Bright and early one morning in Panauti, Nepal, I walked over to a rice paddy with my host mom Sabita wearing flipflops. Shila, Ashok, and the others were already there calf-deep in mud. I’m rather squeamish and to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to trudging through mud (which sometimes has leeches during monsoon season) to plant rice but what I was looking forward to was spending time engaging in one of their traditions and livelihoods.
It’s one thing to see beautiful rolling hills carved with undulating lush green paddies from afar or from scenic vantage points.
It’s another thing to roll up your pants and pick your way through the paddies in bird-like fashion like a stork. Up close and personal.
This was just one small moment out of dozens I experienced on my recent trip to Nepal on assignment. I was travelling in partnership with Lonely Planet and G Adventures (who I trekked the Inca Trail with in Peru) to explore its Local Living in Nepal tour. When the assignment came up, I think the email I sent them was probably the longest in history, detailing why I had to go on this particular mission.
For me, traveling means listening to and experiencing the cultural stories of a place through its local food, traditions, and everyday lifestyles of its people. That’s why I’m a huge advocate of slow travel. It means slackening your pace so you see more and experience more. For me, it has nothing to do with duration or how long I plan on spending in a place, but rather, my pace through the place.
I spent a week in Nepal, most of it in Kathmandu and the relatively quiet community of Panauti which has launched a wonderful homestay initiative to help empower local women within the community. It allows them to be financially independent from their spouses as well as graciously allow us into their everyday lives. From crashing weddings and hiking through corn fields, bumming rides on the back of a pickup truck and navigating Kathmandu traffic, cooking Nepali meals and introducing my hosts to Nigerian food as well as visiting schools and monastaries and yes! trudging through paddies to plant rice, my experience in Nepal has not only given me new friends for life, but has deeply enriched me in a way that can often be lost in our own everyday bubbles of comfort.
Because when you slow down, you get closer. And closer is the only place I’d rather be as a travel photographer and writer….
Well, unless I’m dealing with unpredictable wildlife. Then I’d like to be as far away as possible.
Here are 72 photos from my time exploring this culturally rich and vibrant country. And be sure to stick around to watch the video at the end which brings all these images to life in a way that instantly transports me back to those sounds, smells, and sights.
VIDEO: Local Living in Nepal
Nepal Image Bank
You can find more images from Nepal in my image bank below.