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5 Reasons Why You’ll Love Tibet

Tibet has so much to offer travellers seeking the paths less travelled, with vast high altitude landscapes, untouristed trails, colourful festivals and a fascinating ancient culture to discover.

There is no denying the profound challenges that Tibet has encountered over the years. Yet despite these struggles, the strength and tenacity of the Tibetan people prevails.

Tibet is a deeply religious land with an ancient culture that is still preserved today. Visiting the sacred places where the Tibetan people worship is inspiring. It is an experience that remains with those fortunate enough to visit for many years.

Whatever adventure you choose in Tibet, we are sure that you’ll fall in love with this spiritual, dramatic and inspiring autonomous region.

1. Tibet's Unique Landscape

Tibet’s phenomenal landscape is like no other place on Earth: rugged, remote and unforgettable. The vast Tibetan plateau contrasted against the snowcapped peaks of the world’s highest mountains will leave you in awe.

Tibet is often referred to as the ‘roof of the world’. This is because the majority of Tibet sits at an altitude around 4500m above sea level. The Tibetan plateau stretches for some 2000km from west to east, with many peaks on the border of Nepal soaring well above that. With the Himalaya to the south, the Karakoram to the west and the Kunlun to the north, you only have to turn your head to get another magnificent view of the mountains.

A highlight of travelling to Tibet is the memorable flight to Lhasa over the Himalayan range. With clear weather, the views of Everest, Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Makalu and countless other peaks stretching into the horizon are breathtaking.

Tibet is a superb trekking destination. The remarkable landscapes and Himalaya views are one of the greatest reasons to visit Tibet. As you trek the high passes and winding trails that are strewn with Buddhist prayer flags you’ll feel greatly inspired by this ancient land.

2. The Tibetan People and Culture

Experiencing the Tibetan culture is undoubtedly a highlight of visiting Tibet.

Tibetans are deeply religious people. Their devotion to Buddhism can be traced back to the earliest days of Buddhism’s introduction into Tibet, more than 1300 years ago. The profound influence of Buddhism for the Tibetan people is a highlight of any visit to Tibet.

Aside from a wide array of Buddhist gods and goddesses worhsipped by the Tibetan people, they also worship the mountains as living deities. All over Tibet you will spot pilgrims spinning prayer wheels and walking around temples, monasteries and mountains. This is always in a clockwise direction, whereas followers of the indigenous Tibetan religion, the Bon, walk around sacred sites in an anti-clockwise direction.

Despite the grandeur of the scenery, the most memorable experiences of Tibet are likely to come from moments you’ve shared with the locals. Whether it’s the yak-butter tea offered to you from a monk in a remote monastery or a spontaneous picnic with a herding family on the shores of a remote lake, you are bound to leave Tibet with a deeper insight and appreciation into their unique cultural identity.

 

3. Festivals

There are over 100 festivals in Tibet that occur throughout the year. Experiencing a festival in Tibet is a unique way to get an insight into Tibetan Buddhism.

One of Tibet’s most significant festivals is the Saga Dawa festival held at Mount Kailash - one of the most sacred places in the Buddhist and Hindu religions.

At the Saga Dawa Festival many thousands of pilgrims throughout Tibet pay homage to Mount Kailash. The sacred mountain has long been regarded by Hindus and Buddhists as the Mythical Mount Meru, the cosmic centre of the universe from which all life flows.

Thousands of pilgrims will gather and pay homage to the mountain by performing a kora, or clockwise circumambulation of the base of the mountain. The trek lasts several days and crosses a 5800m pass.

4. The Remarkable Monasteries

Ancient monasteries are scattered throughout Tibet and were the most significant social institutions of historical Tibet. With religion being extremely important to Tibetans, monasteries are centers of learning were monks and nuns are responsible for preserving and spreading Buddhist teachings.

Sadly over 6000 monasteries were destroyed during China’s Cultural Revolution. Since the 1980s some monasteries have rebuilt, with greater religious freedom being granted. Today, monks have returned to monasteries across Tibet and monastic education has continued.

Most monasteries and temples in Tibet extend a warm welcome to visitors and even in remote areas they will often offer places to stay the night. Some of the monasteries visited on our trips include Samye, Ganden and Jorkhang. Visiting a monastery in Tibet is a fascinating way to get an insight into the religion that has profoundly shaped Tibet today.

5. Travelling on the Friendship Highway

The journey on the Friendship Highway is an epic drive over 850km between Kathmandu and Lhasa. It is without doubt one of the most spectacular journeys in the world.

The border crossing between Nepal and Tibet was closed after it was damaged in the 2015 earthquake. However, no other section of the highway is damaged so it is still possible to drive through Tibet right up to Rongphu Monastery and Everest base camp.

The drive along the highway will take 2-3 days but is well worth it with spectacular scenery along the way. You’ll see special cultural monuments, as well as vast grasslands, the upper valley of Yarlung Tsangpo River and breathtaking Himalayan views.


Want to see it for yourself? Explore our range of active adventures in Tibet.

 
10 Essential Food and Beverage Experiences with Ben Groundwater

Get ready to indulge your senses and explore the rich tapestry of flavours, textures, and traditions that define Japanese cuisine with Ben Groundwater. The celebrated columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, accomplished feature writer, broadcaster, and author of the acclaimed guidebook "Neon Lights in Tokyo", has been exploring Japan, and its unique cuisine, for over 15 years. 

There is no way you should ever limit yourself to just 10 different dishes when you’re in Japan. This is quite possibly the most exciting, most consistently delicious and most diverse food scene on the planet. Why stick to just 10?

Not only does Japan have its own varied and tasty styles of cuisine (many of which are listed below), but there are also extensive options available from around the world, some of which – Italian, for example – have even been improved upon by talented local cooks.

However, you can’t eat everything. And so, with just a small amount of time in Japan, here is what you should be sampling. The best of the best. The crème de la crème. The 10 dishes you just have to try.

Sushi chef |  <i>Ben Groundwater</i>

Sushi

You can’t skip Japan’s most famous delicacy, even though it’s not quite as ubiquitous in its homeland as you might expect. Still, there is genuine love and respect for sushi in Japan, and also incredible skill, as you will realise upon visiting any high-end, omakase-style sushi bar. The nigiri at these places is mind-blowing in its exquisite flavour and texture, driven by the laser-like attention to detail of the chefs.

 

Ramen noodles Tokyo |  <i>Ben Groundwater</i>

Noodles

Yes, all the noodles, because you can’t choose between the legends here, between ramen, the noodle of true obsessives, and soba, so pristine and beautiful, and udon, hearty and filling. Or at least, I can’t. When you’re travelling in Japan you should seek out all examples from the noodle world, served hot or cold, with hearty soups or clear broths, with side dishes or given solo starring roles.

  Delicious yakitori |  <i>Ben Groundwater</i>

Yakitori

What is yakitori? It’s chicken on a stick. Bits of chicken, stuck on skewers, grilled over charcoal. However, that basic description sells this style of cuisine well short, because in practice yakitori is a refined art, as chefs take all sorts of interesting cuts of poultry and vegetables and grill them over artisanal binchotan coals to absolute perfection.

 

Meats are being cooked on the stove in a Japanese restaurant.

Yakiniku

Here’s another simple concept – grilled beef – launched into the stratosphere. At typical Japanese yakiniku joints, diners gather around small grills and cook their own cuts of wagyu, everything from sirloin and rib to tongue, oyster blade and more. It’s a social, relaxed and enjoyable way to eat, though the beef can be seriously high-end.

 

Ika shiokara cattlefish or squid.

Shiokara

OK team, it’s time to get out of your comfort zone and sample a classic Japanese beer snack that is far greater than the sum of its parts. Though, it’s going to be a challenge. Shiokara means “salty-spicy”: it’s raw squid that’s chopped up and mixed with a paste of salty fermented squid guts. It won’t be everyone’s idea of a good time, but if you do enjoy the taste, you will love shiokara with a cold beer.

 

Pasta is extremely popular in Japan. |  <i>Ben Groundwater</i>

Pasta

Pasta, in Japan? Is that legit? We are here to tell you this is 100 per cent legit. The Japanese have a great love of noodles, and pasta is simply an extension of that, a style of cuisine that has been mastered, and many would say improved upon, by local chefs. This is actually your entry point into a world of foreign foods made with great skill in Japan, everything from classic French pastries to Valencian paella to Neapolitan pizza and more.

