Last year we started an initiative in Nepal – Girls Empowered by Travel. We are creating opportunities for Nepali girls to travel locally, learn and do community projects. Few months back we came up with an awesome idea to start a cultural homestay in a traditional Nepali village! It will provide economic sustainability to our project, teach girls valuable leadership skills and we can build a lot of cool cultural and educational projects around the homestay.
What is a ‘homestay’?
Have you ever stayed in a homestay while traveling? It’s become quite trendy in the past years among backpackers, especially in Asia (from my own experience). Homestays host visitors in a home setting, rather than a traditional lodge or hotel. Guests are accepted as family members by the host family and get a chance to spend time with the family, observing traditional culture, as well as possibly participating in daily activities of the family.
In a bigger picture, homestay is a great tool for promoting rural tourism, reduction of rural poverty and empowerment of local community.
Champak Namuna Homestay
Our homestay – Champak Namuna (just a crazy Nepali word:) – is located in an ancient Newar village of Changunarayan, homeland to Lord Vishnu, an important Hindu God. It’s a gorgeous valley, just 12 km away from Kathmandu.
The homestay house belongs to Dashmaya Tamang, 24, an active Girls Empowered by Travel member. She’s been taking care of her entire family since her father died six years ago from tuberculosis. Four years ago another NGO helped initiate the home stay project in Changunarayan village. They selected 10 houses for community homestay, including Dashmaya’s house. Unfortunately, all of the houses were severely damaged during the devastating 2015 earthquake, with the exception of Dashamaya’s. So we decided to revive the project in Dashmaya’s house, also adding a community service aspect to it.
By running this homestay we hope to:
- Create sustainable income source for GET Nepal activities + support Dashmaya’s family;
- Create a cool venue for our projects, as well as our guests and friends (including other NGOs);
- Offer volunteering opportunities for national and international volunteers in Changunarayan;
- Introduce and create awareness for the unique traditional culture and life style of rural Nepal.
I help run Girls Empowered by Travel Nepal most of the time remotely. But I just visited Nepal and of course stayed at Champak Namuna, to experience myself what actually we are offering and what it is like. Oh let me tell you it was an amazing time.
The family you will be staying with – Dashmaya, her brother, mother, and lovely lovely grandmother. And there’s always a lot of family members, friends and fellow villagers in the house:) This part of the village is Tamang, meaning its primarily people from Tamang caste living here, following their traditional lifestyles.
My favorite part was walking around the village, trying to communicate with Dashmaya’s grandmother who doesn’t speak a word of English, eating traditional dal baht (rice and lentils), sitting on the clay floor on mats hand woven by Dashmaya’s mother… I really felt I was a part of their family these days. They were always concerned, whether I’d eaten enough rice, or hadn’t got wet and cold in the rain:)
What Else Does Champak Namuna Offer?
Besides just being with an amazing family in a unique setting, you can of course just walk around the village and observe: goats grazing, women fetching water, people working in the field or brewing local moonshine, kids sliding downhills… If you start interacting with locals, I betcha it will lead to a nice adventure:) During one of these walks we started our video series #StoriesOfNepal (visit our Instagram to see those). And by the way, Changu has an amazing Hindu Temple, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Girls who run homestay can also provide endless activities: from trekking and hiking to organic farming and temple visits. We can organize customized volunteering programs in Changunarayan from the homestay. Tell us how long you want to stay and what you would like to do and we will do our best to tailor an amazing experience for you! Want to teach at a local school? Learn permaculture? Do community research? Learn a new cool skill, like painting, wood carving or scarf making?
The one amazing thing I did there was taking Thanka painting classes. Thanka is a traditional Tibetan art. I spent two days at an artist’s shop painting a mandala with real gold! It was a famous Om Mane Padme Hum mantra that I was trying to recreate.
Just honestly, this is the most fun and authentic experience I’ve had in Nepal. A few of my fellow traveler friends went to visit too and they shared the same afterwards! The homestay is on Booking.com and Airbnb, so check it out if in Nepal. Stay, volunteer, hike around, hang out with our beautiful community! I promise you will experience something out of the ordinary!