Responsible Travel Within The Himalayas
EXPLORE AND SAVE THE EARTH
Responsible travel is a new way of travelling and trekking for those who’ve had enough of mass tourism. It’s about respecting and benefiting the local people and the environment but it is also about accountability.
If you are travelling for relaxation, fulfillment, discovery, adventure and to learn rather than simply ticking off ‘places and things to visit’ from your bucket list, then responsible travel is for you.
Responsive travelers are interested in minimizing their carbon footprint and maximizing their contributions to local inhabitants through finances, humanity and cultural exchange.
Tourism is the world’s fastest growing industry as traveling to far flung places gives us an amazing opportunity to experience cultures that are so different from our own. But with the wondrous joys of travel comes the responsibility of ensuring that we do not adversely affect those countries that we visit. In a nutshell, Responsible Travel is about ensuring that you, as travelers realize that these places deserve respect.
We respect the local culture and we do not inadvertently introduce new social ills. We promote and practice environmental responsibility in and around the places we visit and operate our treks and tours.
This way, you get pleasure from a unique and a memorable experience as well as an authentic cross-cultural exchange along with it our local resources, cultures and customs are protected.
What we do?
Earthbound Expeditions has been leading the way in the travel trade sector providing both leisure and adventure activities in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India for more than a decade. We organize eco tours and treks for groups as well as individual travelers and cater to all age groups. We tailor make programs and packages to suit the interest, physical fitness and budget aspect of an individual / group. Our large volume of clients are forever expanding as trekkers, travelers or rafters who return with grand tales of exploration of the Himalayas and thus Earthbound Expeditions takes pride in our record of “repeat business” and the many referrals that we receive from our satisfied travelers that we have served over the years.
Our Sustainable policy and performance
All of Earthbound Expeditions’ staff are locally employed and all our guides are ensuring a more authentic experience for our travelers along with taking care of sensitivity to local customs and cultures.
We use local products (food, vegetables, dairy products etc.).
We are committed to providing services best available in the industry and make no compromises when it comes to guest’s preferences.
Apart from the conventional promotional campaigns, we take pride in our return business that comes through word of mouth. Our commitment to provide prompt and quality services has exceeded our guests’ expectations and the continued effort in maintaining the trend has won us some prestigious titles in the past few years.
Ecological and Environmental Impact
we conduct all our treks and tours with a vigilant eye to avoid any disturbance to the local ecology or way of life. We are committed to an active participation in national and local environmental initiatives. We continuously strive to make sure that traveling with Earthbound Expeditions in Nepal and elsewhere has minimum impact on the local environment.
Social and Cultural Impact
Earthbound Expeditions believes that it is possible to operate commercially within the Eco-Tourism Sector industry and also preserve the natural and cultural heritage of an area through promotions of sustainable tourism. In our work, we actively promote and implement this philosophy whenever an opportunity is presented. The evident success is that our treks and tours efforts have achieved obvious rewards in the professional and commercial sense and has positively enhanced the travel and Eco-trekking experience.
We run and are affiliated with some non- government organization that is committed to providing the much needed health and education facilities to remote areas of Nepal.
We emphasize on making extensive use of the available local products and enhance maximum economic benefits to the local communities. In addition, we support rural development projects by contributing 10% of the profit generated each trading year, thereby having directly uplifted the living standards of the local residents and contributed to the national economy of Nepal.
Innovative Best Practices
Since inception, our company has been striving to open up remote areas of Nepal for treks. We are the pioneers of the first commercial ascents in the “wild routes” to the far West and East of Nepal such as Simkot, Bajhang and Khaptad Rara area, Ganesh Himal area and also specialize in treks to virgin areas with formidable games and nature watching experiences which was inaccessible to tourists in the past’s years.
We strive to maintain the trend by making continuous effort in discovering interesting new destinations within the country. Furthermore, we have initiated cleaning campaigns in the nearby villages that involves a lot of local participation. The idea is to raise hygiene and environmental awareness with the villagers. Such campaigns also educate the villagers to keep their villages and their surroundings neat and clean.
We are also involved in local communities in remote areas that we travel and trek to. An example of this is Dhading Ganesh Himal area, where we ask local communities for inputs concerning our treks and to provide home stay accommodations.
