When you hear the name Hostel Solo Travel Nepal (HSTN) don’t assume it to be a run-off-the-mill establishment like the multitudes that dot Kathmandu’s streets, alleys, and by-lanes. This place has a story and what a good one!
Run-off-the-mill may translate into a safe, clean, budget-friendly accommodation alongside the more questionable ones. Internationally both exist and it is up to the traveler to make an informed choice. HSTN has an edge with the founding team aligned very differently in what travel should be – it stems from their ideology of preserving culture, heritage, food, and conversations around travel. Briefly put, the vision for founding this space was very different from what a commercial hostel/inn would be. So, I was intrigued.
And when Samikchya Sharma, whom I know from the last few years from the Kathmandu Food Collective invited me to the opening, I jumped at the opportunity of meeting some fabulous people. What I saw at the opening night far exceeded my earlier assumptions. Just to clarify, I had been to the space earlier when preparation for the opening was underway. I had quite liked the design concept, and the clean, professional, international feel the place had. Coupled with that, Susan Karmacharya was consulting them on the menu – that could only mean that the food there would be superb. I just didn’t expect the party-like atmosphere that brought the place to life on that Friday evening. More than the food and the drink it was the conversations that I heard around, which struck a chord.
I couldn’t resist but hanker two of the partners for a story. One of them obliged. So, I sat down with Samikchya who took me back to how this space came to be.
Let me take you back to 2015 when Nepali Travelers started as an informal concept during the aftermath of the acid attack that shook up the capital by storm and the ongoing protests on women’s rights and safety. One of the steps that the informal collective took was to break the mould and embark on something Nepal hadn’t seen before – a solo woman travel challenge – that would fast forward liberation of movement and a host of other peripheral decision-making by women. It really caught fire in the imaginations of women in how far they could challenge existing notions about how women were perceived in general. Branded as SWOYatra or Solo Woman Travel Challenge in 2016 and led under NepaliTravellers, formally registered as Solo Travel Nepal Pvt. Ltd. initiative, 49 women have traveled the length and breadth of the country till date, in a carefully curated program that also birthed the concept of the Hostel.
“After the travel challenge took off we felt the need for a platform where the alumni could reconnect, where aspiring travelers could come looking for advice on how to plan out a travel itinerary, or even get a dose of inspiring conversations. Although our online platforms were witnessing massive growth – the NepaliTravellers Facebook page has about 91000 audience and Solo Travel Nepal page has about 6500 members from all around the world – we were still looking for more meaningful traction in the form of a travel hub, where travellers could come and connect over food and drinks, share experiences and resources, and rest if needed,” shares Samikchya.
I could see how all of that came together now – a liberating protest movement, morphing into a travel challenge beyond protests, a program that has given rise to a motivated, inspired alumni, leading onto a meaningful dialogue birthing a physical space that is so much beyond just accommodation. It’s the birth of a physical space that has been inspired by a culture of adventure, passion, and liberation – and the mere thought of it gave me goosebumps.
Samikchya shared the sentiment. “For us, the founders – which included Pemba Sherpa and Jason Shah, of the more famous SherpaShah brand, it was important to spread the fire among the women of Nepal, to those who undertook the Solo Woman Travel Challenge and make them a part of this endeavor. It made perfect sense to include them into this growing initiative. No surprise that ten solo women travelers are now proud partners of HSTN alongside the founding members. It was clear how the sustainability aspect of this grand journey has been carefully put into place, beyond donations and grants. Now with a fully functional hub for travelers, that can generate sustained profits, 15% of the funds are flowing back to the NepaliTravellers initiative to fund and support more travelers around Nepal.
With the Hostel now set up and events such as the NepaliTravellers Hangout and Tuesday Travellers Meet hosting Featured Travelers that share itineraries, experiences, resources, so that others can be prepared for their journeys, Hostel Solo Travel Nepal surely has carved a niche for itself in the tourism sector.
This fire, and the beautiful concept of a travelers’ hub that fosters conversations and helps aspiring travelers connect to resources and plans, and funds through a challenge, is spreading across the country with four more hostels planned for Pokahra, Lumbini, Nepalgunj, and Chitwan.
I am so enamored by this space and you will be too. Drop in on an evening or during the weekends to Hostel Solo Travel Nepal in Kupondole and strike up a conversation with the like-minded people that are omnipresent here – who knows you might be inspired for your own travel or better find out your own way of contributing to what the super-passionate people are doing to foster memorable journeys around Nepal.