The country of Nepal is like a giant, living museum — everything is a sight to behold. Its borders perfectly outline a chunk of the Himalayas with a bit of forested plains in the south and is situated directly between China and India. It is amongst the poorest countries in the world, where the majority of people make about $1 a day and the second biggest revenue comes from people leaving Nepal to work as maids or construction workers in other countries, namely the Middle East, and sending those few hundred dollars a month home. Let’s just say it’s not very developed. Dirt roads abound, one meager dish — dhal bhat — is the customary meal consisting of lentils and rice, and electricity is out more than it is on.
Then again, it is the birthplace of Buddha and Kama Sutra, the home of the world’s highest mountain and local Tigers, a jungle of breathtaking nature where those birds on “Planet Earth’ almost crash into your face when you’re driving through the hills, and where people take colors as beauty seriously. Who needs technology to distract you when you can play with baby rhinos as a kid? Nepal is epic.
Unlike other places I’ve been where I’ve run into travelers, Nepal is a destination. That is to say, you go there because you want to go be in Nepal. It’s not like you’re traveling through Southeast Asia and it’s one of the countries you just explore. It’s not like you’re backpacking Europe and you pass through it. People put Nepal on their list as a place to go and different people have different reasons. These are the types of travelers you meet in Nepal:
There are the hippies. Usually they have already travelled through India which is the universal mecca for all hippies of all levels. India (from what I’ve heard) is insanely intense, a sensory overload of unimaginable proportions. Tons of people crowd around you, filth and poverty are normal, exquisite food tantalizes your taste buds, and it’s loud. And cheap. So the hippies who make it to India and survive usually come to Nepal to chill out.
Nepal is the calm destination/end-point of the weary traveling hippies. It’s got the same third world charm, without the exhausting overload. I never went to India so I just collected all the reactions of everyone else. When describing Nepal against India, some people literally roll their eyes back and wearily flail their arms saying “Oh Nepal is so Om Shanti Shanti! It’s so chill, so calm, India is so CRAZY!.” Honestly, I didn’t meet one person who strayed from this assessment.
Seen Above: Matias reenacting a typical hippie outfit seen in Nepal: No shirt, flowing hippie pants with elastic on the bottom, a small pouch for (hardly any) money or drugs, a weird guru wrap on his head, and NO shoes.
A large subgroup of the general hippie population is the young Israeli community. Before going to Nepal I had no idea how densely touristed it was specifically by Israelis. So in all the tourist cities you go to in Nepal, you are 100% guaranteed to find many many many shops, restaurants, laundry services, adventure companies etc with their signs in Hebrew. Apparently many young Israelis come to India and Nepal to chill out and live cheaply after doing time in the mandatory military service (they join when they’re 18).
I asked all the Lebanese hippies we ran into in Nepal (there were so many!) about what it was like being around so many Israelis. Incredibly, they found it fascinating and said all the Israelis they met were amazing and that they had so much in common culturally with them. It seems like they only had positive things to say. They’re also the hippies of both communities.
Then there are the trekkers. First of all, I didn’t even really know what trekking was. Because I already know what walking, climbing, and hiking are, I couldn’t imagine a different action that still takes place in nature. Turns out trekking is just like walking in the jungle or mountain bases and sometimes using a stick or a Sherpa to carry your shit. Tons of people of all ages trek! To me it’s incredible how many snow white-haired old people are outfitted with their best sports clothes ready to take on some mountains (or mountain bases!).
After a while I started to ask myself how many 50-55+ adults I personally knew who would be able to walk in the forest for weeks — as vacation, no less. I couldn’t really think of anyone in my immediate adult circles, and concluded not many American olds I know are into vacations of the exertion type. Also, in the hippie-heaven of Pokhara half of all the tourist stalls sell Northface gear, walking poles, and camping equipment for the trekkers.
Pictured Above. Matias reenacting a typical trekker’s outfit: Fleece Northface pullover, Goretex waterproof windbreaker, trekking boots, a helmet, a Sherpa to carry his shit, and a victorious smile after a mountain summit!
Lastly, the trekkers are usually wealthier than the rest of the tourists (hippies). They stay at the really nice hotels and resorts, eat at the finer dining restaurants, and generally live a more upscale existence in the cities when they are not out trekking.
I pretty much assume everyone falls into these categories except for 4 self-denying hipsters hailing from the Middle East who wore jeans and t-shirts every day till they boarded the plane. At least, that’s what it looked like to me.
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