Why I don’t regret taking my children to Nepal

silhouette of boy in front of Himalayas This Easter I took my two children (aged 12 and 14) on a two-week adventure trip to Nepal. It was meant to be the stuff that childhood memories are made of: a year in the planning, we crammed the trip with mountain trekking, white-water rafting, an elephant safari, jungle walks, crocodile-spotting, cycling, cultural tours and middle-of-nowhere star-gazing. Smiling, wind-swept (and wearing unwise harem trousers) we flew back into Heathrow just before a huge earthquake shook Nepal killing an estimated 8,000 people.

Since the news broke, my feelings about the trip have been very confused. I feel incredibly lucky to have got out in time. I feel privileged and grateful to have seen this amazing and inspiring country before the earthquake destroyed historic sights and devastated the infrastructure. I feel shocked to the core knowing that people we met have lost everything and villages we visited have been levelled. And underneath it all is the horror that my children were there, that it so easily could have been them.

It wasn’t that I didn’t think about the risks – on the contrary, the trip was carefully planned to minimise the chances of misadventure. We used a tour company specialising in family travel to organise the activities. We chose a trekking route that would not take us above the snow line (where avalanche is always a danger) and avoided altitude sickness by sleeping low. Daily and weekly malaria tablets covered the (minuscule) exposure of two days in a region that has not yet been formally recognised as free of malaria. I prepped the kids on how to survive if confronted by a rhino/tiger/sloth bear/marauding elephant/rabid dog. I carried an all-scenarios first aid kit everywhere we went (despite cursing the extra weight on the mountain climbs). We used water purification tablets when in doubt and vigilantly rubbed our hands with anti-bacterial gel to combat the lack of sanitation.

So when news about the plight of foreign nationals caught up in the quake filtered through and my husband furrowed his eyebrows at me in that alarmed “I told you so. Why can’t you just be sensible and do a beach holiday” kind of way, I just couldn’t agree. Reeling from the awful accounts of distraught relatives whose family members had not been in contact, he did what we all do and imagined himself in the same situation waiting days for news (good or bad) about me and the kids. Not a nice place to take your headspace. His clear (if unspoken) message was that I was unwise to have taken the children there in the first place and I ought to learn a lesson from this lucky escape.

View of Himalayas

But I don’t think it was the wrong thing to do. Despite the risks, I won’t regret taking my children to Nepal.

The reason I took them there was to inspire them – to inspire them with a thirst for travel, with an interest in other cultures, with a love of mountains – and to build their self-reliance, that fundamental belief in themselves that they can face and overcome difficult situations, that they can achieve anything they set their minds to. I took my children to Nepal to see Everest and come away knowing that, if they wanted to, they could climb it.

I don’t think those were bad ambitions. And I do think they outweighed the risks, though I realise I might not feel the same if the earthquake had happened just a few days earlier. The fact is that children are exposed to risks every moment of their lives: crossing the road, riding their bikes, walking home from school, hanging out with their mates. Every week I hear of friends of my children who have broken bones or seriously injured themselves playing sports or jumping off climbing frames. Children run risks daily and fear for them is woven into the very fabric of being a parent. As parents, we need to learn to manage that fear and live in a way that manages danger but still enables our children to have all the opportunities we wish for them.

Since we returned from Nepal, both my children have asked me, separately, “What would we have done? What would have happened to us?” We have talked through the different scenarios we might have faced depending on where were when the earthquake struck, hypothetically problem-solving how we would have got water, how we would have got help, the coping strategies we could have used. And I think both of them went away understanding that when bad things happen, no matter how difficult, it is possible to get up and keep going and find a way.

You may think (like my husband) that I am just stubborn and refuse to learn from experience. But on the contrary, experience is exactly what I wish for my children, and the lessons that come from experience. In the end, we can only learn life by doing it. And helping children venture into the widest possible horizons (in as safe a way as I can manage) seems to me not to be a bad ambition for a parent.