Earthbound Expeditions also works closely with some NGOs undertaking independent assessments and interviews with local communities about our lodge development in Dhading which are employing local ethnic minority staff there.
We are involved in a number of initiatives and are always looking to develop further. We donate thousands of rupees annually to humanitarian causes like care houses / schools and we are one of the travel and trek company in Nepal to offer volunteering jobs in regards to travel and treks. Our genuine commitment to Responsible Travel is increasingly well-known and our programs are evolving. Earthbound Expeditions several volunteer trek programs have had positive contributions within the local communities in promoting sustainable practices.
• You can get involved in our programs and other charitable initiatives in Nepal and India.
• Earthbound Expeditions arranges visits to orphanages, short- and long-term volunteer placements in the community / villages, volunteer adventures, medical treks and exciting charity challenges, such as Dhading Ganesh Himal sustainable eco trek.
GUIDELINES FOR RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL
As a traveler, you also have a role to play in continuing our efforts on your trip, which is why we have written some guidelines on Responsible Travel for you to read.
These guidelines are not intended to be overbearing but simply clear and informative. They outline the standards of behavior that we expect from everyone who participates in our trips.
These guidelines exist because we are privileged to be guests in local homes and communities plus we want to promote sustainable tourism for the locals. We also want travelers in the future to visit and enjoy the same experiences as you have experienced in the present day.
When you read the guidelines, you may find yourself considering issues that might never even have crossed your mind before. The area of Responsible Tourism is not black and white; it raises some ethical questions to which there are no clear answers. But with a little preparation in advance of your trip and by reading these guidelines, you can rest assured that the only impression you will leave behind after your travels is a positive one.
GUIDELINES FOR RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL AND TREK
• Respecting cultural differences
• Assisting the locals in their understanding of Western culture
• Dress standards
• Swimming and sunbathing
• Answering questions
• Photography – still & video
• Prescription medicines
• Drugs and alcohol
• Relationships with people in visited communities
• Donations and gift giving
• Shopping and dining
• Supporting local communities
• Environmental responsibility and waste minimization
• Drinking water
• Toilet facilities
• Energy and water conservation
• Environmental degradation
Respecting Cultural Differences
Experiencing cultural diversity is one of the main reasons why we travel to far flung places and we need to make sure that these differences are respected and maintained. Things are done differently in south Asia, which is one of the reasons why it is so appealing!
In general, it is essential that we respect the cultural rules in the areas that we are travelling in like Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India.
Please accept the differences in these areas and do not try to change them for the benefit of your own comfort. The traveler who wishes to have a happy and successful trip should keep as calm, cheerful and friendly as humanly possible. Patience and courtesy are virtues that open many doors.
Assisting locals in their Understanding of the Western Culture
Gaining cultural understanding when travelling is helping the locals to gain a greater insight into Western culture and beyond the superficial attractions of money and wealth plus you need to recognize that as a Westerner in many parts of South Asia you are probably richer than the locals that you are meeting and you are a world traveler. This fact is something most of the locals you meet only dream of and when dealing with locals, respect that they may wish to develop economically and have access to material possessions that you take for granted. While this undoubtedly changes villages and makes it less “unspoilt” for tourists, it is something that we should respect and understand. Everyone has a right to development and a better standard of living. A role you can play is to help assist local people to gain a balanced view of development by sharing not only the advantages of your culture but also some of the negative influences that come from increased material wealth, on both the family and the community.
Asian people in general, dress modestly and as a rule Earthbound Expeditions trip participants should dress as the locals do. Dress standards vary from place to place, with rural areas tending to be more conservative than the cities. In major cities, such as Kathmandu, Pokhara and Delhi, miniskirts are becoming popular with the younger generation. You will find that the older generation frown upon this and are more conservative in their dress. For women, singlet tops, not wearing a bra and tight body hugging attire can be offensive, as well as attracting unwanted male attention!
Modest clothing goes a long way towards making a good impression with the local people. You will find them far more willing to approach you if you dress as they do. Long pants/skirts and sleeved shirts are seen as appropriate. This is not to say you cannot wear shorts, but there will be situations where they are inappropriate, especially for females. Shorts should never be too short and lycra is best left for the gym.