 

Japanese pork katsu, served with shredded cabbage. |  <i>Ben Groundwater</i>

Katsu

This is an easy sell. Katsu is crumbed, deep-fried meat. You’re in, right? And just wait until you discover tonkatsu, the king of the katsu world, a chunky pork schnitzel that is served with shredded cabbage doused in sesame dressing, with rice on the side, and usually a cold beer. Though, you could also have your katsu with curry sauce (katsu kare). Or, on rice with an eggy sauce (katsudon). Can’t lose.

 

Japan has an incredible strong coffee culture. |  <i>Ben Groundwater</i>

Coffee

It’s no surprise to find that coffee is a big deal in Japan. The coffee culture here has evolved immensely over the last 100 years or so, though you can still find purveyors of all the historical styles, from the old-fashioned “kissaten” coffee shops, to the American-style chain stores, to the new-wave espresso joints, to the hipster boltholes doing artisanal pour-overs. It’s all good.

 

Japanese Sake |  <i>Ben Groundwater</i>

Sake

There’s little point trying to properly understand the sake world – unless you have, say, a spare 10 years or so for study and experience. It’s just too diverse and complicated. Instead, just drink this delicious Japanese rice-wine, either at an izakaya – a laidback sake bar with good food – or from the source, by visiting a sake brewery. And don’t miss other boozy Japanese beverages such as local beer, whisky, and awamori.

 

Japanese wagashi, often served with green tea, anko and fruit. |  <i>Ben Groundwater</i>

Wagashi

It’s nice to finish with a sweet treat, in this case, wagashi. These are the delicate, beautifully crafted morsels that are typically served alongside matcha tea, though also occasionally to end a kaiseki meal. They’re so gorgeous, it almost seems a shame to eat them. Almost.

 

Join travel and food writer Ben Groundwater on his next exclusive foodie tour.

Our Flinders Island Walk Named the 13th Great Walk of Australia

Great Walks of Australia, the premier collection of Australia's greatest multi-day guided walking experiences - done with a dash of eco-luxury comfort - has officially named our Flinders Island Walking Adventure - In Comfort as the 13th walk in their exclusive line-up.

To say we're thrilled is an understatement. After years of hard work developing a unique walking experience on this mesmerising island featuring spectacular mountain and coastal landscapes, epic views, abundant wildlife and, of course, our pioneering beachside Eco-Comfort Camp, we believe it is truly deserving of the prestigious inclusion. 

The trip joins the ranks of 12 other incredible walks, like our award-winning Classic Larapinta Trek in Comfort, which, so far, has earned five Brolgas in the Northern Territory's official tourism awards.

Our six-day guided experience covers 42 kilometres of easy-to-moderate walking exploring what is considered the hidden hiking jewel of Tasmania. With the full support of expert guides, walkers travel with only a daypack, and sleep in exclusive safari-style tents, complete with a see-through roof so you can drift off under a blanket of stars, with the beach almost at your doorstep. 

Hiking the stunning Flinders Island coastline |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i> Wildlife on Flinders Island |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i> Hiking on Mt Strzelecki |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i>

“We’re so thrilled to be adding the 13th Great Walk of Australia to our collection.”

“Rugged, pristine and remote, this gem of a destination is perfect for anyone wanting to get off the beaten track to a unique, undiscovered wild landscape with blockbuster views and feel like you have it nearly all to yourself.”

“I have no doubt hikers from around the world are going to be excited about having this special new experience launch and love it as much as our other 12 incredible Great Walks,” 

- Liz O’Rourke, Great Walks of Australia Executive Officer

Sleep comfortably in our spacious tents on Flinders Island |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i> Our Flinders Island Eco-Comfort Camp is in a secluded setting with beach access |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i> Our clean amenities are sustainably sourced and operated |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i>
 

What makes this a ‘Great Walk’?  

Spectacular Walking Opportunities and Eco-Comfort Camping 

Hike past lagoons, woodlands and coastal heaths, skirt around striking granite mountain ranges and summit the dramatic peaks of Mt Killiecrankie and Mt Strzelecki, affording you spectacular views over the entire island.

One of the biggest highlights of this walk is our exclusive Eco-comfort Camp, which are big on comforts but small on environmental impact.

The extra creature comforts make all the difference on a multi-day walk. Our innovative retreats are full of life's little luxuries that many don't expect in a wild and remote setting like a bed, hot shower and toilets. The camp also has a private beach access, and generously sized safari pod tents with clear roofs so you can enjoy sleeping under a starry Tasmanian night sky.


 

Ready to discover the newest Great Walk of Australia? See all of our Flinders Island walking adventures here.
USA: 8 Best National Parks for Hiking

The US has some of the most impressive national parks in the world, from the iconic Grand Canyon in Arizona to Volcanoes in Hawaii and, of course, Yosemite in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California

These glorious natural wonderlands are home to breathtaking hiking trails, unique geological formations, native animals and sensational vistas.

But with more visitors heading to these wild places than ever, you’ll want to ensure your trip takes you far beyond the carpark, to places you can only get to by foot. Ahead, our favourite national parks in the US for hiking.

 

Yellowstone National Park |  <i>Sue Badyari</i>


Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone is the world’s first national park, and it remains one of the most popular for its hot springs, geysers and megafauna including bears, bison and elk! And sure, Old Faithful is worth a visit, but with over 3,468 square miles (8,983 square km) of natural beauty, there’s plenty more to see at Yellowstone than a crowd of tourists and a punctual geyser.

During the summer months, we love the Wapiti Lake Trail, which takes you away from the crowds and past waterfalls, lakes, and a phenomenal hydrothermal area. 

But in our humble opinion, winter in Yellowstone is even more magical – the trails are quiet, the animals are active and the geothermal energy contrasts spectacularly with the snow.

 

Grand Canyon National Park, USA |  <i>Sue Badyari</i>


Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Grand Canyon National Park needs no introduction – home to the world’s most famous valley, this Arizona landmark is totally worth the hype. 

While close to 5 million visitors flock to the Canyon each year, only 5% hike below the rim, and even fewer make it to the Colorado River, so lace up your hiking boots and explore one of the most incredible places on earth by foot to truly connect with this icon and truly understand why it is worthy of the name 'Grand'.

Be prepared, the hiking is hot and tough but well worth the effort.

 

Hiking in Zion National Park, Utah |  <i>©VisittheUSA.com</i>


Zion National Park, Utah

Any trip to the American Southwest isn’t complete without exploring the extraordinary Zion National Park in Utah. 

A highlight is the hike to Angel’s Landing, an exhilirating ascent that’ll definitely keep you on your toes but is well worth it for the panoramic view at the top. 

Red rocks, deep canyons and natural arches abound in this dream hiking destination.

 

The unique hoodoos of Bryce Canyon |  <i>©VisittheUSA.com</i>


Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Considered by many to be North America’s most beautiful canyon, Bryce Canyon is a must-see destination for hikers and nature lovers alike. 

The spectacular park covers almost 40,000 acres, featuring colourful and unique rock formations called hoodoos, so vast and bright they’ll take your breath away.

The colour contrast between the red rocks, green of the pines and blue of the sky is truly a feast for the eyes.

 

Arches National Park, Utah |  <i>©VisittheUSA.com</i>


Arches National Park, Utah

Another Utah gem is Arches National Park, home to over 2000 natural stone arches and the thousands of miles (or kms) of hiking trails that meander through them. 

These geological marvels have been forming for the past 65 million years and are still changing to this day. In 2008, one of the larger arches, Wall Arch, crumbled due to the constant erosion that shapes these masterpieces. 

Don’t miss Double Arch or Delicate Arch – two of our all-time faves!

 

View to Half Dome, Yosemite National Park |  <i>Nathaniel Wynne </i>


Yosemite National Park, California

If you loved the Oscar-winning climbing documentary, Free Solo, it’s time to put Yosemite on your bucket list, stat. 

This diverse national park in the Sierra Nevada mountains is home to some of Cali’s most spectacular vistas, hikes and climbs. 

The view from the summit of Half Dome is, quite honestly, a spiritual experience, but if you miss out on the lottery-based permit, there are loads of other incredible spots in the area to explore.

 

Hiking on a lava field on Hawaii's Big Island |  <i>Rachel Imber</i>


Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

If you’re interested in geology, you won’t want to miss an opportunity to explore Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii. 

