The Road Less Traveled
2331 N. Elston Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
June 24 - July 17, 2018 // 24 days
A land of mystery and adventure, Nepal is home to the birthplace of Lord Buddha, the world’s tallest peaks and the infamous lore of the Yeti. Bounded by the pristine Himalayas to the north and lush jungles of the Terai to the south, there are few places in the world more beautiful and diverse.
I placed my faith and trust in your team to make this trip a lifetime memory for my son. That, it did!” - Parent of Shane H., Nepal: Bodhisattva
In 2015, two devastating earthquakes struck Nepal, killing thousands and leaving many more homeless. Entire villages, schools, hospitals, and ancient temples were reduced to rubble. Two years later, there is still much work to be done.
We travel to Nepal on a teen earthquake recovery community service program focused on helping the communities in and around Kathmandu rebuild and heal. Beautiful temples, stupas, ancient places, shrines, yoga, teahouse treks and the best wildlife-viewing national park in Asia mark just the start to our adventure.
Stretching our muscles and hearts, we partner with local organizations to help communities in the district of Nuwakot rebuild schools and other critical infrastructure. In our addition to hand-on community work, we will help class 10 students prepare for their School Leaving Certificate, a critical end of high school exam that determines future job prospects. Through thoughtful grammar instruction, conversation practice, and exciting games, we will help equip students with the skills and confidence needed to tackle the English portion of their exam.
Keep scrolling to learn more about our service trip to Nepal and how you can make a real difference this summer!
The ultimate thing not to miss in Nepal: an unequaled scenic and cultural experience with a hilltop view of the world’s greatest and most inspiring mountain range. Nagarkot is the classic viewpoint outside Kathmandu; Sarangkot outside Pokhara.
One of three royal cities in the valley, Patan is a destination for enthusiasts of the fine arts. Wood and stone carvings, metal statues, ornate architecture including dozens of Buddhist and Hindu temples, and more than 1,200 monuments await. The city--known for its rich tradition of arts and handicrafts--is even the birthplace of master craftsmen and artists such as Arniko and Kuber Singh Shakya.
On April 25, 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, followed two weeks later by a 7.3 tremblor. Almost 9,000 lives were lost; entire villages were reduced to rubble. We work hand-in-hand to help the people and the surrounding environment recover.
We get unimaginably close to a rhinos at Chitwan and Bardia national parks. We’re in the heart of the jungle to see one-horned rhino, deer, monkeys, up to 450 species of birds, leopards, elephants, and sloth bears.
Inspired by both the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, we find places in Pokhara to take a refreshing break. Learn to master your skills as a yogi in a country where the ancient practice has shaped both culture and spirituality.
The whitewashed stupa, one of Nepal’s most sacred shrines, was damaged during the 2015 earthquake. Beneath the iconic, all-seeing eye of the stupa lies an eclectic collection of prayer flags, Buddha statues, and Tibetan chapels. Despite the rubble, monkeys still show up daily.
Pokhara is the second-largest city in Nepal. We can rent a canoe, paddle across Fewa Lake to the base of the pagoda and then climb 45 minutes to the top for a breathtaking view of three of the 10 highest mountains in the world: Annapurna, Manaslu, and Dhaulagiri.
One of the most significant Hindu temples in Kathmandu sits on the banks of the Bagmati River. The area also holds many smaller temples which are frequented by Sadhus (Holy Men). Here they perform cremations – an eerie, yet powerful, practice for honoring the dead.
Steamed meat or vegetable dumplings resembling America’s plump ravioli can make an addictive snack. Served with a chili sauce, momo can be found everywhere from street carts to the best restaurants.
The largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet, Boudhanath is the center of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu. A thriving Tibetan Buddhist community is clustered under the great white stupa’s all-knowing eyes even after the 2015 earthquake. (Photo was taken before the earthquake.)
In Tibetan Buddhist painting on silk applique, scenes or mandalas are important teaching tools depicting the life of the Buddha, various influential lamas, and other deities and bodhisattvas. One such subject, Bhavachakra (The Wheel of Life), is a visual representation of the Art of Enlightenment.
Many of the 360 resident monks, lamas, teachers, and workers devote their lives to the study, practice, and teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni. The monks come from all areas of Nepal and Tibet, ranging from seven to 60 years old.
No trip to Nepal would be complete without a trek through some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth. Ours includes an unequaled scenic and cultural experience in the Annapurna region to the Gurung village of Ghandruk.
The museum chronicles the past and present development of mountaineering in the world and memorializes the momentous feats of mountaineering throughout the Himalayan peaks.