More formal dress codes apply for temples, monasteries, mosques or any other religious sites you may visit and to prevent the wrath of the gods as well as the locals these should be closely followed. In general, both men and women should have covered shoulders and legs plus shoes and hats should be removed in those religious sites.
Swimming & Sunbathing
There are no areas in South Asia where nude sunbathing or swimming is acceptable, despite what other travelers might be doing.
In some places Asian women will swim/bathe wearing all their clothes. If this is the case, then a good rule would be to swim/bathe in a sarong or T-shirt where necessary.
There are a few general codes of behavior that apply throughout the areas in which we operate.
• Crooking your finger to call somebody is considered impolite. Asian people generally use a subtle downward waving motion to summon someone.
• Showing affection in public is considered quite offensive – definitely no kissing! Away from the major urban centers it is extremely rare to see couples holding hands, though it is quite common to see friends of the same sex holding hands.
• It is polite to remove your shoes before entering a house. Look for shoes at the front door as a clue and follow suit.
• Criticism should only be used when put among praise.
• It is inappropriate to express anger in a raised voice. Becoming angry is embarrassing to the local people with whom you are dealing – they will not be embarrassed for themselves, but for you. “Saving face” is a subtle but important standard of personal dignity. Personal candor in Asia is largely a matter of sensibility and face.
An ideal demeanor for the Asian traveler is friendly and open and ever ready to answer questions like -where are you going? Are you married? How old are you? How many children do you have?
You will likely be asked questions like these, which in a Western society may be considered personal. While you might find such a barrage of questions disconcerting, remain patient and remember to recognize that people are just being friendly and curious. Asian people often ask what your religion is. They have a general concern that everyone has a religion, though it doesn’t particularly matter which one. If you reply that you do not have a religion, you might find a look of horror on the faces of your local hosts! The same attitude extends to the area of marriage and children. If someone asks you if you are married or have children and you are not/do not, a good response would be “not yet”. If you are feeling uncomfortable with such questions, try to be patient or subtly change the subject!
Bear in mind also that attitudes toward privacy differ greatly between the West and Asia. Asian people often have an interest in our books, writing or photographs, things that the Westerner considers to be ‘private property.’ Concepts of property, private ownership and privacy are very different for the rural Asian, who is accustomed to living and sharing in a close-knit community. Be prepared and understand that your local hosts are not being ‘nosey’ but politely interested.
Photography – Still & Video
Sensitivity is the key when it comes to photography. Always ask permission before taking photographs of people and respect their wishes if they refuse. Minority groups in particular are often unhappy to have their photo taken. They may think they do not look attractive (wearing their work clothes rather than festival clothes) while other groups believe that part of their spirit is taken away if they are photographed, especially in the rural areas.
There will be occasions when you will meet a lot of porters carrying anything from bottles of beers to beds. Please respect that this is their job and that they may not like having their photo taken in these circumstances. Travelers should avoid paying for the right to take a photo as this has been found to encourage a begging mentality in the locals. Instead you can send back copies via your tour leader / guide or directly to the people themselves. The locals gain a great buzz from seeing themselves in photos and it encourages a ‘sharing’ rather than ‘taking’ attitude towards photography. Also in many cases the locals could never afford to take photos themselves.
While you are welcome to pack your video cameras, there are some places that we request you not to film. In some small villages, home stays and remote communities, the local people consider filming to be too intrusive and recording aspects of their private lives. In these communities we also request the utmost courtesy and discretion with still cameras. Your tour leader / guide will advise you in this regard.
Drugs & Alcohol
Earthbound Expeditions do not allow travelers to use illegal drugs while on a trip. The laws of most Asian countries carry harsh penalties for drug possession or usage, including death penalty (??).
Foreigners are not exempt from such penalties if convicted of such a crime. It is not acceptable to indulge in opium, marijuana smoking except during Shiva’s birthday which is known as Shivratri and celebrated in Pashupatinath in Kathmandu, Nepal, or any other illegal drugs whilst on trips. Your group leader / guide have grounds for asking you to leave a trip if you are found to be using or carrying illegal drugs.