Walk among active volcanoes to see islands in the making, check out the beauty and power of fresh lava as it erupts, and marvel at a unique and unfamiliar landscape that feels like another planet.

The park is also home to cultural sites of significance, and unique wildlife that have been forged on this evolutionary frontier.

 

Trekking the beautiful Denali National Park |  <i>Jake Hutchins</i>

 

Denali National Park, Alaska

The contiguous United States has many National Parks to occupy you for a lifetime, but for those seeking a more alpine experience it makes sense to look north, to Alaska, in particular Denali National Park.

Alaska is home to 17 of the highest mountains in the USA, with Denali being the biggest at 6190m. There aren't many trails in Denali, but the ones that do exist are usually void of people, and they are best enjoyed in the safety of an experienced guide.

The drive to the park is an experience in itself, with the first views of the mighty Alaska range reminiscent of scenes from the Indian Himalaya. Not to be missed.


Ready to explore the best National Parks in the USA?


From the CEO's Desk: What's in store for 2024

The World Expeditions Travel Group CEO, Sue Badyari, has been at the frontlines of the adventure travel industry longer than most of her peers. 

Her expert insights are the closest thing you’ll find to an adventure travel crystal ball and has attracted the attention of the likes of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) and the Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO), who have both invited her to be part of their various panels in recent years. 

As the year of the rabbit hops its way out, we sat down with Sue for a quick look back at what we achieved last year and what she's most excited about for 2024.
 

Our CEO (right) in Nepal's Everest region |  <i>Sue Badyari</i> Hiking in Katherine Gorge |  <i>Sue Badyari</i> Sue Badyari, CEO World Expeditions Travel Group |  <i>Sue Badyari</i>

Sue, what are you most excited about for 2024?
 

NEPAL ECO-COMFORT CAMP FACELIFT

At World Expeditions, our teams in Australia and Kathmandu have been working very hard over the past 10 months to provide our Eco-Comfort Camps in Nepal’s Everest and Annapurna regions with an exciting and fresh facelift.

It’s been more challenging than you might think, you can’t just give it a fresh lick of paint in winter, it won’t dry. And with the Lukla flight issues it has also been a challenge simply to transport certain items to our various Eco-Comfort Camps in the Everest region.

But we’ve overcome all the obstacles, and I can’t wait to announce when the improvements are complete in the very near future. I’ll be presenting a special webinar on the Eco-Comfort Camp upgrades on March 16. It’s worth registering even if you think you can’t make the live event as we’ll send a link to everyone after the event.

MORE ADVENTURE WEBINARS

Speaking of webinars, we hope it will be the first of many more this year. We had over 600 people register for our special online event with Jean-Claude Razel, and we hope that we will connect even more of our talented adventurers with the wider public so they can tap into their vast knowledge.

NEW INNOVATIONS ACROSS THE GROUP

Looking further across the entire World Expeditions Travel Group, we have some exciting news out of our New Zealand divisions, with new Cycle Trails coming online soon as well as the release of a new self-guided cycling product on the Alps to Ocean.

On the ‘small footprint’ side of things, our Walkers Britain division will become completely paperless later this year; we’ll be releasing at least 3 more Regenerative Travel projects, and we have recently joined the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund. Our Great Canadian Trails division is about to get its certification, joining the 1% for the Planet global movement.

DOING OUR BIT FOR RECONCILIATION

We’ve also established a working committee to establish our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) who are even more motivated to finalise our commitment plan following the discouraging result of the Voice referendum that took place in Australia late last year. Tourism which involves indigenous people, as we well know, is the best tourism, and truly enhances the travel experience.

A FRESH NEW WEBSITE

And finally, our Nepal Eco-Camps aren’t the only place you’ll find a fresh new look this year. We are very much looking forward to unveiling a fresh, new intuitive website experience later this year. Stay tuned, and thank you to those in our community who were involved in our user research over the past 6 months.

 

World Expeditions is turning 50 in 2025. Anything exciting travellers can look forward to?

It is an amazing testament to our teams over the last five decades that we will be able to celebrate such a significant milestone in such a young industry. Travel has been around for a long time, but adventure travel, especially our style of active travel, has always been a niche. 

Conflicts, political unrest, airline collapses, unprecedented natural disasters and of course, a global pandemic, we’ve navigated through them all. Careful management, whether it be in the pricing department, which creates great value trips, or running the tours in the field, is a hallmark of our company.

For some perspective, the tiny Himalayan landlocked country of Bhutan only opened its border 50 years ago this year. We started in the Himalaya a year later. So, we’ve seen a lot and gained a lot of experience, and we’re always thrilled to share this knowledge with our travellers.

We are planning some BIG parties to celebrate our place as one of the world’s oldest adventure travel companies in 2025 and plan to release details on what will likely be the world’s highest banquet around May this year.
 

Got any insights on 2024 adventure travel trends?

Internationally, Georgia is my hot tip. 

Just before the pandemic, we highlighted that the Transcaucasian Trail would be the next BIG thing in trekking. It’s proven to be correct, but it’s not just for trekkers. 

We have sent many private groups, including a singing group, and our cultural journey that combines Georgia with Azerbaijan and Armenia was one of the top sellers in our Black Friday sales.

Our active Europe division, UTracks, also has some exceptional new trips in 2024. The Isle of Arran is like a miniature Scotland and has certainly caught the attention of our most avid walkers. I also expect the Camino Norte to come into vogue once scenes filmed along this part of the Camino for the sequel of The Way is released.

Here in Australia, it has to be magical Flinders Island. Having visited the island late last year and meeting the friendly folk who call this home, I was blown away. It is a truly special place to visit. The Great Walks of Australia collection agree, they've just added our Flinders Island Walking Adventure in Comfort as the 13th walk of their exclusive collection.

There’s more to share on new trips that are coming online, so don’t miss reading our 2024 Adventure Travel trends to see what they are.

Ushguli, a community of four villages located at the head of the Enguri gorge in Svaneti, Georgia. Hiking the spectacular Flinders Island coastline |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i> Taking a break on the Transcaucasian Trail, Georgia |  <i>Gesine Cheung</i>
 

Looking back, your proudest achievements in 2023?

We’re obviously doing something right with our Eco-Comfort camps in Australia. Our Larapinta Trail walking program, which features 4 Eco-Comfort Camps along this iconic Aussie desert trail, won its second ‘Best in Adventure Travel’ Brolga Award in a row (that’s 5 Brolga’s now!) while our newest Eco-Comfort Camp on Flinders Island, in the Furneaux Group off Tasmania, helped our Flinders Island Walking Adventure – In Comfort, become the newest Great Walk of Australia, a very select line-up of walks that also features our Classic Larapinta Walk in Comfort.

 

Our Huma Charity Challenge division helped charities raise over AU$ 1 million last year, bringing the total now to $10 million raised since its inception a decade ago. 

What is unique about Charity Challenges is that participants are often new to adventure travel and usually well outside their comfort zone. What many of our travellers do for pleasure, these committed individuals do for a cause close to their heart. It’s quite moving.

Our community has really embraced our Regenerative 2030 project with more than 300 travellers making a micro-donation upon booking their own adventure, which has helped the World Expeditions Foundation raise over AU$20,000. 

This has helped us fund 5 projects already, training female farmers in Nepal with new vermicomposting techniques, providing clean cookstoves in Peru and helping remote indigenous school students in far north Queensland.

 

And while it wasn’t perhaps a ‘proud’ achievement, it was pretty cool that our Blue Mountains Adventure Company was asked by Tourism NSW to host Zac Efron and his Netflix crew. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch the Habitat Conservation Episode of Down to Earth (S2E1) to see why our Empress Falls Canyoning trip has become very popular with American visitors.

Any final words?

I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to our incredible community of adventure travellers. Your unwavering support, boundless enthusiasm for exploring our natural wonders, and the meaningful connections forged with our local staff and fellow adventurers on our small group departures are truly appreciated.

So, thank you for being more than just participants, you’ve become friends who make our adventure travel journeys extraordinary.

9 Reasons Active Outdoor Travel is Good for Young People

There’s something special about embarking on a trip into the unknown and really experiencing the world. Whether it’s a trek into the mountains or cycling along rural back roads, an active adventure can benefit a young person's physical, mental and emotional state.

