March 3-19, 2020
This program will wed the disciplines of religion, philosophy, cultural study and outdoor leadership on a mystical journey into the breathtaking Himalayas. After exploring the ancient and cultural treasures of Kathmandu. participants will hike the Nagarjun Hill, visit UNESCO cultural heritage sites, and embark on the 10-day Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek to the Annapurna Basecamp in the Western Himalayas that will be an awe-inspiring tour of scenic grandeur. Nepal is often call "Heaven on Earth" and this program will certainly be one of peaceful rejuvenation and sensational wonder.
Along the way, students will consider how this region of the world is quite a unique context where history, religious and cultural diversity, poverty, modernization and ecological beauty (and destruction) are both abundant and starkly manifest. From the simple Christian graveyards behind one of the world’s oldest and largest Shaivite Hindu temples to Newar Buddhists sharing the peak of their sacred stupa (and foothill) with both Tibetan Buddhists and Hindus alike, Nepal is filled with an overwhelming amount of examples of true diversity and respect among a wide range of religious traditions and backgrounds (including Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Jews). A region at a true crossroads between south and east Asia as well as the West, Nepal provides a persistent tension between ancient culture and Western modernizations of commerce, entertainment, and tourism. Finally, students will observe the various climates and areas of ecological beauty in Nepal in order to observe how its environment functions as a primary source of Nepal’s vibrant spiritually while also being continually threatened by the culture’s rapid modernization and subsequent secularization.
Simultaneously, students will participate in Lawrenceville’s experiential Harkness Travel Leadership curriculum that emphasizes intentional student contributions to the experience and rotating daily responsibilities that include: leader of the day, navigator, journalist, photo-journalist, logistics coordinator, resource manager, etc. This process will develop individual authenticity and important collaborative skills like communication, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and decision-making. As members of the group, students will be asked to reflect on their roles and their place within the group and how their own actions and decisions can impact the whole in both positive and negative ways. Time for journaling will allow an exploration of mindfulness by using prompts that teach self-diagnosis of feelings, attitudes, and place-based insights. The reflections will be used to help students write journal entries that reflect on and critically analyze their own western assumptions about the nature and purpose of religion.
We will stay in hotel accommodations as we explore Kathmandu and Pokhara, and in incredible mountain Tea Houses along the trails that we trek with backpacks.