children. In order to do so, I helped to improve their grades, thereby assisting their entry or return to school. If you are planning to teach abroad make sure that you make the lessons as fun, visual and interactive as possible to ensure that you keep the children's attention. Before I left to Nepal I raised money for the children, which I used to buy their sports kit for starting school. While I was out there I was advised to buy something tangible with the money to give to the children rather than give the money directly to the orphanage owner. Fundraising may also be something that you may like to think about before you travel abroad. Various fundraising ideas include; taking part in a run, organising a jumble sale, cake sale or even selling unwanted items on ebay! Travelling independently to Nepal has given me confidence which has enhanced my personality and my sense of individuality. Travelling could do the same for you. Book your trip!