By Tilak Thapa Magar, a member of the Rotary Club of Kathmandu North East, Nepal
I joined Rotary in 2012, and as a tourism entrepreneur in Nepal, quickly became acquainted with the International Travel and Hosting Fellowship. In the course of my work promoting tourism opportunities in Nepal, I have traveled to Europe and Asia extensively, and to the United States three times. But I had never had an opportunity to plan a visit and make “connections” with other Rotary members through the Travel Hosting Fellowship.
Last year, I contacted fellowship members through email and to my big surprise received an overwhelming response from many of them with an invitation to visit them. They wanted to host me during my visit.
I had a two day travel show for Nepal Tourism Promotion in Philadelphia already planned in March, and when I landed, was invited to join a multi-district President-Elect Training Seminar in District 7210. My fellowship visit officially kicked off a few days later with a visit to a Nepalese family in New York City. (I carved out time for a two-day side trip to Niagara Falls, which was absolutely fantastic.)
On 25 March, my host Rotarian Bob Artis picked me up at my hotel for the 30-minute ride to his house in Buffalo, stopping first at a nice restaurant for a meal where we cheered my arrival with a glass of wine. At his home, he introduced me to his wife, Corine, handed me a welcome card, and treated me as a beloved guest. This was my first impression of a fellowship “connection,” and a wonderful start to my trip.
While I stayed in Buffalo, Bob showed me many tourist attractions and took me to a number of Rotary club meetings. It was also my first experience visiting clubs in the United States and I was asked frequently; “Tilak, what brings you here?” My answer was always “to visit as many Rotary clubs as possible and get ideas to bring back home to Nepal to share with my club.” In fact, finding international partners for potential projects was one of my purposes for the trip beyond the fellowship.
The rest of my visit involved stops in many cities, including New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Springfield, Illinois, where I visited sites associated with Abraham Lincoln. I’m thankful to all the host families for their kind hospitality that created an unforgettable experience. American has become a home away from home for me, and my host families are like a second family. They are courteous, polite, and always helpful.
My stay would have been even longer, but I had to shorten my trip due to the earthquake in Nepal on 25 April. Fortunately, my family was all safe, but on 7 May, I returned home to meet my family and assist people in need from the devastation.
My experience was amazing, and strengthened my appreciation of the goodness found in Rotary. I encourage any member to consider being a part of the Travel and Hosting Fellowship.
Tilak Thapa Magar is vice president of the Rotary Club of Kathmandu North East and founder and managing director of Nepal Trailblazer Trekking. This post was adapted with permission from Tilak’s full account of his visit.