I have recently returned from an inspirational journey to Nepal where I led a group of 9 people on a Crooked Trails trip to look at the work of Maiti Nepal fighting human trafficking. Although the focus of the program in Nepal was specific and challenging to wrap our heads around, the trip was filled with a great deal of inspiration, learning and hope.
On the practical side, I had told everyone that they needed to be prepared to clean their own water, because we would not be purchasing bottled water. Although a few of the clients were a bit nervous about cleaning tap water in Nepal, they felt more assured when I told them that I had been drinking the tap and well water in Nepal for over a decade and never been sick. I sent everyone water purification information prior to departure, which highlighted the various ways to clean water: potable aqua tablets, chlorine, various pumps, and the SteriPen.
Every client had chosen to use a Steri-Pen to clean their water which utilizes UV light technology to destroy the bad guys. The first day of the trip at our welcome and introduction I reminded everyone how easy it was to clean their own water and demonstrated the SteriPen for them, even though it’s so easy (stick it in the water, the light comes on, when its clean the light goes off. Done!) I explained that disposable plastic water bottles are a serious environmental threat in Nepal and around the world. I explained that in reality this is an “easy fix” as it’s fast, easy, safe and cheap to clean one’s own water while traveling.
Our first two days were site seeing in the Kathmandu Valley as well as visiting the Mati Nepal headquarters. On our visit to the Pashupatinanth- the most holy Hindu Temple in Nepal I asked the tourist Sadhus to hold the TAP bottle for me. They were more than willing for the small payment of 30 rupees and I got a hilarious shot. Everyone carried their water bottles and gained more and more positive momentum as they saw water bottles being sold, used and discarded all around us. The biggest issue with cleaning your own water is remembering to do it before you leave for the day and carrying a full bottle. At Bhaktapur, the walled off UNESO World Heritage Site we had all run dry. I simply filled up in the bathroom and the others did as well. That is when a great learning opportunity happens as other travelers see us cleaning the water with the captivating blue light.
We spent the next three days in the village of Chandeni about 4 hours outside Kathmandu to the east. Crooked Trails has been working in the village for the past several years and built the upper secondary school and its water system and toilets, as well as a community water area. While in the village, the trip participants were well acquainted with their SteriPEns and how to use them and felt perfectly safe taking water from the local well for cleaning and drinking.
We often spent a few hours a day with our host families in our compound and the elder grandma always came out to sit with us. All the villagers were fascinated with the device that used light to clean water as well as our bottles. The beautiful thing about village life is how simple it is, and how it reflects on our complicated lives of stuff in the US. Nothing like a little reality check about what we really need and what is just pure convenience.
We ended our stay in Nepal in the south along the Indian border learning more about the trafficking of girls into India to be used in the brothels. During this time we were deeply inspired by the heroic work of the rescued girls to help prevent other girls from the same fate they experienced. Throughout the entire trip, no one got sick from the water. Everyone learned how easy it is to travel prepared to clean their own water, and we didn’t leave a trail of about 350 plastic water bottles behind us.
Till next time,
Co-Founder of TAP