Teen Taking Time Off to Travel and
Explore Now: the Beach Will Wait
Nepal for a Cultural Immersion
I was 16, an age that most people see
as too young for overseas travel, but I had an immense desire
to explore and learn about other cultures and ways of life.
When I learned about an organization called International
Cultural Adventures, I called and talked with the program
director about my interest in Nepal and
their 6-week Nepal Cultural Immersion Experience program.
I told him that I would talk to my parents and see if I
could go on this program and do some volunteer work in Nepal
over the summer.
Convincing my parents that I was capable
of going so far away from my home in North Carolina, alone
for so long, was very difficult. Making it even harder,
Nepal was in the news, because of problems with Maoist rebels.
I did all sorts of things to try to show I would be capable
of going to Nepal. I raised my SAT scores, got good grades
in school, and did research on the country to show that
it really wasn't that dangerous.
Springtime rolled around and it was
definite. "What are you doing this summer?" people
would ask. "I'm going to Nepal," I would reply. "Where's
that?" they would ask. "Near India," I would
reply. "That's interesting. I'm going to the beach," they
Travel in Nepal
Once in Nepal I had no regrets at all
about going. It was fascinating. My willingness to leave
my expectations behind certainly had a positive effect on
my ability to get involved and gain a deep appreciation
and some understanding of this mighty kingdom. I found the
Nepalese people to be incredibly friendly and open to sharing
their culture with visitors. There was hardly a day when
someone didn't invite me into their house or shop to drink "chiyaa,” the
milky tea which is so common in Nepal.
For part of the program I stayed in
the home of Ghana Shyam Paudel, the head of one of Nepal's
oldest trekking companies and spent many hours listening
to stories about the different expeditions he had organized.
He had arranged countless Everest ascents, some for very
well known climbers like Edmund Hillary's son.
Volunteering in Nepal
Another interesting part of the program
was teaching during the volunteer service phase. I taught
English to elementary school kids in Kathmandu. I had no
idea how I was going to teach English to kids who spoke
a language I only knew the rudiments of. Despite this it
turned out to be a success, partly because the kids already
knew some English. I told them things about my home country
and in turn they told me things about their homeland Nepal.
It was good for all of us. If I could do it again, I would
learn more about teaching methods and bring some resources
for teaching with me.
Another volunteer teacher and I experienced
part of the Annapurna Trek, which is northwest of Kathmandu.
In Nepal during the summer the mountains are sometimes covered
by clouds because of the monsoons; nonetheless, the views
were amazing. The villages we walked through were some of
the most beautiful places I've ever seen.
The Return Home
Upon returning to the U.S. my outlook
on things had changed somewhat. I had learned what it was
like in country totally different from my own, and I was
more confident about doing things independently. I knew
that I wanted to visit more countries, learn other languages,
and lead an adventurous life.
That's exactly what I'm doing. Now
I'm living in Spain and learning Spanish and later plan
to travel to Morocco, then around parts of Europe. I’ll
be starting college next fall, but first I'm taking some
time off to learn about the world in the best way possible—through
direct experience. My ICA experience in Nepal was one of
the first steps along my path, and I recommend it to someone
who wants to really get involved and pursue his or her own
individual interests. There's a whole world out there, and
you'll never really know what it's like unless you get out
there and see it for yourself. The beach will still be there
when you come home.
GRANT FLORIAN finished
high school in Lumberton, NC a year early in order to
travel and learn Spanish in Spain. In the fall he will
attend college at the Univ. of North Carolina Chapel
Hill. He plans to major in anthropology and Spanish.