May 2, 2011
Nepal uses its Tourism Year 2011 to promote a unique way of travelling: Village Homestays. In these Homestays the tourists come to rural areas they otherwise would never get to see and live with families – a true cultural exchange. The homestay experience offers a chance to give back to local communities. For the remote areas this creates self employment and is a chance to get their share of tourism revenue!
The Tourism Year Committee offers support and training for all people interested in opening their home for travellers. They aim for homestays to be available in different parts of the country and contribute to development. Rs 30 million (more than £250,000) have been allocated to train people to start quality homestays. Any house with at least four rooms and basic amenities needed for tourists can be used for homestays.
In a job market more competitive than it has been for thirty years, young people in the UK need to find new ways to stand out from the crowd. They must develop skills and experience early to fast track their development and ultimately make them a more attractive proposition to employers.
By encouraging students to supplement their studies with practical, life enhancing experiences, such as course trips, travel and volunteering, young people will not only be happier, more confident, better prepared, and more successful in their studies, they will also be more employable.
Himalayan ‘Village Home Stays’ are a life learning experience that deliver long lasting benefits to the participants. Young people can do it either as part of their post school GAP year, or a summer trip during their studies. Homestays are not only for young people though! Anyone who would like to get an insight into a different culture is welcome. The homestay is a unique opportunity to live and work in an authentic and often challenging Nepali village community.
The homestay experience usually lasts between 1-2 weeks but can also be extended, for example as part of a longer volunteering experience. The participant will be placed with a trustworthy family that we have built up relations with over the years. Most of the villages we offer homestays in are within 2-3 hours drive from urban centres for easier access, and all are located in rural areas of the country, where subsistence farming is still a way of life.
Participants will be expected to contribute to all daily tasks which can be as rich as they are varied. The tasks vary from day to day, but may involve collecting water, feeding cattle, help with the cooking and cleaning, hunting and local volunteering projects such as building bridges, helping build water supply networks, getting involved with wildlife conservation projects, or local charity and farming initiatives.
Many of the homestay experiences also include an educational element. For example, we offer the chance for students to teach English and other subjects to local kids. Knowledge sharing is an important element to the experience, and hugely beneficial to both parties.
The ability to be self sufficient in these surroundings is a critical lesson of life, and of huge, long lasting benefit to young people. Many Nepali villages are cut off and isolated from the world, without running water, electricity or any home comforts. Food is grown locally, water is transported by hand, and there is no plumbing or electricity. There is an incredibly strong connection with nature and the environment, a respectful, sustainable connection, something the West could learn a huge amount from.
The opportunity to interact with new cultures is fascinating and life changing – learning a new language, communicating and interacting with different people, negotiating and working together, builds confidence, leadership skills, and the ability to interact with people from all walks of life.
These skills not only benefit a young person’s studies. They instil a level of confidence and self worth that help during employment, and in dealing with the rigors and stresses of university and work life. Unfortunately traditional education is ill equipped to prepare us for many of these eventualities.
One of our customers recently experienced a Village Home Stay. This is what she had to say about the experience:
‘When I arrived in Nepal I didn’t really know what to expect. I have not been this far from home before, so it was quite a culture shock. From the moment you step off the plane it is hard to find anything that is easily recognisable and ‘western’ but it’s thrilling and exciting at the same time.
I was placed with a great family and much of my work involved interactions with the local children. I taught them a little English, but much of the time was spent teaching them games and having fun. We played with frisbees, balloons and all sorts of toys. It was wonderful seeing their faces light up.
Outside of the orphanage we got involved with normal community life – I learnt a bit of the language, as well as some of their local customs and traditions. It’s funny how different they do things out here. For example, you should never walk over someone feet, it is seen as disrespectful! Also you don’t shake people’s hands as it is considered unhygienic. Instead you press your palms together a say Namaste, which is hello in Nepali.
I have learnt so much while I was out there – I only stayed with the family for one week, but it felt like a lifetime of positive experiences. I think more than anything it gave me confidence. So many young people don’t get to see places, or meet people from different backgrounds or cultures. At first you feel like a fish out of water but once you realise you can stand on your own two feet it gives you tremendous confidence. I can’t wait to go out again!’
We believe the sooner ‘life skills’ can be learnt by young people the better, and volunteering combined with travel provides an ideal platform to do so. The majority of further and higher education degrees, diplomas and courses rely too much on theoretical education, even those supposedly based on practical application. Colleges and schools must encourage their students to widen their horizons, look beyond their studies for new, more practical sources of intellectual and social nourishment. There is no better classroom or lecture theatre than life itself.
If you’re interested in this kind of cultural exchange drop us an email!