An intensely urban quarter of narrow alleys, noisy markets, and fabulously carved temples, the open-air historical center of old Kathmandu hosts an architectural museum of magnificent medieval temples, pagodas, pavilions, and shrines. Durbar Square is home to Kumari, Kathmandu’s living goddess.
The exquisitely preserved Kathmandu Valley town of Bhaktapur is built in dark carved wood and glowing pink brick adorned with fine stone sculptures. One of the three royal cities in the Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur is filled with monuments, most of which are terra-cotta with carved wood columns, palaces and temples with elaborate carvings, gilded roofs, open courtyards.
Earthquake Community Service Relief, Teaching English
A Certificate of Community Service indicating the total number of hours worked and a Presidential Volunteer Service Award will be issued upon successful completion of the program.
Explore: Patan, Kathmandu and Patan Dubar Square, Swayambhunath Stupa, Pashupatinath Temple, Boudhanath Stupa, Kopan Monastery, Thamel, Pokhara, Chitwan National Park, World Peace Pagoda, Mountaineering Museum
Cultural Experience: Dharma Talk, Thanka Painting Demonstration, Gurung Community
Classes: Yoga, Meditation, Nepali Language, Tibetan Culture and History
Trek: Ghorepani/Poon Hill; Annapurna Region
9 - 12
While in Kathmandu and Chitwan, we stay in hotels where showers are available; however, we shower every three to four days to conserve resources and support sustainability. Throughout the service portion of the program, we sleep in tents and use latrines. During the four day trek we sleep in bunkbeds in tea houses.
New York (JFK)
A leader-escorted roundtrip flight will be available (but not required) from JFK for those travelers who wish to fly with a leader.
Join in on the fun! Check out #NepalRLT for a behind-the-scenes look at photos from past participants and leaders.
After a brief layover in Abu Dhabi, we descend into Kathmandu Valley, ready for the adventure of a lifetime. With over 2,000 years of rich history, the mazelike streets of Kathmandu are exhilarating and exhausting, home to mystifying temples and bustling markets.
We set up home base in the quieter suburb of Patan, where we kick jet lag with a traditional Nepali feast of daal bhat (a rice and lentil staple) and a good night sleep. After a crash course in basic Nepali greetings and phrases, we spend the next few days taking in the foreign sights, sounds and smells of our new home.
We visit Patan Museum, one of the best in Asia, to check out the traditional sacred arts of Nepal in an illustrious architectural setting that includes many rare treasures. We take in a breathtaking sunset at the sacred shrine Swayambhunath, marveling at the colorful Kathmandu skyline and silhouettes of monkeys set against the iconic whitewashed stupa.
We will join local farmers in the district of Lalitpur to welcome the monsoons and celebrate the start of the rice planting season (Ropain Festival). Knee deep in flood rice patties, we master the art of planting rice to the sounds of Nepali folk tunes. We are not afraid to get our hands (and whole bodies!) dirty, as we join locals in the joyous tradition of splashing in the mud.
We immerse ourselves in the study and practice of new religions, striving to understand the complexities of Buddhism. Who better to learn from than the monks at Kopan monastery? The monastery offers a peaceful place to walk around, soak in the surroundings, and stop to listen to dharma. We will continue our study at Boudhanath Stupa. In the company of Monks, we circle the stupa, spinning prayer wheels in an effort to quiet our mind.
We marvel at thangka paintings. Tibetan Buddhist schools teach the technique of painting on cotton, or silk appliqué, with art depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala. We learn about the significance of the paintings and the artists’ personal creative processes. We enjoy a delicious bowl of Tibetan tenthuk soup (think chicken noodle soup, but 1000x better).
We head to Kathmandu Durbar Square, located in the heart of the city. Full of magnificent medieval temples, pagodas, pavilions and shrines, it was once occupied by Nepal’s cloistered royal family. While severely damaged by the earthquakes, the ornate engravings and historical significance is certainly enough to leave you with awe-inspired goosebumps.
We explore the winding alleyways of Asan market, where locals buy everything from colorful spices and brilliant copper cookware, to sequined clad saris and bangles. Nearby in Thamel, Kathmandu’s central tourist district, we experience globalization at its finest. Store after store of knockoff mountaineering gear, “Buddhist” trinkets and colorful scarves prompt us to consider the impact of tourism on Nepal’s culture and economy. We will end our day will a five course meal, sampling everything from momos (mouthwatering Nepali dumplings) to traditional rice pudding.
A thrilling bus ride valley through rolling hills and vibrant rice patties will lead us to our service site. We spend the next few days immersed in the beautiful district of Nuwakot, about 200 km outside of the Kathmandu Valley. Hand in hand with the local community, we will jump in where ever most needed to help rebuild a local school and other critical infrastructure in the wake of the devastating 2015 earthquakes. We will strengthen our muscles and expand our hearts, sharing in the joys and challenges that make us all human.
