(Page updated: March 25th)
When: September 11 – October 26, 2014
Who: 8-11 students (ages 14-19) plus trip leaders Blake Boles, Hannah Hall, and Shona Warwick-Smith
A minimum of 8 students is required to run this trip.
How Much: $4500 includes all activities, ground transportation, housing, breakfasts, some lunches, and dinners.
International airfare, Nepal visa, some lunches, bungee jumping, and bottled water are not included.
How Can I Fundraise For This Trip?
Arrival/Departure Airport: San Francisco
Priority Application Date: March 1st, 2014
Application Status: This trip is full with 11 students. We’re no longer accepting applications!
Do you want to hike among the highest mountains in the world? Ride an elephant? Learn how to meditate? Meet some real Buddhists? Help children learn English? Eat exotic foods? Bungee jump? Experience a truly different culture?
If so—then this is the trip for you.
Welcome to Nepal, home of the Himalayas and Unschool Adventures’ newest destination.
Every Unschool Adventure trip is created with specific purposes in mind. Here’s what we’ll set out to accomplish:
Immersing ourselves in a non-Western culture
The best way to learn more about the culture in which you live is to immerse yourself in a totally different one. We’ll do this by staying with a rural Nepali family and volunteering at their children’s school; participating in an intensive 10-day Buddhism and meditation retreat (including 2 days of total silence) run by actual Tibetan Buddhists; and exploring the streets, temples, and food stands of Kathmandu, Nepal’s cosmopolitan capital.
Teahouse trekking in the Annapurna Conservation Area
A “teahouse trek” is a unique form of multi-day hiking where you don’t need to take your own shelter or food because every few miles you encounter a “teahouse” (a combination boardinghouse and restaurant) that offers meals and beds. This makes hiking in the Himalayas accessible to people of all ability levels. Our group will undertake the 5-day Ghorepani trek, a moderately easy trek with stunning views of the Annapurna mountain range.
Elephant safari and Asia’s highest bungee jump
When you’re tired of all the culture and teahouses, two classic adventure activities await you at the end of our trip: an elephant-back rhino-seeking safari in Chitwan National Park and an overnight trip to “The Last Resort” near the Tibetan border featuring an (optional) 160-meter bungee jump or 8-second free-fall swing.
Self-directed exploration, relaxation, and mini-adventures
On every Unschool Adventures trip, we keep things loose and give you as much free time as possible to rest, explore, and organize your own activities, whether that means finding a great lunch spot, haggling for souvenirs with friends in a market, or taking a quiet hour to journal. Introverts and extraverts alike will get what they need.
Nepal’s cosmopolitan capital. Highlights include Durbar Square (where Nepalese kings were once crowned), the Garden of Dreams, more temples than you can shake a stupa at (some with Tantric erotica carvings), bustling markets, and restaurants featuring cuisine from across the world. The city’s annual Dashain festival will be taking place during part of our visit—if you’re not into goat beheadings, we apologize in advance.
We’ll visit Kathmandu at least four different times, giving you ample opportunity to explore the city. Our accommodations will be youth hostels in the tourism-oriented Thamel district, where we’ll enjoy easy access to restaurants and the tourist bus terminal.
We’ll spend roughly four hours each day volunteering at Diamond Hill by helping students with English homework and possibly teaching lessons ourselves; working on their farm; or doing service projects in the local village of Gaunsahar. Outside of this time, we may hike, learn basic Nepali language, play games, or just kick back. No matter what we end up doing, we’ll receive an eye-opening and authentic look at Nepali life.
If your family has any old laptops or tablet devises lying around, please consider bringing and donating them to the school.
Nepal’s second-largest city, Pokhara is a slow-paced and more scenic version of Kathmandu. We’ll stay in a hostel here for three nights, beef up our Nepali language skills at the Cosmic Brontosaurus, walk around the lake, relax, and prepare for our teahouse trek.
(Pokhara is also known for paragliding, but unfortunately their safety standards aren’t high enough for Unschool Adventures. If you were hoping to paraglide, save your money for an extra bungee jump instead!)
Led by a professional trekking guide, we’ll embark on a 5-day/4-night teahouse trek in the Annapurna Conservation Area. During this trek you’ll leave any unnecessary items in Pokhara, carrying only your clothing, headlamp, snacks, water, and a light sleeping bag on your back.
The biggest highlight of the Ghorepani trek is the pre-dawn hike to Poon Hill, where you look out onto the rising sun as it casts a golden glow onto the Annapurna mountain range. These are some of the tallest mountains in the world, and it is one of the most epic views you’ll ever experience, and a great photo opportunity.
Kopan Monastery is likely to prove the most rewarding—and most challenging—part of our trip. Founded in 1969 by exiled Tibetan Buddhists, Kopan is now a thriving monastery with 360 monks and (in a separate nunnery) 380 nuns. As described on their website, “Monks and nuns from the age of seven come from all over Nepal and the Himalayan countries such as Tibet, India, Bhutan, Sikkim, and even Mongolia to attend this Gelugpa monastery, one of the best in Kathmandu valley, to receive a classical monastic education.” None of these students pay tuition because Western travelers like us come and pay money to participate in retreats and programs. Watch this short YouTube documentary to get a feel for Kopan.
At Kopan, we will attend a 10-day introduction to Tibetan Buddhism and meditation. With daily discussions and teachings led by both a Western monk/nun and a Tibetan lama, this will be the real deal as far as Buddhism is concerned.
THIS WILL BE HARD! No electronics or non-Buddhist reading materials are allowed during the course, you’re not allowed to leave (except for emergencies), and silence is maintained for half of each day. For two days of the course, total silence is maintained. By signing up for this trip, you’re signing up for an experience that may feel very new and difficult at times. A preexisting interest/exposure to Buddhism will help, as well as a strong sense of flexibility and open-mindedness.
The daily schedule for the 8 normal days of the retreat:
The daily schedule for the 2 silent days of the retreat:
A Unesco World Heritage site composed of extensive forests, marshland, and grassland, Chitwan National Park is one of the top wildlife-viewing parks in Asia. We’ll spend two full days visiting the park and riding elephants on the lookout for Chitwan’s famous one-horned rhinos as well as wild oxen, monkeys, deer, and hundreds of bird species. Other animals in Chitwan—though rarely encountered—include leopards, wild elephants, sloth bears, Bengal tigers, hyena, and crocodiles.
A fitting end to a long and sometimes difficult adventure, The Last Resort is a gorgeous tourist resort set above the Bhote Kosi river, 12km from the Tibetan border. (In the photo above, trip leader Hannah Hall safety tests the Last Resort bungee system.) Highlights include tent cabins, a pool / sauna / spa, and Asia’s highest bungee jump or 8-second free-fall swing ($75, optional). We’ll spend one day and night at The Last Resort: short and sweet.
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