However, our community is changing. The evolving trend for more comfortable travel supports the headlines about our growing sedentary lifestyle. 

Most alarmingly, many of these reports point towards today’s youth. Increases in child weight gain, depression and an addiction to an electronic umbilical cord that pumps out advertisements heralding the benefits of manufactured foods and even more computer activity have seemingly caused a rapid decline in the time spent outdoors by children.

With all the advances in modern living through an increased urban lifestyle, we’re worried that the next generation will pass on the concept that nature is not our friend and that it offers little benefit.

While there are many types of travel experiences on offer for young people, here are 9 reasons why we believe combining active travel elements in your trip is a wise option.

 

Kids cooling off during a walk in Kakadu National Park |  <i>Tourism NT/Shaana McNaught</i>

1. Spending time outdoors reduces stress

There’s a reason why there’s a smile on everyone’s face after they’ve come back from an active adventure.

Australians are some of the most stressed-out people in the world, with a recent report reporting that stress levels have been rising around the country for the past five years. Thankfully, research suggests that nature walks can reduce stress, as well as boost levels of attention, which is very relevant for students.

Gregory Bratman, the lead author of the study, said that 'nature experiences, even of a short duration, can decrease this pattern of thinking that is associated with the onset, in some cases depression.'

 

2. Nature makes exercise easier

Some kids have difficulty motivating themselves to get fit. So, make it fun and give them a goal to aim towards.

Research conducted at the University of Essex suggests that exercise feels easier when you are viewing the colour green, such as on trees, grass and other plants in nature.

The study conducted tested cyclists pedalling in front of green, red and grey images. Those who pedalled in front of the green screen reported that they felt lower exertion during their cycling, as well as displayed fewer mood disturbances than the other participants. 

 

3. Nature can rejuvenate your soul

One of the best reasons to spend time outdoors trekking and cycling is that it can reinvigorate your mental state. Studies have shown that viewing natural beauty can elicit feelings of awe, which can release endorphins and trigger a mental boost.

An interview by Huffington Post with a Seattle-based environmental psychologist states: 'In addition to helping decrease stress levels, spending more time with nature shows a shift toward more positive moods... the theory is that we respond positively to things that are good for us. Trees offer shade, protection and often have fruits and nuts, so they are a source of food as well as protection and comfort.'

Ultimately, we tend to be drawn and attracted to things that are beneficial to our survival, which is one of the reasons why trees and other natural elements can help lift our moods.

 

View of Everest from Accommodation in Nepal |  <i>Indigo Axford</i>

 

4. Gain a sense of accomplishment

Regardless of age and size, taking on an overseas adventure can create feelings associated with personal achievement. The greater the challenge, the more sense of achievement we feel when we accomplish those goals.

 

5. Travel increases your self-awareness

A byproduct of travel is raising your self-awareness and it’s one of the most beneficial parts of taking on an adventurous school trip overseas.

Adventure travel brings you closer to your “inner self”, giving you the chance to examine and challenge yourself in ways you didn’t think were possible.

Stepping into the unknown and taking a risk demands our increased attention and can bring an intense state of self-awareness – one of the reasons that people, such as mountain climbers, engage in adventure activities.

 

6. The outdoors can make you smarter

Immersing a child in the outdoors can increase their higher-order cognition in more ways than one. This study found that brain scans taken after exercise showed that the participants had greater and more focused activity in the prefrontal cortex than they did before.

What’s more, active adventures help increase activity in your hippocampus, the brain’s main “storage unit”.

 

A Yomad making friends with the local village kids |  <i>Brad Atwal</i>

 

7. Forge new friendships

After an adventure, it's not uncommon to see bonds form between students who prior to the trip perhaps weren't as close. The common goals shared of achieving a physical challenge can bring kids together.

Embarking on a challenge with other people can bring them closer together; sharing the trials and the triumphs gives them something to bond over and forms relationships that'll embed deep in their memories for many years to come.

 

8. Learn new life skills

Travel develops a child in many ways. From problem-solving to growing confidence and building resilience, the experiences gained from entering new surroundings and immersing yourself in a different culture create exciting challenges that can enable students to expand their skill set.

 

9. Know that you're making a difference when you travel ethically

There’s more to travel than just experiencing nature’s finest spaces. Embarking on a trip to some of the world’s most remote and untouched corners puts money into the local economy and helps preserve these pristine landscapes.

As many of these far-flung destinations are located in some of the world’s poorest countries, eco-tourism helps these countries in their efforts to save and preserve their land through organisations that ultimately aim to save the planet.

 

 

 

 

Let's get going:

Children as young as 12, who are confident and experienced in the outdoors, are able to join you on many of our exciting active adventures. While we suggest trips graded from introductory to moderate, it does depend on the child and the itinerary, so talk to our team about their suitability.

In conjunction with our medical advisor, Dr Ross Anderson, we have developed the following altitude guidelines for younger travellers:

  • From 15 to 17 years: the maximum sleeping altitude is 5000m.
  • From 12 to 14 years: the maximum sleeping altitude is 4500m.
  • From 7- to 12-year-olds: the maximum sleeping altitude is 3500m.
 
See our list of guaranteed upcoming adventures here
 
 
Morocco Earthquake Appeal Raises Over $20,000

On the evening of Friday, September 8 evening, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Morocco, with its epicentre in the High Atlas Mountain range, approximately 70 kilometres southwest of Marrakech. 

In response, we quickly released our Morocco Earthquake Appeal, where all donations would be channelled directly into the reconstruction efforts aimed at helping the High Atlas villages that had been profoundly affected. 

We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to those who donated to our Morocco Fundraising Appeal, which raised over AU$20,000. World Expeditions kickstarted the initiative with a donation of AU$10,000, and thanks to our community we were thrilled that this amount doubled. 

As with all World Expeditions Foundation appeals, donations over $2 are tax deductible (in Australia only) and 100% of funds raised go directly to the cause we are supporting. We are truly humbled by your kindness and the impact we can collectively make. 

We want to reassure everyone that it is safe to travel to Morocco and they are ready to welcome tourists with open arms. Our experienced team on the ground have been closely monitoring the situation and is fully prepared to provide you with the exceptional travel experience you deserve. 

By travelling to the remote towns and villages in the Atlas Mountains, you will not only have the opportunity to experience the vibrant culture and breathtaking landscapes firsthand but also contribute to the recovery efforts of the local communities.

Traveller stories: Travelling to Morocco After the Earthquake

A Change of Plans

I’m fresh off the plane from Morocco and a few people are surprised that I didn't cancel my travel plans, asking if it's safe to travel there after the recent earthquake. 

I was due to land in Marrakech 3 days after the earthquake to begin an 11-day private Moroccan adventure. I chose to cut it down to a 7-day trip, flying into Tangier instead, and picking up my existing plans from there. 

Only a few further days on, travellers were able to enjoy the Marrakech Medina as before and for hikes in the Atlas Mountains, there have always been numerous routes to choose from so there is no need to avoid this spectacular area.

Despite hearing so much about the earthquake on the news, travel in Morocco felt very normal and as welcoming as ever. Places that had temporarily closed were quick to re-open.

Rabat Medina |  <i>Jac Lofts</i> Chefchaouen Kasbah |  <i>Jac Lofts</i> Fes tanneries |  <i>Jac Lofts</i>

The Earthquake's Effect

I discovered that the people who have been most affected live in remote, small, villages in the Atlas Mountains where few tourists venture.

Outside of Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains, there had been little, if any, physical damage or disruption but still they faced cancellations from travellers which greatly impacted their livelihood. So they were keen to move on - and even more excited to see our faces.

Carpet shopping in Chefchaouen |  <i>Jac Lofts</i> Cats of Chefchaouen |  <i>Jac Lofts</i> Cosy rooftop of Riad Cherifa in Chefchaouen |  <i>Jac Lofts</i>

Is it safe to travel to Morocco?

It is absolutely safe to still travel there and tourism is an industry that supports so many local people in Morocco. The message I got whilst I was there is: "Please continue to visit & experience this magical destination".

Highlights and tips for travelling to Morocco: 

Shopping 
Check your airline baggage allowance and bring an extra suitcase to take home, the shopping is next level in Morocco!

Leather bags and sandals. Carpets and cushions. Tagines and other decorative ceramics, copper pots and silver jewellery. Spices & perfumes and argan oil. Baskets. 

