Zia in Nepal

My name is Zia, and I am 16 years old. Traveling at this age is an incredible experience. I have learned about myself and about other parts of the world in ways that I could never learn in a classroom.  I love who I become while I am traveling. I can feel myself growing in ways I have not experienced before. Traveling creates opportunities for me to push myself and try new things. It is an opportunity to build connections and make friends as I explore the beautiful planet that I live on.

Recently, I traveled to Nepal with a class from my school.  About a month before I left for Nepal, my mom said, “I don’t have the answer to this, but we should figure out what you will do when you get your period there.”

She made a good point, and I hadn’t really thought about it.  We did a little research and learned that in some villages in Nepal, they still send menstruating girls to the cow shed. I did not know whether this would be the case in the village I was going to, but I knew I would need to be discreet and respectful.

A couple days later, my grandmother brought over a newspaper clipping with a short article about a local startup company called Animosa. After reading the article, my mom and I checked out their website and learned that Animosa’s goal is to equip and empower adventurous women. Their first product is a kit called the Go With Your Flow pack.  Its purpose is to contain menstrual products and wipes with a system for holding menstrual waste until a trash bin is available.

My mom emailed Animosa and they responded with an enthusiastic offer to help. Because their kits were not in production yet, they offered to give me a handmade beta test kit to take on my trip. I felt so relieved.

Soon thereafter Kate, the founder of Animosa, came over to my house to talk to me and my female classmates about travel tips, some of her experiences, and traveling while on your period. It was so helpful, and I was grateful to have found Animosa. I was completely enamored with Kate. I was so glad to have met such a strong woman, and it was so awesome to hear about her adventures. A lot of the nerves I had about traveling faded after hearing her stories, and I was filled with excitement.  

Here is the story of my adventure.  

Departure Day

At 1:30 AM we drove to my school to say goodbye to our families and start our adventure. Saying goodbye is always hard for me. Not necessarily because I am scared, but because I am so overwhelmed by the excitement of what is next and nervous about the unknown. Most of all, I worry about something happening back home while I am away. I hugged my parents and got on the bus. But as soon as I sat down, before even pulling away, those worries disappeared.  I was so happy and excited.

33 hours later we arrived in Kathmandu, close to midnight. I was exhausted but wide awake from the thrill of being in a new place.

Kathmandu

Around 5:30 the next morning I awoke to birds chirping and horns honking as Kathmandu came alive. I opened the curtain and watched the sun start to light up the cityscape outside my window.

That day we explored Bhaktapur and visited the cremation sites of Pashupati. It was such a different place. The culture and history were so rich, the way of living so different. I absolutely loved it, and it was only the first day.

Travel to the Village

The next day we flew to Bhadrapur. Our flightpath was inline with the Himalayas, and needless to say the view was breathtaking. I sat next to the flight attendant. She put her finger on my window, pointed at a mountain, and said, “That is Mount Everest.” It was such a beautiful and overwhelming moment for me. I thought to myself,  “Wow, I am really here. I am in Nepal, and I am headed to a small village.” As I looked out the window, I realized I had never felt so content.

We landed at the tiny airport of Bhadrapur, where the tropical landscape was lush and green. The sun was blazing with 95 degree heat and 60% humidity.

Village Homestay

Connecting with people in Nepal was one of the most rich experiences I have had. In a small village in Eastern Nepal, I stayed with a family in their home for 8 days. I experienced the generosity and hospitality of the Nepali people. My family was so open and welcoming, and surprisingly the people of the village were too.

They invited me into their homes to meet their families, to have a meal or a cup of tea, and some even invited me to celebrate parts of the Tihar festival where we blessed their cows and sang.

While in the village, my classmates and I taught at the village school. I was so nervous because I am a pretty quiet person. Spending time with the students and teaching pushed my comfort zone. I learned that teaching is really hard, that being open to possibilities and refinement is important and rewarding, and that aspects of teenagers around the world are really similar. I didn’t let my nervousness stop me from being open to the experience, and it turned out to be amazing.

A few days before leaving the village, I got my period. As I reached into my backpack for my Go With Your Flow pack, I thought to myself, “Thank god I have my pack.”  

There were several reasons I was so thankful for my kit:

Reason #1  Over the first 6 days of my homestay I realized that my host family did not produce much trash, but the trash they did produce got thrown out the kitchen window onto the ground. Without my kit, that might have been what I had to do, and likely some village dog would have come along and eaten it. Yikes!

Reason #2  If I didn’t have my Go With Your Flow kit, I would have probably ended up using a ziploc bag with some baking soda … which I really don’t think would have worked in the heat and humidity.

Reason #3  My kit was discreet, which helped me be culturally considerate.

Reason #4  The kit had everything I needed and helped me dispose of my menstrual waste in the best way possible.  It helped me have a clean, contained, and stress-free period.

My experience in the village was truly incredible. The generosity, hospitality, culture, and friendship of these people was and still is deeply touching. I felt so overwhelmed and amazed that in 8 days we all became an important part of each other’s lives.

This was just one segment of my trip to Nepal. I learned so much about myself. I learned what is important to me; I learned more about who I am, and what makes me happy; my values, strengths, and weaknesses. I know now, more than ever, that I want to make adventuring a significant part of my life.  I also have no fear of having my period while I am traveling.