Please help Nepal rebuild by making a donation at www.dec.org.uk

We booked our Nepal Family Adventure through www.nepal-uncovered.com part of Uncover the World Travel Limited. This is not a sponsored post, we paid full price for our holiday!

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28 thoughts on “Why I don’t regret taking my children to Nepal

    1. AnitaCleare Post author

      Thanks. I guess the difficult thing as a parent is that sometimes we can do everything right and it still goes wrong and that is hard to live with and can play havoc with decision-making….

      Reply
  1. Lexie

    I was in Nepal trekking to Everest Base Camp when the earthquake shook the country. We arrived in a teahouse in Lobuche to discover the extent of what had just happened. I remember among all the emotions I felt, I became very angry to see 2 children, around the age of 10, in the teahouse with their mother. I originally thought, “who on earth would bring their children to Everest Base Camp?!” But as the evening progressed and we felt numerous strong aftershocks, and witnessed many injured sherpas arrive to our teahouse, these children did not flinch for a second. Their mother must have been a doctor or nurse because she was dressing a wound on a sherpa’s arm and her kids were assisting her in ways I could never have done. My opinions certainly began to change.

    I then began to think about those children daily. What an experience this was for them! I’m sure it will shape them into becoming incredible people! Not only did they experience a natural disaster, but they also experienced one of the most beautiful countries in the world with it’s amazing landscapes and contrasting environments, the beautiful people and the culture. I realized that, when I have kids someday, I would 100% want them to see the world in all aspects– the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly.

    You are right, danger lurks everywhere especially for children. I hope you never regret the decision to show your children the world we live in. In fact, I think you must be a wonderful mother in doing so.

    Cheers,
    Lexie

    Reply
    1. AnitaCleare Post author

      Thanks so much for sharing that Lexie. I’m really glad you came through ok. I guess the strong reactions we have in the heat of difficult moments (though understandable and usually uncontrollable) are not always the ones that last. Happy travelling!

      Reply
  2. Keri

    What an incredible story. A close call indeed but I am on your side of the camp, dangers can lurk everywhere but why stop exposing children to the world around us. It sounds like you took every sensible precaution you should. (And maybe your hubby has forgotten about the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004..?) Please keep showing your children to the world and all that travel encompasses #MondayEscapes

    Reply
  3. Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault

    You could never have predicted the earthquake and if you spent every day not doing things just because there was a risk then you’d never go anywhere or do anything. OK some things would just be plain daft to do with children ie go to a war zone but you did not make a stupid choice. #MondayEscapes

    Reply
  4. Katja - globetotting

    I first visited Nepal when I was 19. I returned almost 20 years later with my two kids – then aged 4.5 and 2 years-old and we went trekking in the lower Annapurnas. I love Nepal. It’s the country that really made me fall in love with travelling and I was so pleased that I had the chance to introduce my kids to this incredible country. I absolutely, truly believe that you can take kids anywhere as long as you are well prepared. The recent earthquake was – and continues to be – heartbreaking but I don’t think that these events should be a reason to not travel to a country. Quite the contrary, tourism is what will now help Nepal to rebuild. Great post. #MondayEscapes

    Reply
  5. Elizabeth (Wander Mum)

    Hi Anita, what a brilliant, inspiring post. I totally agree with you on all of this. Danger IS everywhere and we can’t limit ourselves on the off chance something will happen. It sounds like you were incredibly prepared for the trip with enormous attention to detail. What an amazing experience for you and your children and inspiring to show it can be done. We can’t plan for everything and I am so glad you got out of Nepal safely. I totally admire how you have discussed events there afterwards and showed how they can deal with various situations. Thanks for sharing #mondayescapes

    Reply
    1. AnitaCleare Post author

      I would hate to think that the earthquake will put people off from travelling to Nepal. It is such an inspiring country and desperately needs the income that tourism brings.