The stalls themselves are a beautiful sight. And talking and haggling with your seller is all part of the experience – ask your guide, or hotel or look at blogs online to get a rough idea of what to pay for certain things and then have fun! Ultimately, if you like it, the price you’re happy to pay is the right one.

Architecture, doorways, tiles 
In our briefing on the first day, our guide warned us to watch our footing and ensure we look down so we don't trip over on steps or uneven ground. I thought this seemed unnecessary until I found myself constantly distracted staring at yet another magnificent intricate doorway or ceiling.

Mint tea 
Enjoying mint tea is a ritual in Morocco. The pretty glass cups, filled with hot sweet tea and stuffed with mint - morning, noon and night you’ll be offered mint tea and even watching it be poured for you is fun.

This is how you pour tea in Morocco |  <i>Jac Lofts</i>

Tagine 
When the server brings the distinctive clay pot to your table and lifts the lid on the bubbling hot tagine, you know you’re in for something special. There are more varieties of tagine than I ever imagined and so many seafood options once you’re in the north of the country like swordfish tagine and anchovy tagine, always with a serving of fresh round bread to tear up and dip into the dish along with a big bowl of delicious olives.

Riads 
Staying in a riad is such a unique Moroccan experience. Essentially a guesthouse, here you are warmly welcomed by your hosts, staying in often old and intricately decorated homes. The many dishes at breakfast are a delight.

 

Riad Cherifa in Chefchaouen |  <i>Jac Lofts</i> Breakfast, Morocco style |  <i>Jac Lofts</i> Great local tour guide in Morocco |  <i>Jac Lofts</i>
 

 

 
 
On the Couch with Nina Karnikowski

Travelling with intention, or Mindful Travel, is part of a new slower style of travel – but what does that entail? 

We enlisted travel writer, tour guide, and mindfulness expert Nina Karnikowski to work out what Thoughtful Travel truly means and how we can become more mindful travellers. 

 

Your upcoming trip, Mindful Travel in the Himalayas with Nina Karnikowski, focuses on the concept of travelling mindfully - can you tell us a little bit about what it means? 

The term mindful can be subbed out with conscious or thoughtful, so it's about travelling with intention and clarity.  

This idea of the obliteration of presence has become solid in modern life. The trip is really about reclaiming that sense of presence, so about connecting intentionally to our surroundings through things like journalling and mindful photography, which is something we could all learn a lot about in the day of smartphones where we click away a million times a day and don't take in what's in front of us. 

So, I want to encourage people to take in the moment with all of their senses and be present there. Be present for the people – for the culture, for nature – because otherwise, what a tragedy, we miss these beautiful places we'll see. When you think about it, a lot of modern travel is taking away from us being present in the area, so this is returning to how we used to travel. When you're attuned to the place that you're in, you can see how you can give back to a place, and you're mindful about what you're doing there, and how you're behaving so there's that charming cross-section there that we'll be able to explore in this trip. 

Nina Karnikowski Nepal
 
 

So, you’ll be heading to Nepal in October; one thing we like to say about Nepal is that it’s a boomerang destination – people keep coming back. As someone who’s spent their fair share of time there, what is it about Nepal that keeps you coming back? 

I'm a big fan of visiting a place multiple times. I interviewed with ABC recently about precisely that, and there are two camps - the people that say ''been there, done that, tick that off" and then the people that go back all the time. 

A trip like this makes it even more insane to be in that mindset of just ticking things off because what you want to do is develop a deeper relationship with a place, and when you go somewhere like Nepal, you want so badly to create a connection to it. 

I think, in so many ways, the Nepalese have the keys to a good life, and that's due to a mixture of a lot of things. It's a mixture of the incredible natural beauty that is there and the kind of energy that is in the Himalayan region that really can't be described. You have to go, you have to feel it, and once you've felt it, you just crave more of it. 

It's also the Buddhist underpinnings of the Sherpa people in the Himalayas who came from Tibet. There's all this Tibetan Buddhism weaved into the culture there, so the idea of interconnectedness between all things is a significant tenant of the Buddhist belief. Understanding that connection between the natural world and yourself is just something that is inherent in Nepalese culture, in Sherpa culture, and witnessing that in people's lives first-hand is just so beautiful and moving, and, when you go to places like the monastery that we'll be visiting, you see that in action - you see it in action in just about everybody you meet. There's that lightness of being; there's this incredible sense of humour that Nepalese people seem to have. 

Nepalese people have been through the most horrendous these things, most recently the earthquake and then Covid, but when you speak to them about those times, they'll be telling you a horrible story, but they'll be laughing and saying, "What can you do? This is life." What can we do? We continue and always prevail. I think those beliefs are just so beautiful to be around. I think they really change us as people. 

 

There is so much to love about Nepal - What location are you most looking forward to sharing with them? 

Well, I think just sharing the Everest region in the Himalayas, just being in the mountains, in high altitudes, makes you feel amazing. You feel this sense of presence that comes with that. 

Of course, I can't wait to go to Namche Bazaar - that's the "capital of Sherpa culture", so there are little Sherpa shops and Tibetan stalls and all that sort of thing, but then rounded by the majestic Himalayas.  

I wrote a book a couple of years ago called 'Go Lightly', which was all about how to travel more sustainably, and those kinds of places are just that in action. You're in a natural environment, you're taking things slowly, you're seeing these beautiful places, and you have no choice but to interact with the locals because you know there's all these amazing local handicrafts that you can support the local community by buying, and I think also staying in eco-camps is another really exciting thing for people to experience as well. 

 

Nina Karnikowski Nepal Nina Karnikowski Nepal Nina Karnikowski Nepal
 
 

In the upcoming trip, there will be exclusive workshops with you -what’s the outcome for travellers who choose to take part? What do you want them to walk away with? 

It's not only about the experience within the destination. I hope people connect more deeply to Nepal by doing things like reflective writing and taking time to take far fewer photos and do that more mindfully. Walking slowly, with a consciousness about what's around - all of these things will enhance the moment, yes, but then when they go home, I would hope that people continue some of those things.  

Not everybody, for instance, would love to continue journaling. However, I teach a lot of journalling, and I have yet to meet anybody who finishes and goes, "I'm never going to do that again" I've had people from teenage girls to 75-year-old men saying oh my gosh, I had forgotten about this, or I never knew I had access to this. It's such a life enhancer, so I'm very passionate about people taking that on, but really, it's about just developing a more significant presence in this special place.

 

The trip will also feature a special presentation with Dr Ananda from a great project called T-HELP; why was this a must-do on your itinerary? 

Well, I'm constantly thinking about this idea of being as nourishing for the places we visit as they are for us. So, people have in their heads ''I've got to go and build an orphanage if I want to give back" or something similar. 

It's actually not about that at all. It's so much wider than that, and there are things that we can do, such as spending money in local communities at places like the stalls in Namche Bazaar or eating at local restaurants. 

This is such a beautiful project. To facilitate women to learn about worm farming and, if we're trying to do things that are beneficial for the environment - what could be better than empowering women to learn new skills in ways that can help move them away from any kind of industrialised Agriculture? Worm farming is a tenant of permaculture and regenerative farming, so for people to understand what's happening in that in that area is really beneficial. 

 Nina Karnikowski Nepal

 

So, the trip goes from October 15th to 28th, and coincides with the Hindu festival Dashain. Could you tell us a bit about what that festival means? 

I was lucky enough to actually be in Nepal at that time last year as well, so I learnt a little bit about it then. It's just beautiful to be there at that time because there is an abundance of colour and family gatherings and beautiful offerings everywhere, which there are in Nepal generally, but at that time, it's heightened.  

It's a Hindu festival all about good prevailing over evil, which is also a beautiful thing to weave into this particular trip, but it’s a time for Hindus to worship the goddess Durga - victory over a demon. 

The goddess Durga symbolises fertility, so it's also about celebrating the fertility of the land and receiving blessings for a good harvest ahead, so I was in the Himalayas last year and you would see families congregating wearing red, they also had this holy grass called Jamarra, which the women put in their hair and then they put it on the offering tables along with any incense. It's the biggest and most auspicious festival in Nepal, so it's an amazing time to be there. Then at the very end of Dashain, I was in Kathmandu and saw all of the processions that happened there.  

On this trip, we're going to be spending a few days in Kathmandu, so we’ll probably see that too. There are these ancient, beautiful temples where the festivities are taking place - so you see people creating music and coming out with their offerings; it's a really special time to be there, and everybody's just in that celebratory mood which is very special. 