The use of alcohol also needs to be carefully considered, especially in smaller villages and tribal regions. In these areas our ‘privileged’ status brings with it a responsibility to promote the good in our cultures and not the excesses. Many village people cannot afford to purchase alcohol and see our sometimes excessive consumption as a sign of affluence and elitism. For some the lure to taste that influence causes them to ignore family responsibilities and spend their income on alcohol. This is not something Earthbound Expeditions wants to be responsible for, particularly in hill tribe towns where drug addiction is already a major problem. Furthermore, out of control drunken Westerners can damage our positive relationships with the locals and negatively change the group dynamics.
In towns and larger urban centers where there is increased local wealth our influence has less impact and the use of alcohol has wider acceptance.
Avoid giving Western medicines to our Asian hosts. They may not understand the medicine and the concept, say of taking tablets 3 times per day, may not be understood. Unpredicted side-effects could also be a problem. In addition, we don’t want dependence on medicines to occur especially when natural and traditional treatments may be just as effective. If a local person approaches you for treatment, encourage them to seek traditional cures or assist them to the local clinic/hospital. If you are a medic, it may be better not to reveal your profession too readily, as you might find yourself with a queue of patients and be left in a dilemma.
Of course there are exceptions to this rule in the case of emergencies. If a local is seriously injured and in a potentially life threatening situation then they should be given the appropriate first aid treatment which may include medication. However, remain aware of the potential dangers of reactions to drugs and try to get them to medical help as soon as possible.
Relationships with People in Visited Communities
Be aware that it is taboo in some of the communities. We visit to conduct an intimate relationship with a local person. If you find yourself in a situation where a relationship with a local could develop, seek the advice of your group leader / guide who will find out, with the assistance of other locals, the correct courting process! Failure to do so could lead to compromising the credibility of Earthbound Expeditions trips, not to mention the heavy fines levied in some communities, while in others it can be punishable by serious injury. Be aware too that the well-being, social standing and reputation of the recipient of a foreigner’s attention can be seriously affected within their local communities.
Homosexual relationships have gained much wider acceptance in Western communities in recent years. Be aware, however, that this is not the case in some parts of Asia and if a local is found to be engaging in a homosexual relationship they could be totally outcast or shunned by their families and community or worse.
The prevalence of prostitution is an unfortunate element of Asia today and it is an aspect that Earthbound Expeditions want to have no part of in running our trips. The philosophy of Earthbound Expeditions is one of mutual respect towards everyone we deal with and in particular the local people who make the region as special as it is. The use of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy and we are strongly opposed to any of our travelers visiting prostitutes while in Asia.
While there is a risk of contracting HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, there are other wider social implications. Unlike prostitutes in some developed countries, many Asian women are not prostitutes of their own free will but are in fact bonded labor. They may have been lured into employment in the city and end up imprisoned in brothels. Many face condemnation and being ostracized by their communities and may not be able to return, while many more end up with drug problems and become infected with HIV or other STDs. On this basis we strongly condemn any person who supports prostitution in Asia. It is not an acceptable excuse to say that it is ‘part of the culture’.
Child prostitution or sex tourism is an abhorrent and illegal act that we strongly condemn. Any incidences of this will be reported to the local and international authorities, who have links with Interpol and will ensure that the person involved will be questioned – and if appropriate – charged.
Donations & Gift giving
This is a difficult issue for many travelers who want to assist the local communities but are unaware of the larger implications. There are many ways in which you can have a positive input into the communities that you visit:
Earthbound Expeditions supports a number of local projects and charities. Visit the Responsible Travel section of our website or ask your tour leader / guide about making a donation. We collect clothing, first aid items, stationeries, children’s books and ensure that they go directly to the requested charity or project.
Do not give to begging children / adults as it reinforces that begging is an acceptable way to make a living for these children. It is best to follow the guidelines set by local people in how they treat beggars in their community e.g. in many places it is considered acceptable to give to the elderly and disabled as there is no social security or other way these people can earn money. Buddhists and Hindus believe in giving to beggars as this act will earn them ‘merits’.
Your tour leader can advise you further on this.
