I am happy to have grown up in Nepal and love my country and culture. After graduating from College in Pokhara, I went to medical school in China, where I was exposed to people from all over the world. I lived there for six years and earned an MBBS degree.
China is where the travel bug bit me. On holidays, my friends and I would explore different areas of that big country. I realized a love for adventure and new experiences. Travelling teaches you so many things that you can’t anticipate. In addition to experiencing new architecture, food, music and culture, you see people who look and talk differently than you do. Your mind and awareness expand and you grow and change.
Upon my return to Nepal, I worked as a doctor in the Emergency Department and Otolaryrngology in Western Regional Hospital in Pokhara for two years. I also became the Health Services Coordinator for Dirghayu Nepal, a local NGO. We conducted free medical camps and awareness programs on sanitation, hygiene and other issues in remote villages.
After the devastating earthquake in April 2015, I felt the strong desire to use my medical knowledge and skills to help those poor villagers who had lost their homes, their family members and all of their meager belongings. Members of Dirghayu went to villages to deliver emergency supplies and relief materials as well as treat anyone we could. While I was so happy to help, I clearly felt the pain and sadness of those villagers and learned more intimately the feelings of compassion and empathy.
It is my sincere belief that when one is born on this Earth we should contribute in some way to the welfare of others and to Mother Earth to make our own lives more meaningful. Serving others after the Earthquake inspired me to want to also help those outside my country.
With this thought in mind, my brother and I decided to embark on a “World Bicycle Tour,” carrying the message of “Environmental Protection and HIV/AIDS Awareness.” We wanted to share valuable messages with more of the world. In keeping with our belief of also serving Mother Earth, we decided to do it in a way that was also good for the environment. We planned our trip to ride bicycles through 17 countries and were gone for 16 months. This trip changed us both in so many ways.
Wherever we went, India, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan, Myanmar, we conducted educational seminars to share our knowledge of global warming and how to save our environment. As a doctor, I also wanted to educate those we met about the pervasive problem and unsolved issues of HIV/AIDS. In Asia and other developing countries there are so many misunderstandings and superstitious beliefs about this disease.
By sharing what I know, I hoped to save many lives from this infection that can be prevented. I explained how unsafe sex, ineffective sex education and lack of preventative measures cause this horrible disease to keep spreading unnecessarily. Through proper education it can be prevented.
Where ever possible, I also conducted free medical camps. In Ashikaga, Japan a group of Nepalese doctors got together to treat many Nepalese people who were working and living in Japan.
My brother, Ajit and I had both good and bad experiences and learned to be flexible and resourceful to deal with whatever each day brought. Sometimes, we got robbed and other times strangers invited us into their homes and fed us and gave us money to continue. We stayed in monasteries with monks and camped in public parks.
Ajit and I learned to connect with people from diverse cultures who spoke languages we didn’t understand. There are ways to communicate with hand signals and smiles that connect you where words don’t. We learned a tolerance for uncertainty, we gained confidence and the ability to cope with obstacles. Eating food we’d never heard of and discovering new cuisines became fun.
While riding our bikes through hills, valleys, cities and towns, we saw things we could have never imagined. We learned to appreciate the magnificence of nature and saw exploding development. We got a real world education you can’t get by just reading books or surfing the net.
Traveling changes you in ways you might not even realize or understand until much later. I got to know things about myself and expanded my awareness to have more empathy, patience and compassion for everyone. It taught me to be more independent and humble. I gained confidence in making important decisions and in deciding on priorities. I began to feel like a global citizen as I learned to communicate with and interact with people from so many races, religions and cultures.
If you are even slightly thinking about it – I encourage you to travel – near or far. It broadens your horizons and transforms you. You learn how things are done in other parts of the world that you can adopt in your own life. You have to face your fears and discover new things about yourself. Riding our bikes for hours out on the open road, especially in America, I had time to reflect on my life and think about the answers to big questions. I got to know the true me- what is really important in my life.
Travelling with a Nepali passport is difficult but not impossible. Immigration officers think you come from a Third World poor country, you don’t have money and that you will stay illegally. You learn to use your friendly, lovable Nepali personality to charm them and show them that we are good people. You get to teach others in the world about our wonderful country that many have never heard of.
We can be ambassadors of world peace from our tiny little, land-locked country.
Since my return, I have continued to learn new skills. I have become the Publisher of a new magazine – Discover Nepal – Pokhara Edition. Even from Pokhara, I can continue to help others learn about Nepal.
So….. Just get out there and travel!
(Amrit Baral is a medical doctor from Pokhara, who rode his bicycle through 17 countries over a time period of 16 months. As the Medical Services Coordinator for NGO Dirghayu Nepal, he conducts free medical camps and awareness campaigns in remote villages. In cities and towns all over the world, he shared his expertise on the topics of HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. Currently, he is the Publisher of Discover Nepal Magazine, sharing information about Nepal and Pokhara with visitors from all over the world.)