Monday, 30 January 2012 3:42 PM
Finding a way to travel and give something back to the destinations you visit is not always easy, but with numerous volunteering opportunities in Nepal, you may discover it is simpler than you thought to enjoy a unique and worthwhile holiday.
The mountainous nation has long been a favourite among trekkers the world over, thanks to the Himalayas that run within its borders.
If you are concerned that volunteering on your trip will limit your opportunities for exploration, you can rest assured you will have ample free time to fully discover the area you are staying in and travel to other parts of the country.
When you decide to become a volunteer in Nepal, you will have several options open to you. Perhaps one of the best choices if you are keen to really get under the skin of Nepalese culture is to teach English at one of the Buddhist monasteries in Kathmandu.
By doing so, you will have the opportunity to experience life in a monastery, where monks of all ages come to study the Buddhist faith.
All of these religious communes offer their pupils an education and if you gain a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification before you travel abroad, you can help them develop their skills in this discipline.
As you can complete a TEFL course online, you won't have to worry about spending long hours in a classroom before you can jump in and put your skills to the test as a teaching volunteer.
Students can range in age between around eight and 23, so you will certainly have a diverse mix of pupils to work with, allowing you to enjoy the basic aspects of teaching a language, as well as get involved with more advanced discussion groups.
One of the reasons why teaching at a monastery is so fascinating is being able to observe Buddhist customs and traditions. You are bound to come across at least one festival – known as a puja – during your time in Nepal.
These events will see all your classes suspended – sometimes for days – so do not be alarmed if you find you have some extra free time on your hands.
In fact, you may decide this is the ideal opportunity to head into the mountains on a short trek if you know your services will not be required for a few days. In Nepal, it never takes long to reach the mountains and you will find it relatively easy to organise a trip to walk among the Himalayas.
Alternatively, if you are keen to enjoy a relaxing break, you could visit the lakeside city of Pokhara, which is surrounded by mountains and is certainly in one of the most beautiful settings you are likely to come across.
Of course, another option on your days off is to remain in Kathmandu and discover some of the many sights that this vibrant city is home to.
Travel just outside the main centre and you will reach Bhaktapur, an ancient city littered with temples and other historic buildings. This could be a good place to shop for some souvenirs of your trip, as there are numerous stalls and shops dotted along its narrow streets.
If your time at a Buddhist monastery has piqued your interest in the faith, why not visit one of its most important monuments – the Boudhanath Stupa?
This huge temple is one of the biggest of its kind in the world and you are sure to be impressed by its appearance. It has a large, white dome with a tall, golden spire in the centre and on each side of this tower the Buddha's eyes are painted.
In addition, there are hundreds of strings of fluttering prayer flags, with their colours waving in the wind on every side of the building.
So, for the ideal opportunity to explore this welcoming and fantastic nation, while giving something back, why not volunteer at a monastery and teach English on your next holiday?