Sustainable Tourism Advocate Hindy Weber Embarks On An Eco-centric Journey To The Himalayas
The years to follow were replete with downsizing and detoxing from physical and emotional matters that were no longer sensible to us; and recalibrating to a new “flow” where our life choices were in sync with our family values. Little did we know that these choices would later lay the groundwork for a complete transformation that would echo into every aspect of our lives.
One of the values we chose was ecological responsibility. We wanted to make sure that everything we consumed and purchased had little to no detrimental impact on the Earth’s ecosystem. An overwhelming feat, to say the least, but it was an ideal we aimed for 11 years ago, and still do to this very day.
We believe our lives are inextricably linked to that of the planet’s. Whatever the planet feels, we will feel sooner or later. Whatever we give out, will eventually come back to us. It was no longer enough to create a healthy and ecological environment at home. We had to think beyond sustainability inside our home and more on how we impact the larger whole. This is when we began consciously lessening our food and plastic waste, cultivating and growing soil wherever we could, and ensuring cleaner waterways in our business and home activities.
This was also about the time we began measuring our carbon footprint. We learned that we were contributing about six and a half metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere by taking three trips a year. We also wondered how much plastic and food waste we generated during these trips abroad. Just think about all the food and packaging from airports, airplanes, room service meals, restaurants, convenience stores and drivethrus. The thought alone makes me queasy. We quickly realised that our commitment to sustainability had to extend into our travels as well. We had to make more conscious decisions about the countries we visited, and the hotels and activities we chose while there
Aside from food waste, we also cared about ecofriendly practices in food production, so we looked for organic restaurants and speciality markets wherever we travelled. Fair labour and trade practices also mattered to us, so we would do background checks on the hotels before booking. We also checked that the hotels had green practices when it came to their food, laundry, housekeeping, and waste management. It was also important that these establishments were culturally sensitive, embraced their local culture and had charitable projects in their surrounding community. This was three years ago, and we didn’t realise there was already a name for this kind of travel: RESPONSIBLE TOURISM.
WHAT IS RESPONSIBLE TOURISM
The World Travel Market has adopted the Cape Town Declaration definition of Responsible Tourism, characterised by travel and tourism, which:
- minimises negative economic, environmental and social impacts
- generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities
- improves working conditions and access to the industry
- involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life changes
- makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, to the maintenance of the world’s diversity
- provides enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social, and environmental issues
- provides access for people with disabilities andto the disadvantaged
- is culturally sensitive, engenders respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence
This new conscious approach to travel has guided our way to New Zealand, Kyoto, Bali, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Arizona, London, New Mexico, Portland, Sonoma Valley, and Marin County in San Francisco. For our eldest son’s high school graduation, we decided to take him to Nepal to suit his love for the outdoors. During our research, we were pleasantly surprised to find luxury hotels that were simultaneously certified as responsible, green, or sustainable.
I first contacted the Tiger Tops Safari Lodge, and they led me to the two other hotels we booked for the rest of our trip: Dwarikas Heritage Hotel in Kathmandu and Tiger Mountain Lodge in Pokhara. We couldn’t have picked better. While our time in Nepal was rich with culture, breathtaking adventure, and mystical scenery, we had our fair share of travel frustrations, particularly during local flights. This was all tempered by the care provided by our hosts. When travelling to a new country especially, it is crucial that your hotel doesn’t just provide comfort or convenience but also shares your lifestyle. No matter what happens, your principles will not be compromised, and you will feel that you are understood, and truly cared for.
Walking around Kathmandu is like a living museum. Prayer and meditation are apparent at all hours of the day
One of the oldest and holiest stupas in all of Nepal is the Swoyambhunath Stupa Buddhist Temple
A thanka handpainted mandala and wooden mask are must-buys
A visit to the Tharu Village community taken during one of our outreach programmes;
My memorable daily yoga practice with the guru Yati Raj at Dwarika’s Hotel Kathmandu
Market stalls on Freak Street
More market vendors on Freak Street;
Curry everything • dal • grilled okra • fried Bauhinia veragata flower • local honey • Himalayan pink and black salt • yak cheese • local granola • wood apple and w ood apple juice
Everest Base Camp trek • Annapurna trek through Tiger Mountain Lodge • Short flight over Everest (www.buddhaair.com) • Yoga every morning at Dwarika’s Hotel with master yogi Yati Raj • Bhattarai • Any rejuvenating massage and traditional sauna • Singing bowl sound healing • Elephant Camp at Tiger Tops Tharu Village in Chitwan National Park • Jungle walk with elephants at Tiger Tops Tharu Lodge • Gurung Village walk with Tiger Mountain Lodge • Visit the Tibetan Village in Pokhara • Visit the Thangka Painting school in Patan • Buy a 7-metal/7-chakra singing bowl • Indulge in jewellery, pottery, metalwork, and salt!
Everest (of course!)—either through Base Camp or a scenic one-hour flight, or three-hour flight with landing • Annapurna Mountain Range • Patan Kumari goddess • Durbar Square • Freak Street • Boudhanath Stupa • Swoyambhunath Stupa • Pashupatinath Temple • Bhaktapur • Changu Narayan • Tilkot- Nagarkot hiking • The Golden Gate • Palace of 55 Windows • Lion’s Gate • The Nyatpola Temple • Bhairab Temple • Dattratraya Temple • Pottery Centre • Dwarikas Heritage Hotel
Hiking boots • Walking shoes or trainers • A packable raincoat • Cold-weather jacket • Light clothes • Lots of bandanas for dust storms • Facemask • A sunhat • Sunglasses • Shawls to cover up in t emples and other sacred areas (always good to dress appropriately) • Insect repellent • Sunblock • A water canteen (best to drink water only from trusted sources) • Light snacks or energy bars for walks, tours, or treks • Pocket Wifi • A good camera • Medicine for altitude sickness
Until 1951, Nepal was a closed kingdom • In 2015, they had a devastating earthquake from which they haven’t recovered completely • Sunday is a working day, so shops are open • Many people in th e city centres speak English • They practice a combination of Hinduism and Buddhism • Respect their faith and traditions • They have many Tibetan refugees • Most shopkeepers can be trust ed to give you a fair price • Negotiate reasonably • Only order ice from trustworthy restaurants/cafes • When in doubt, stick with bottled water or drinks
Here I share my travel guide to beautiful Nepal. It was one of our most memorable trips. The people were mesmerising, the mountains were spectacular! We never felt unsafe. And we couldn’t shop enough! Jewellery, pottery, wood carvings, and tapestries galore—all reasonably priced. There was a palpable spirituality, too, adding a sense of peace and perspective to our experience. Last, but not least, our carbon footprint was amongst the lowest of our destinations, so that’s a huge bonus for this jewel in the Himalayas!