10 Risks You Absolutely MUST Take When You Travel

Paragliding in Nepal with Gazef (Image courtesy of Omar Ibrahim)

Last Eid, Scoop Empire traveled (among other places) to breathtaking Nepal with Egypt’s newest and most daring company on the adventure travel scene, Gazef.

We spent an exhilarating seven days exploring the country, from riotous white water rafting in the Seti River and sensational paragliding over Sarangot to hiking in unforgettable Dhampus and bungee jumping in stunning Tatopani (stay tuned for all the details and insider tips!).

In short, it was far from your typical, chill by the beach vacation – and thank God it wasn’t! Throughout the trip, we pushed boundaries and pushed ourselves, bidding the birthplace of Buddha and homeland of the Himalayas farewell with wider eyes, more open minds and bigger hearts.

Inspired by the thrilling trip, here are 10 risks you absolutely MUST take when you travel:

 

 

1. Eat the local food

 

(Scoop Empire)
Marinated chicken, mixed vegetables, rice with white lentils, potatoes, pickled tomatoes and papadum (Scoop Empire)

 

Sample the local cuisine, especially if you’ve never tried it before and especially if you can’t pronounce the dish’s name – you’d be surprised! Traveling is not the time to be a picky eater. Leave your mama’s cooking where it belongs – at home – because what better place to taste a new cuisine than the country itself? It doesn’t get more authentic than that. Who knows? Maybe you’ll love it.

Eating locally expands your palette, deepens your experience of the culture and is usually lighter on your wallet. Plus, it gives you a renewed appreciation for your mama’s cooking. We ate so much local food that by the end of the trip, our group was begging for foul and kofta!

 

 

2. Make honest connections with strangers

 

Our guide Ganesh Niraula and fellow traveler Alaa Gabr bonding in Chitwan (Image courtesy of Nashwa Hany Aboulfettouh)
Our guide Ganesh Niraula and fellow traveler Alaa Gabr bonding in Chitwan (Image courtesy of Alaa Gabr)

 

Traveling is the best time do this because you’re already out of your comfort zone. Skip the small talk and have real, raw conversations with fellow travelers and locals. The more honest the connection, the more long-lasting, and who was once just another face in the crowd becomes a friend for a lifetime.

Traveling is also the ideal time not just to learn about other cultures, but to teach others about your own. Many locals and other travelers were surprised to hear that our group of 40-something people, ranging from 21 to 38 years old, were from Egypt. One guide commented that this was the most Egyptians he had ever seen!

One of the most remarkable memories – and there are countless – was climbing up thousands of steps to Dhampus in the heart of Nepal and hearing our Nepali guide, Ganesh, singing “Eh El Asatok Dah”! Alaa, one of the funniest ladies in our group and the one most enthusiastic about learning Nepali words, had patiently taught him the popular Egyptian song.

 

 

3. Get lost

 

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Exploring in the mountains of Nepal, about 12 kilometers away from the Tibetan borders

 

On one of the days, we were able to escape from the group for a bit to do some exploring in the surrounding area of our campgrounds. We found a winding path and followed it. We had no idea where it led, which we loved. When was the last time you did that? If you think about it, probably when you were a kid.

The simple act of exploring a place you’ve never been before – off-itinerary – is such a refreshing break from the daily grind of going to the office and coming back home, stuck in traffic, on the same exact route. Every. Single. Day.

So what did we find? See number eight below.

 

 

4. Push your body to its limit

 

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Canyoning at The Last Resort in Nepal (Image courtesy of Omar Ibrahim)

 

Our very first activity in Nepal (after dinner, of course) was a three-hour long night hike through a landslide at 3am, just hours after landing. This was followed by a non-stop schedule of physical activity that left our legs shaking, muscles aching and endorphins soaring.

And after each adrenaline rush, despite the soreness, we were left with a satisfying feeling of pride and accomplishment at what we had just done. It was a week’s worth of workouts in the wilderness, with the incomparable reward of nature’s beauty surrounding us.

 

 

5. Do something that scares you

 

Bungee jumping with Gazef at The Last Resort in Nepal (Image courtesy of Tasnim Sayed)
Bungee jumping with Gazef at The Last Resort in Nepal (Image courtesy of Tasnim Sayed)

 

Riham, one of our fellow travelers, told us how at home she won’t go near dogs, much less keep one as a pet (despite her daughter’s pleas), but on the trip she walked with scruffy stray dogs without a care. Oddly enough, being out of her comfort zone and challenging herself with all of the activities we did left her more relaxed and at ease.