We will help class 10 students prepare for their School Leaving Certificate (SLC), a critical end of high school exam. Every year 2/3 of students fail their high school exit exam, ending their educational and career prospects at age 16. The English portion consistently proves to one of the most challenging. Our lesson plans will take us from grammar instruction at the chalk board to interactive games and sing-a-longs in the courtyard. We throw a 4th of July carnival for our new friends, sharing some of our favorite traditions.
We celebrate with a closing ceremony at our service site and move the next morning to Chitwan National Park, the heart of the jungle. It’s one of the best wildlife-viewing national parks in Asia. We explore the jungle via foot, a tranquil canoe ride and on the back of a majestic elephant, hoping to catch a glimpse of a variety of wildlife including crocodiles and rhinos. While bathing with elephants in the Rapti River and visiting a local breeding center, we learn about the complicated role elephants play in southern Nepal’s culture and economy.
We transition to Pokhara via private charter flight. Gazing out the plane window, we see some of the world’s tallest mountains poking through the clouds. After a trip to the International Mountain Museum for inspiration and one final carb-loaded feast, we begin our five-day Himalayan trek. There are few experiences more humbling than gazing out over some of the world’s tallest mountains. Winding our way through local villages and over steep mountains, we will encounter gushing waterfalls, lush forests and catch an arresting glimpse of the snow-capped peaks of Annapurna South and Macchupucchare.
We return to Pokhara, where we rejuvenate and repair our muscles with some morning yoga, and purchase our last minute souvenirs in the eclectic lakeside shops. Those with energy remaining rent canoes and paddle across Fewa Lake to the base of the World Peace Pagoda. A short hike offers panorama of the Pokhara skyline and surrounding peaks.
Traveling back to Kathmandu, we spend our last day in historic Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur is one of three royal cities in the Kathmandu Valley filled with monuments, most being terra-cotta with carved wood columns, palaces, and temples with gilded roofs and open courtyards. We will sample their world renowned yogurt and fest on a final plate of momos. We end our final day with our traditional Road Less Traveled Poets Campfire, and return home.
Meet in JFK and catch the flight to Nepal!
Arrive in the evening and move to the guesthouse in Patan for a restful night.
Learn useful Nepalese phrases and language skills. Practice them in Patan, Durbar Square, and the Patan Museum, a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. Visit the Swayambhunath Temple (Tibetan for "Sublime Trees") to observe the sunset.
Partake in the local rice planting festival, symbolizing the end of planting period, when farmers and friends plant and plough while singing folk songs filled with the joys and sorrows of a farmer's life. Side by side, we celebrate, sing, and get a little muddy along the way!
Hear the wisdom of a dharma talk. Learn first-hand about thangka art, a traditional Tibetan Buddhist painting technique.
Assist local residents working to restore a damaged school structures. Evenings, catch the sunset at Swayambhunath and enjoy a Newari feast while learning more about the culture from a Newari in the community of Kirtipur.
Continue service work to help alleviate earthquake damage to the local school. Help underprivileged children with their English language skills.
Transfer to Chitwan, visit a Tharu Village, see incredible jungle wildlife, and watch the sunset riverside.
Paddle across Fewa Lake, practice yoga, relax lakeside, and explore the shops of Pokhara.
Wind through the mountains, teahouse to teahouse, on an amazing trek.
Explore Bhaktapur and share in a traditional closing feast and Poets Campfire, savoring the final full days in Nepal.
Board the escorted flight back to JFK and say farewell.
The Road Less Traveled does not require any vaccinations or immunizations to travel with us, other than an up-to-date tetanus shot or booster (within the last nine years).
Please visit the CDC’s website to read more about recommended vaccinations for travel to Nepal. The decision to get some, none, or all of the recommended vaccinations is a personal one, and should be discussed with your family doctor.
Please click below to view your program’s equipment and packing list!
Nepal: Bodhisattva Packing List - 2018 list coming soon!
For an emailed copy of this program’s day-to-day calendar, please call our office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST at 773-342-5200 and we’ll happily send you one!
It is imperative that no one make any travel arrangements until RLT provides instructions for specific arrival and departure time windows. Those details are typically released in mid-spring.
Families are individually responsible for booking their own airfare to get their student from home to the starting destination on the first day of the trip, and from the ending destination back home on the last day of the trip.
This program offers an optional leader-escorted flight for those families who are interested.
If you wish to have your participant fly directly into the starting location, please call the office for details.