 

The actual trekking part of the trip will be for eight days; how challenging would you say it is?

Well, it’s classed as introductory to moderate, so it's perfect for first-time visitors to Nepal and first-time Trekkers. We do reach out of about 3900 M, which is relatively high, so you need to have a good level of Fitness. Having said that, altitude: we can't predict the way that it will affect people. You could be the fittest, strongest person, and it might still affect you, or you could be completely unfit and wouldn't affect you at all.

Luckily, there are medications and things you can take. There’s an amazing group of people on the trek to take care of everybody and make sure that everything is incredibly safe in that respect. In terms of fitness, it's recommended that you do regular exercise three to four days a week. 

If you miss it here or there, that's totally fine - you do not have to be crazy fit for this. We're not going to be running up Everest - we are going to be working very slowly and mindfully and really taking it all in. It's more about that than anything else - being in this beautiful place and walking (note: walking, not running). 

It will be deliberately like that in order to allow for the slow gain in altitude because that way, it's much less likely to affect you.  

 
 

You have published some great books over the last few years, including Go Lightly and Make a Living, Living, but your newest project will release just prior to this trip – what can readers expect? 

I'm very excited about this one - and nervous - because it's a memoir, so it's a lot more personal than my books in the past. It's going to be called 'the Mindful Traveller'. There you go,  in perfect alignment with this trip. 

It comes out on August 29th, and it's a memoir about my travels. But more than that, it's about the gifts of stillness, reflection, and coming into a deeper connection with the natural world. That's what we’re focusing on this trip, and I wanted to create something that would help anybody out there who is wondering: how do I become a better steward for the planet - a better force for good? It's really to give people an example of what that might look like. People who love travel and nature and who are searching for ways to come into a deep relationship with the natural world, which is what we'll be doing in Nepal.

What is 'Regenerative Travel'?

Regenerative Travel is a relatively new term in travel circles that aims to go beyond sustainable travel practices. While sustainable travel focuses on minimising negative impacts and returning a net neutrality on the environment and local communities, Regenerative Travel aims to have a positive and transformative effect on those environments and communities. 

Put simply, the core principle of Regenerative Travel urges travellers to have a positive impact by giving back more than they take from the destinations they visit. 

The term was born during the Covid pandemic, when locations typically overtouristed began to see improvements in key indicators like air quality, and less pollution. 

The question was soon posed - how can these improvements continue when travellers return? How can a destination benefit yet still incentivise the protection of natural and cultural assets AND still provide an enriching experience for the traveller? 

Enter, Regenerative Travel. 

Beach clean-up is an important part of coastal restoration and regeneration
 

A Regenerative Travel program involves travellers committing to activities such as actively restoring and regenerating ecosystems, supporting local economies, engaging in community lead initiatives, fostering cultural exchange and reducing their carbon footprint. 

The benefits of Regenerative Travel are seen on many levels. This type of 'slow travel' seeks to create a net positive cycle, where travellers and destinations mutually benefit from the experience, leaving a lasting positive impact on the environment, building capacities for local communities, and increasing respect for cultures encountered during the journey. 

When travellers support locally driven initiatives and businesses, the communities receive the resources they require to care for and protect their environment. 

The demand for this style of travel also drives the local communities to engage in activities supporting this regenerative approach, and the traveller, sharing more meaningful experiences during their journey, is more driven to respect and protect the land and local communities while travelling. 

 

Vermicomposting workshops educating Nepali farmers to build environmentally sustainable livelihoods |  <i>Trans-Himalayan Environment and Livelihood Program</i> Vermicomposting kits supplied to farmers by Trans-Himalayan Environment and Livelihood Program |  <i>Trans-Himalayan Environment and Livelihood Program</i> Vermicomposting workshops educating Nepali farmers about sustainable farming |  <i>Trans-Himalayan Environment and Livelihood Program</i>

We have teamed up with a local NGO, T-HELP, to implement a service program and help train local female farmers in the techniques of vermicomposting. This is combined with a group trek through the Annapurna Range through small farming communities and villages, into the location of the service program, gaining an understanding of the local environment and terrain, as well as gaining incomparable views of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges. 

Overall, Regenerative Travel offers travellers a unique opportunity to combine personal growth, cultural understanding, environmental stewardship, and community engagement. It empowers people to become responsible global citizens who actively contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive world.

In Memory: Lakpa Nuru Sherpa

It is with deep sorrow and heavy hearts that we share the devastating news of Lakpa Nuru Sherpa’s passing. On the 25th of May, while guiding on Everest, Lakpa reached the South Summit but did not return. 

For over two decades, Lakpa dedicated his life to being a climbing sherpa on countless mountaineering expeditions across Nepal. He played an instrumental role in helping individuals realise their dreams of summiting Himalayan peaks. 

Our mountain guide, Soren Kruse Ledet, fondly recalls meeting Lakpa more than 20 years ago when he was a dzopkio driver on one of our expeditions in the Khumbu. His passion and dedication quickly led him to become a climbing sherpa, going on to achieve the incredible feat of summiting Everest 12 times. 

Soren Kruse Ledet, Lakpa Nuru Sherpa and Nawang Dorje Sherpa, Teng Kangpoche 2022 |  <i>Soren Kruse Ledet</i>
 

He was a master of big mountain expeditions and his friends were blessed with his openheartedness - and his homemade apple rakshi. Again Soren regaling the time when on his own Everest attempt, came across Lakpa at around 7300m on the Lhotse Face. While Soren was focused on breathing and making progress, here was Lakpa casually descending after completing a stealthy load carry to Camp 3. Wearing a pair of jeans and enjoying a smoke, it was hard not to marvel at his ease. 

Lakpa was highly respected amongst the Nepali mountaineering community. His strength and competence at high altitude were truly remarkable and the source of enthusiastic praise from our returning mountaineering clients. He would often officiate at the mandatory pre climb Puja. A gentle man and devout Buddhist, he was an inspiration to us all. 

Above all, Lakpa cherished his family. His wife Chyamu and two daughters, Mingma Gelbu and Tshring Chhoti, meant the world to him. We will remember Lakpa always as an excellent climbing sherpa, friend, colleague and mentor. 

Our hearts and thoughts are with all whose lives he touched and our teams in Nepal and all over the world mourn his loss. 

World Expeditions will support the education of his elder daughter, Mingma Gelbu via a fully funded scholarship until her primary and secondary education is complete and the Nepal Mountaineering Association have undertaken the same for his younger daughter Tshring Chhoti. 

In addition, we created a fundraiser through the World Expeditions Foundation with one main purpose, to provide further support for Lakpa Nuru Sherpa’s family whose lives have been irrevocably altered with the loss of their husband and father. Thanks to the generosity of our community we have raised over $10,000 for Lakpa's family.

We will miss you Lakpa. 

Vale The World Expeditions family


Thank you to those who left a beautiful message with your donation. Here is just a few of the many that were left and will be collated and supplied to Lakpa's family.

Lakpa you will always remain in our hearts. We had the privilege of trekking with you, experienced your kind and gentle nature, witnessed your strength and courage in the mountains and admired your leadership and dedication. It was an honour to have stayed at your home with your family. With all our love , Urda and Martin. Urda and Martin Herbst / Watt

I have many fond memories since first meeting Lakpa Nuru sherpa in 2004 and have shared many adventures since. He was, strong, inspirational and also a fun to be around during an expedition. Sincere condolences to his family and friends during these difficult times. Waz Townsden

So many fond memories of a wonderful friend and respected Climbing Sherpa. Since we first met you in 2004 and on all the mountaineering expeditions we've shared with you since, you have been an absolute inspiration with your strength, dedication and kindness. Always happy, always supportive. A truly gentle man with a beautiful soul. Heartfelt sympathy to Chyamu and your beautiful girls. We will miss you and remember you always Lakpa Nuru. Tommo & Neddy

Never met Lakpa or been to Nepal, but would like to donate as a message to those who help those of us to fulfill our dreams. James Allen

Defending Cultural Diversity through Adventure Travel

With the increase of well dressed and nourished Western travellers to so many remote and delicate destinations it’s no surprise that many that live in these places feel some pressure to conform. We want to change the narrative.