      Reply
  6. Marta

    As parents, it’s terrible to feel that our decisions might have put our kids in danger but, like the others, I think you didn’t do anything wrong bringing the kids to Nepal. The earthquake is a terrible tragedy for everyone involved, but it’s not the only reality about Nepal: travellers and tourists got there all the time and thankfully the vast majority of these times results in beautiful, amazing memories of the country. I think, inevitably, it will take time for you and the kids to process what it might have happened but I hope this process will be guilt free for you: you gave them and amazing trip and you’re giving them the support they need now to make this a useful experience. I am happy you are all safe, thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply
  7. Claire at Tin Box Traveller

    My children are still so young that I could quite literally wrap them up in cotton wool but I know that, long term, that’s not what they need. They need adventure and experiences – some maybe a bit risky, but calculated – to shape them in to people of the world. It’s not going to stop me worrying and biting my nails into nothing, but I’ve already accepted that being a parent is not an easy job. I think you put in place plenty of precautions during your trip. You can’t plan for the unknown. Great post! #MondayEscapes

    Reply
  8. Cathy (MummyTravels)

    It’s terrifying when something like this happens – the what ifs. I can’t bear the thought of anything happening to my daughter but as you and the comments have said, you can’t avoid all danger even if you stayed at home, short of locking yourself in a padded room. And what sort of life would that be? All you can do is plan and manage the risk, it would be more tragic never to discover these wonderful places. #MondayEscapes

    Reply
  9. Kat

    Hi Anita,

    You did the right thing by bringing your children to Nepal. I’m not a parent myself but am a passionate frequent traveler, thus I strongly believe that children exposed to different cultures, different ways of life, different environment and landscape make them more resilient to face challenges and pressures in life later. Risks and dangers happen anywhere even in the comforts of your own home. Thanks for sharing, and I’m sure your children are happy that you had brought them to Nepal for an experience that they will take with them in the future 🙂 #MondayEscapes

    Cheers,
    Kat

    Reply
  10. Kendra

    Great post. I 100% agree with everything you said. Dangers, unfortunately, lurk everywhere. And not all dangers one can foresee. I just found out that my favourite teacher from all my schooling years, died last week doing a beach holiday in Roatan (Honduras). It’s so sad and life can be so sad – but I don’t think it should stop any of us from going out there and experiencing life as much as we can in all its tragedies and its glories.

    Reply
    1. AnitaCleare Post author

      I love that phrase “all its tragedies and glories” – certainly I think we have a responsibility to help children be prepared for, and cope with, everything that life can throw at us good and bad.

      Reply
  11. Ting at My Travel Monkey

    Firstly, a great, honest post. I have to agree with you – there should never be any regrets. As parents we have terrible ‘what if’s about scenarios but as you rightly said, our children could hurt themselves at home or in a local park. If you wrap your kids up in cotton wool and not let them explore, fall and pick themselves up – or be faced with situations outside their comfort zones then how will they cope as adults? After all, life throws curveballs at us all the time. Thankfully, you weren’t there when the earthquake hit – as thankfully I wasn’t caught up in the bloody riots when I was in Nepal back in 2002. We can only do what we can to protect ourselves and our children – as you did with the malaria tablets and finding a good trek company – but if it means never seeing the world for fear of a natural disaster or flying on a plane (after all the terrible aviation disasters of late) then you would just becoming a hermit at home. And while I would never take my son off to a war zone, the world is a big scary place – and those families in Tunisa would never have though a mass gunman would open fire on a beach… Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

    Reply
  12. Gina Caro

    Wow how lucky was your timing! I think whenever you visit a foreign country there are always risk, especially with children but you can’t let that stop you from seeing the world. There is no way to predict when the things might happen. I don’t think you should regret taking them #MondayEscapes

    Reply
  13. Estrella

    I think it’s great that you try to expand your children’s horizons. I did your best to minimize risks and your children probably got more out of it then if they’d just gone on a beach holiday. There are things we can’t plan for, unfortunately as the news shows us, bad things can happen anywhere.

    Reply

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