Whether it’s jumping off a bridge 160 meters above a raging river thousands of meters above sea level or camping in the great outdoors surrounded by creatures of the earth, traveling is the best time to conquer your fears.

We were so proud of Nahla with her (former) fear of heights, who one morning teetered across that suspended bridge terrified out of her mind, that afternoon bungee jumped off of it, and the next morning danced confidently over it.

 

 

6. Travel alone – or, if you’re used to traveling alone, travel with a group

 

(Ahmed Azraq)
Gazef Nepal 2014 (Image courtesy of Ahmed “Blue” Azraq)

 

Solo travel is a risk on its own, especially if you’ve never done it before, but it’s a truly rewarding experience that forces you to confront not only the world outside of your bubble, but also yourself – how you deal with that world and how you deal on your own.

We had a number of lone adventurers on our trip, including Hana, a first-time solo traveler who had always journeyed with family and friends up until Nepal. That enriching experience, she said, convinced her to jet off on her own more often.

On the flip side, for people who are used to traveling alone, traveling with a group can be considered an act out of your comfort zone. You bond with your fellow travelers and make memories that will last a lifetime.

 

 

7. Go somewhere you don’t know the language

 

Pehwa Lake, Pokhara, Nepal (Image courtesy of Nesma Hany Aboul Fetouh)
Pehwa Lake, Pokhara, Nepal (Image courtesy of Nesma Hany Aboul Fetouh)

 

If you really want to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself, head to a place where you don’t speak the language. You’ll definitely be lost, confused and frustrated, but you’ll also learn how to get around by your own wits and street smarts. You’ll feel more independent, self-sufficient and empowered – and who doesn’t want that?

Plus, you’ll pick up some words and phrases from the local language and deepen your understanding of the local culture, enriching your experience of the place and personal growth in general.

 

 

8. Visit a stranger’s home

 

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(Scoop Empire)

 

While exploring (from number three above), we befriended a 13-year-old Nepali girl named Jasmin and her brother, who led us up the mountain and invited us to see their school and over to their family’s home.

We were in the country during what we called the “Nepali Eid”, or the Dashain Festival, which is celebrated by Nepali Hindus and Buddhists and is marked by family and community gatherings.

While we didn’t speak each other’s languages, we communicated with smiles and hand gestures and we understood their warmth and honest hospitality loud and clear. It was a genuine experience we’ll never forget.

 

 

9. Do something you’ve never done before

 

Paragliding in Nepal with Gazef (Image courtesy of Omar Ibrahim)
Paragliding in Nepal with Gazef (Image courtesy of Omar Ibrahim)

 

Whether it’s using a sleeping bag for the first time like Dina (who later reminisced about how much she missed our tent!) or paragliding, doing something you’ve never done before when you travel is an absolute must.

What may seem like a risk at first becomes something that changes you on some level. It encourages you to be open to even more new exploits, or if you didn’t love the experience, then hopefully you’ve learned something about yourself – what you like and don’t like and why.

 

 

10. Put yourself in other people’s shoes

 

caption should be: Elephant safari at Chitwan National Park, Nepal (Image courtesy of Nesma Hany Aboul Fetouh)
Elephant safari at Chitwan National Park, Nepal (Image courtesy of Nesma Hany Aboul Fetouh)

 

One of our activities was visiting a captive elephant breeding center. At first, we were appalled at the conditions of the magnificent creatures – mothers and babies with massive iron chains around their legs. Even in the information room they had set up at the entrance of the center, the posters recounted how elephants don’t breed well in captivity and are often subjected to diseases that are not typical in elephants in the wild due to their living conditions.

We were devastated to see the elephants treated in this way, but then we spoke more to the workers at the center. They told us that the system they use is very old, but serves to keep the elephants from trampling surrounding fields, which are the source of the villagers’ food and livelihoods. The elephant safaris also provide the local communities with much-needed revenue in a country where the average income is about 14 EGP per day.

 

 

WE SAID THIS: Don’t miss “8 Reasons to Go Local on Your Travels“.

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