World Expeditions has been operating BIG adventures with a small footprint in over 120 countries since 1975, and over this time we’ve been highly conscious of the need to respectfully engage with international communities around the globe, encourage cultural preservation and cooperate on programs that will provide long lasting benefits for the host communities.

 

WHAT IS MONOCULTURALISM?

A big word, with bigger consequences. Monoculturalism is a policy or process of supporting or advocating a single social or ethnic group, in most cases, this stems from a strong belief of superiority by one group.

In some of the world’s most traditional communities such as Peru, Kenya and Nepal, the younger generation and in particular, males, are embracing Western values as the ideal. If they continue to lean in to this, over many future generations we run the real risk of becoming a monoculture.

At a recent trade event, our CEO, Sue Badyari, spoke as a panellist in a crowded room of travel industry professionals.

“It’s a really important issue today in tourism that we must lean into these cultures and tell them that they should be the pinup for Western culture, not the other way around. We do not want the world to become a monoculture”.

But why? Well, traditionally, monoculture has lead to the suppression and subsequent loss of ethnic cultures across the globe. It has also contributed to many of the genocides practiced throughout history.

 
 

HOW DO WE STOP IT?

We (travel companies and our travellers collectively) need to all be part of the solution to encourage cultural pride and its preservation as the poster for global diversity. 

Traditional cultures should be the pin up for where Western values can learn from. Changing the narrative that traditional cultures should not aspire to Western values in order to progress is not only important but an imperative.

In many countries, like Australia, we are experiencing a period of Indigenous awareness like never before. 

Travellers are eager to understand and learn from the Indigenous communities who have been the custodians of their country for a very long time. 

We saw this as an intrinsic opportunity for our travellers to learn from a long time ago and subsequently wove into our programs the inclusion of wonderful people who are the traditional custodians and who provide travellers with valuable insights into their cultural beliefs and learnings. Our travellers rank this element very highly in the score of their overall travel experience.

The cultural conversation at Standley Chasm will teach you more about Arrente country |  <i>Luke Tscharke</i> Our guides will help you learn more about Kakadu's most significant sites |  <i>Shaana McNaught</i> The cultural conversation at Standley Chasm will teach you more about Arrente country |  <i>Luke Tscharke</i>
 

When you travel, we have some practical suggestions for travellers aimed at fostering not only a harmonious and positive travel experience for them, but ensuring the local community are encouraged and engaged also by their presence. Part of our job is to draw on our long experience and educate and set the right expectations. Here are some examples of how we achieve that:

 
  • Providing travellers with an overview of the history, traditions and customs of the destinations they are visiting, helping them to understand what is and what isn’t appropriate.
  • Relying on the resourceful suggestions from our local tour guides in how to respect local customs and traditions while abroad which may include dress codes, taking photos of local people and any other significant cultural nuances.
  • Recommending wearing modest clothing to encourage respectful interactions. In Muslim countries that is additionally important, and in countries such as Iran, some clothing items such as a head scarf for women are essential.
  • Advocating for an open and positive mindset whilst travelling. People from across the globe have so many different perspectives and travellers can learn a lot if they listen and learn from other cultures.
  • Buy locally made products, support local artisans which in turn helps the local economies.
  • Be particularly mindful when in spiritual places, temples or places of worship.
  • Learning a few key words and phrases of the local language before you visit, it’s shows you’ve made an effort to immerse interactively with the people of the destination and they always appreciate that.
4 reasons why the Kokoda Trail should be on your bucket list

Have you ever considered tackling the 96-kilometre Kokoda Trail? The Kokoda Track has become a pilgrimage for many Australians and taking on the trail could be one of your most memorable trekking experiences.

The trail takes you through dense jungle following the path in which Australian and Japanese armies engaged in bitter warfare during the early days of World War II. It also offers an incredible physical and mental challenge that will teach you to take “one step at a time” as World Expeditions staff member Hilary Delbridge recounts:

On completion of Kokoda I was on such a high, even though I was so physically exhausted. It felt like a real accomplishment in my life. Even now when life gets tough, I know I can get through “one step at a time” – that is what the Kokoda challenge is all about.

 

If you are looking for a personal challenge; want to follow the footsteps of our ANZAC soldiers; and experience the unique jungle environment and welcoming nature of the Papua New Guinea people, these are our top four reasons why the Kokoda Trail should be on your bucket list!

1. The history

Kokoda was described as the harshest and worst conditions any soldier could ever be ordered to fight in. This fight against the Japanese invasion force was the most significant battle fought by Australians in World War II. With both sides sick and casualty rates soaring, if Gallipoli was Australia’s baptism of fire in WWI, Kokoda could be described as the WWII equivalent. The Australians stopped the Japanese wave on Kokoda and finally defeated the Japanese on the northern beaches at Sanananda in 1943.

Each year a significant number of Australians embark on this pilgrimage to learn about and reflect upon this battle, with much of the track region appearing as it did in 1942 where the Australian soldiers fought. You can also travel to the North Coast battlegrounds of Buna and Sanananda, where the final stages of the campaign played out.

“You begin to get a real insight into what the ANZAC diggers went through, except they trekked with the inadequate gear of the time, heavy packs and ammunition, and little food or medical care – not to mention being shot at by the enemy,” says Hilary. “You will see plane wrecks, ammunition and bomb shells, and the sites where the diggers had to dig deep to hide.”

Our highly experienced Australian guides assist your journey over the Kokoda trail as you discover not only Australia’s history but also that of the Japanese and most importantly the local Papuan’s.

Local porters provide some rest stop entertainment |  <i>Ryan Stuart</i> Walking the historic Kokoda Track, a once in a life time challenge. |  <i>Ryan Stuart</i> Opportunities to interact with local people and experience the culture are another attraction of walking the Kokoda Track |  <i>Ryan Stuart</i> Templeton's crossing |  <i>S Goodwin</i>
 

2. Physical and mental challenge

There is no doubt the Kokoda Trail is a challenging trek, however if you are well prepared and have done the required amount of training you will be ready to take on this challenge. Kokoda is not the demon it is portrayed and everyday people complete Kokoda – young and old. With Mt Everest Base Camp being a 10/10 difficulty level and walking around the block a 1/10, Kokoda rates as a 7/10, with moderate cardio fitness required.

Hilary recounts that the Kokoda Trail was challenging yet life-changing:

The Kokoda Track was the hardest walk I have ever done, but also the most life-changing. It taught me to live in the moment.

Hilary continues to explain what made her choose to take on the challenge of Kokoda, “I wanted to know what The Kokoda Track was all about, how hard it was, and what the diggers went through. I was also going through a period in my life where I was searching for deeper meaning, something I found in the amazing vistas and the mountains that seemed to go on and on, and up and up."

"Did I train to climb those mountain passes? Most certainly, bush bashing up a hill with a heavy pack three times a week! I would not describe myself as a particularly sporty or fit person, but with the training I was able to cope with the Kokoda challenge.”

3. Friendly culture

Whilst Papua New Guinea (PNG) is relatively poor by world standards with a large reliance on subsistence farming, it is one of the most culturally rich with 800+ indigenous languages and Papuans being some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. They may appear intimidating initially but as you cross paths their genuine smile beams to light.

On our Kokoda treks you will share experiences with our interactive porter team made up of village locals and stay in secluded jungle camps in some of the most remote regions of PNG.

The local traditional villagers here will also share some of their culture, which is an ideal accompaniment to an incredible journey across this extraordinary island. Hilary explains:

The smells and sounds of the thick jungle really need to be experienced first-hand as well as the beautiful nature of the Papua New Guinean people: the guides, the villagers and the children.

Our itineraries have been crafted to allow opportunities to embrace the local culture and history, as well as meeting the track’s physical demands. We also promote Leave No Trace camping, ethical treatment of porters and reinvest in the village’s education system.

4. Spectacular scenery

The Kokoda Trail is an amazing thrill-seekers challenge in the midst of beautiful jungles, spectacular butterflies and pristine rivers and creeks with a never-ending supply of crisp clean water. Adventurers revel in the amazing wildlife and still discover each year new relics from the wars in 1942.

The track wanders along narrow crests offering awe-inspiring views, and falls into deep dark gorges where the thick green vegetation blocks out the daylight. The scenery is spectacular and the views change from day to day, and even hour by hour. 

At the higher elevations up around 2000 metres, you step into a Lord of the Rings type environment, and much of the foliage mimics New Zealand’s high Alps.