Ways not to give
Giving money and goods away, randomly to individuals accentuates an unequal relationship between locals and visitors, with tourists being seen as purely ‘money givers’. It also strips self esteem away from people when they get money for simply being poor rather than having to solve their own issues of poverty through community action. We also need to be careful not to pay for acts of kindness in monetary terms (e.g. paying kids for photographs). We do not want to encourage the development of a society that equates every human action as a potential money making scheme.
Do not give sweets to children in the villages that we visit. Local people do not have access to dentists, nor can they afford them and again there is the issue of turning children into beggars. Pens, toothbrushes, clothing or other perhaps ‘worthwhile’ items are best distributed via a local charity, school teacher or community leader.
Avoid feeling that you necessarily have to give ‘material’ things. The best giving can sometimes be shared by interactions like a smile, jokes, sing-song, dance or playing a game. Giving something of your friendship, time and interest to interact with locals can be the best gift of all.
Shopping and Dining
Please refuse to buy any souvenirs, food or products made from local wildlife – this includes snake-wine, bears, bats, tigers, monkeys, frogs, turtles and sea horses. Though a local delicacy, both bears and frogs, for example, are highly endangered and we should not encourage their demise. Where possible avoid restaurants that make a feature of wild endangered animal species on their menus. If you see an abuse of animals or wildlife, report this to the concerned places. Alternatively, advise your tour guide who will refer it to an appropriate organization who can best handle it e.g. WSPA – the World Society for the Protection of Animals, TRAFFIC – the wildlife trade monitoring program of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
Supporting Local Communities
While there are human rights abuses all over Asia some places are far worse than others. Do what you can to not support the oppressors or perpetrators of the abuses. Learn as much as you can about what is happening in the country you will be visiting. Before planning, research the activities so as not to financially support regimes that inflict violence on the general population. Occasionally though, there may be instances where our activities are supporting a regime. In that case you should weigh up the advantages to the people over the disadvantages of supporting the regime.
Earthbound Expeditions supports Amnesty International for their work to prevent serious human rights violations. Amnesty International campaigns for free prisoners of conscience, achieve fair trials and lobby governments to change unfair laws and unjust attitudes. They have helped to increase public awareness of political imprisonment, torture and the death penalty throughout the world and have helped improve mechanisms for human rights protection. Have a look at their country reports for the human rights situation in the country you will visit. Be very discreet if you print these out and carry them in-country!
Earthbound Expeditions is very actively involved in supporting local communities, with a range of initiatives and touring options you can become involved with. Projects that you can visit or volunteer with are Medical Treks, volunteer in the village, orphanage, house stay and the Project with Disabled Children.
Environmental Responsibility and Waste Minimization
In south Asia, the enormous economic growth of the region has been at the cost of the environment. Analysts are only now beginning to recognize the extent of the damage and the true cost to the environment and the welfare of its inhabitants. Debris-choked waterways, open sewers, excessive air pollution and plastic littering the streets are an obvious result of unrestrained economic growth. We don’t want our presence in Asia to add to this problem and need to minimize our impact on the places by practicing waste minimization initiatives whilst on holiday. We can also assist our Asian hosts in making informed decisions in developing social and environmental programs that will benefit future generations.
We are looking to adopt preventative actions on our trips by adopting practices that are commonly recognized as the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
Try not to use plastic covered or wrapped foods when fresh options are available. The disposal of plastic and Styrofoam is a major problem in south Asia and the more we can do to reduce its use the better. Buy in local markets where little packaging is used, the food is fresh and the money is benefiting the local producers. Take your own bags with you when shopping – “say no to plastic”.
Whenever we are away from towns or cities we must not leave any rubbish we take in with us. Tampons and sanitary pads should be taken out of the area and disposed of appropriately. Pick up any rubbish that you see left behind by other travelers, so that we leave the place cleaner than we found it.
Organic waste such as food scraps should not be dispersed or buried in national parks and other protected areas. This practice may introduce exotic seeds and is not the natural diet of the native animals. Take it out with you again.
Your guide will advise you in this regard.