The scenery, challenge, culture and history make this a 10/10 journey and why we think the Kokoda Trail should be on your adventure bucket list.

Celebrating our female adventure guides

There’s a magic to guiding adventure travel tours that lures many an outdoor lover to the mountains, coasts and deserts to lead like-minded travellers in search of the solace that only nature provides.

“Growing up in a town outside the city, my childhood recreational activities consisted of walking and running in the mountains, these activities filled me with life” says specialist trek guide, Yaritza Frinchanso who regularly guides our Inca Trail treks

“When I was a child people asked me - what will you study when you are an adult? I answered – “if there would be a job to hike and show my mountains, I would be the best.” 

Decades later Yaritza achieved her dream and is one of a handful of female guides paving the way for young women after them.

“I believe that women are more persuasive when leading a group, thanks to the fact that we are more empathetic and sensitive, which allows us to better understand the needs that visitors have and that often makes it difficult for them to express. This also helps us appreciate and show small details that mostly go unnoticed.“

Guiding has long been a predominantly male career that has in more recent times seen more females take the path less travelled. Female outdoor adventure guides now make up 37% of the outdoor guide community in Australia and changes are slowly being made globally. 

Happyness Kipingu

“When I started as a mountain guide it was a 95/5 male to female ratio and now it is 75/25” says Happyness Kipingu, one of our guides on Mt Kilimanjaro treks in Tanzania.

Dawa Yangin (known as Karki to her friends) regularly guides treks in the Annapurna and Everest regions and has trekking in her blood. Her grandfather was the first trekking guide in the Khumbu region and she is constantly inspired by the connections and interactions with people from different countries that guiding brings. Despite her trekking heritage she has also experienced some challenges due to gender.

“I was the only female guide when there were 35 male guides when I started working with the company. Now, we are three female guides, “says Yangin proudly of the changes slowly being made in the region.

“Obviously, there are some challenges to become a female guide in the context of conservative Nepalese society. Females are supposed to be involved in motherhood and family and compelled to stay home taking care for their children.”

Karki Sherpa
 

Pham Thi Huong leads guests on our adventures in Vietnam and sees female guides as a unique option for guests looking for an authentic travel connection. 

“In Vietnam, female guides bring a different level of human interaction. We are perceived differently by the clients and by the local communities. There is often more trust, and a deeper relationship,” says Pham Thi.

“Exchanging stories, talking not only about the country but about daily life in general seems more natural for women. However, balancing professional and family lives is the hardest. Vietnam is a society where women are still very much in charge of childcare and housework.

“I am lucky to receive help from my mother but it is a permanent challenge to be able to focus on my job with travellers and to dedicate time for my family as well.“

In Peru, Yaritza recognizes the equality in capability but not in opportunity and the changes that have been implemented along the way. 

“Thanks to the inclusion policies of travel agencies, many female guides can work doing what they like, without putting stereotypes to the work, this makes the guests who visit my city happy,” says Yaritza. 

“Most colleagues are happy to be able to work competitively with female guides, considering that we both have many qualities and abilities to effectively carry out the activity of Tour Guides, although often we do not have the same opportunities.”

American born New Zealand resident, Ange Sexton, is now a guide in New Zealand with World Expeditions. She discovered her love of guiding and outdoor life in Colorado, then Australia, before making her way to the land of the long white cloud where she is now based.

“I always take the approach of not making it a “thing” when it’s two female guides, I just carry on with quiet confidence, steadiness, and the skills I know I have to deliver a product I always hope inspires them (guests) to keep adventuring.” Says Ange  who was the only female guide on the Larapinta Trail the season she started her Australasian guiding career.

Angela Sexton, Adventure South NZ guide

 

“We have this unique ability to enable people to accomplish and experience adventure with support that can be subtle as well as hands on, I love that balance. You do sometimes get a sense from clients at the start wondering if these two chicks will be able to lift an e-bike or reverse a trailer, it doesn’t take long before they realise we are not only capable of these things but do it well.  

“I like to think we bring a shift in thinking for anyone that feels women are not capable of doing the “strong man” side of the job. I never want this to be communicated bluntly but simply by doing my job and demonstrating we are more than capable of delivering an amazing product despite (or because of) our gender.”

The opportunities for women seeking an outdoor life guiding within nature are increasing. Universities now offer courses in Outdoor Education and Outdoor Leadership and bachelors in Outdoor Recreation and Environmental Studies. All agree that becoming a guide takes more than just a piece of paper, it takes a passion and determination in the face of adversity. 

“You should have strong determination and dedication for the job, good language skills, medical training certificates, physical fitness and knowledge and information about trekking routes, flora fauna, and the ability to adapt with the guests, local people,” advises Yangpin.

“Having personal experience and a love for the outdoors is great but it really is only one part of the role,” agrees Ange.

Happyness Kipingu Pham Thi Huong Karki Sherpa Ange Sexton
 

“Recognising if you have that passion to share the outdoors with people from all different walks of life and varying capabilities is a big part of it too. If those two things are things you can bring together as a passion, that’s an amazing start.

“Next would be to research the style of guiding you want to pursue and the activity that suits you most. From there you can contact a few operators in the areas you’d be interested working in to see what qualifications and experience they like you to have as an entry level guide.”

Whatever your path to guiding, the rewards are always tenfold. 

“I learn every day from different people and different cultures. I share incredible moments with them and make lots of friends. Being a tour guide makes my life more colourful and adds some meaning to it,” says Pham Thi.

“I love my job because I love the life it allows me to live.” 

Our view on road development in the Annapurna region

Ten years ago when we first learned about the proposed developments for roads into some of Nepal’s most popular trekking regions, we admit, while we understood the economic benefits of these roads for the local people we were still quite concerned about the implications for trekkers seeking out a true wilderness walking experience.

We needn’t have worried.

After a reconnaissance in February 2023 to the Annapurna region, where much of those developments are now complete or close to completion, what we saw was very positive. 

It’s been a win-win for both the local people as well as trekkers in regions such as Annapurna, Mustang or Manaslu, where these developments have occurred.  

For trekkers, you are still able to thoroughly enjoy the small villages, towering mountains and the vast tracts of forest that thrive with flora and fauna, with extremely little visual or noise impact caused by the road development. The trekking trails in the higher altitudes of the region remain untouched, nor are there any roads to the famous vantage points, so only trekkers are afforded those views for their efforts!

For the many mountain communities in these regions, they are enjoying the inordinate benefits of transportation to villages or roadheads nearby, movement of goods and access to medical services, amongst other advantages these roads bring to their daily lives.

While there may be roads to some villages, there is very low vehicular use of them. For the most part, visual sightings of roads is minimal. They’re not tarmac and crossing or walking along one is only ever for short distances in the lower regions. 

Mountain communities across Nepal rely on tourism. It is up to travellers and trekking companies to engage in responsible tourism practices and to work toward sustainable development that benefits both locals and travellers. 

 

It is our genuine belief that this very philosophy has been achieved in Nepal through this road building process. 

Specifically, road developments in the Annapurna region have been carefully planned and implemented to ensure minimal impact on the pleasure of trekking in the area. While some roads have been constructed in the lower valleys for transportation and commercial purposes, as we mentioned the higher altitudes trekking trails in the of the region remain untouched. 

These trails, which may include Annapurna Dhaulagiri, Annapurna Base Camp and Nar and Tilicho Lake, offer some of the most stunning and remote landscapes for trekkers, with minimal to no vehicular traffic disruption. 

Even on the low altitude trails such as the Annapurna Trek, while you may cross a road here or there, the visual impacts are extremely limited and it is unusual to see vehicular traffic, leaving you to wander as always, amid the traditional Gurung and Magar village communities. 

When you’re planning your next trek in Nepal, don’t be put off by what you may have read or rumours of roads. 

We know first-hand, from our guides, staff and travellers, that the trekking experience is still as great as ever and, the mountain communities are better off for them. If you don’t believe us, we would recommend a visit.

Learn to respect it as part of Nepal’s upward progress in a challenging world. We all want to do better, and this is part of Nepal’s effort to make improvements for its people and economic situation.

As for walking in an exotic land with your head thrumming with peace, don’t fret. No one will ever take the magic out of Nepal. A few roads sure won’t.


Browse Annapurna trekking tours

Have you trekked in the Annapurna region recently? What was your experience?
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