Bottled water is for sale in much of Asia and also during trekking but fortunately there are few facilities for recycling the bottles. Actively try to reduce the ‘consumption’ of plastic bottles by using alternatives. Your options are:
• In hotels ask if you can refill your bottle with purified water for free or for a small fee.
• During treks bring your own water filter, water purification tablets or iodine to purify drinking water. 2% tincture of iodine is used for 4 drops/liters of water and it for at least 30 minutes or 1 hour if it is very cold water.
• Povidine-iodine solution can be used in the same proportion and left for 1 hour.
While trekking or while in remote areas use the toilet facilities that are available or provided to you. If none are established, find out a suitable place which is at least 50 meters away from the water sources and people’s homes. Bury fecal matter, carry toilet paper in a plastic bag for appropriate disposal later or burn it. On all regular trek routes most home stays will have an established set of toilet for the group.
Energy & Water Conservation
be discreet with fuel and water. Pollution, greenhouse gases and other problems of fossil fuel use are escalating as developing countries strive towards having modern Western appliances, vehicles and production methods. Clean water supplies are diminishing so look for ways to cut energy consumption.
• Air-con in hotel rooms: don’t use unnecessarily or leave it on when out of the room. Turn down to ‘fan only’ or off overnight. This is better for avoiding sore throats and colds too!
• Air-con vehicles: short journeys are easily managed with windows open.
• A cold shower may be more refreshing than a hot bath in the tropics. Avoid hot showers where the water is being heated with cut timber or other non-sustainable methods.
• An empty room does not need light. Many newer hotels have the key tag socket systems that prevent this.
• Walk, cycle or use human powered rickshaws for sightseeing. Avoid taxis when there is a fuel free or shared transport option like a public bus.
On treks, use existing tracks and stay on them. This is especially important during the wet season because it is all too easy to create new tracks in order to get a better footing. If people don’t adhere to this, the trail soon becomes a series of footpaths that turns into erosion gullies. This impacts on the vegetation as branches are reached for as handholds, broken off, and added to the topsoil that has been dislodged to silt up the waterways.
Snorkeling – remember that touching coral formations can hinder their growth. Coral cuts can easily become nasty infections too. Do not take any coral or shells, as even though they may be dead, it encourages locals to think that they are desirable souvenirs and that there’s a market in these items. Stick with the “Take only photos, leave only footprints” adage but add sensitivity into the equation!
Limestone caves – do not touch formations, as natural body oils from the fingers hinder the formations’ growth and will discolor the limestone.
Fires – reduce deforestation by avoiding unnecessary use of scarce firewood. Fuel stoves should be used for cooking on camping trips and we do our best to choose accommodations that uses kerosene, gas or fuel-efficient firewood stoves. Put on warmer clothes rather than stoking a wood fire for warmth. Avoid lighting fires on those beautiful white sand beaches – the charcoal works its way through the sand which in time ends up not so beautiful. Bonfires are not to be encouraged.
Soap – On treks when you need to bathe in streams or lakes try to forget about soap for a few days and harmonize with nature! Soap less bath will still remove sweat! A nail brush and flannel may help!
Conventional body soap and shampoo are degradable but it takes time for them to break down and in the interim they may be contaminating water quality for people downstream. The bigger problem is actually products like washing powders which contain cleaning agents that will damage the soil and vegetation if not disposed of in a controlled manner. While it might seem difficult using no soap when the locals have their big bags of Omo on the riverbank, it is important that we don’t add to the problem, as we are visitors and are an additional ‘load’ on the eco-system.
when visiting national parks or reserves where you will be in contact with wildlife, please ensure that you follow the appropriate park regulations that ensures that wildlife is protected. Respect this even if you observe that other tourists don’t. Don’t respond to local rangers offering to bend the rules for tourists. Sometimes local people will try and sell protected species to foreigners. While you wish to do this so that you can set the animal free, this actually can be a money making scam for locals and it is a better policy to refuse to pay money and encourage the local to release the animal. When they realize there is no demand for the animal then the practice may eventually stop.
In your feedback form at the end of your trip we request that you tell us how we performed with regard to Responsible Travel issues. It is very important to us and bringing it to prominence in your mind is also a priority for us.
On the other hand, you can also – email us.