The world today is one of bucket lists, heavy on the Instagrammability factor. Destinations once considered exotic and unattainable are becoming more accessible. Which is good. Right? While ease of travel is increasing, we have to ask ourselves whether our experiences are contributing to a sustainable environment for the locals and the travelers who will come after us. I’ve often worried about the future of travel and the locals who are taken advantage of in our quest for cheaper travel in countries with a lack of infrastructure. Although I worry in the moment, I never know quite how to handle that unsettling feeling. That’s why I was so impressed with Vic Ganeshan, founder of VX Tours Nepal, a company that offers Everest Base Camp and Gokyo Lakes trek options in Nepal.
Vic and I met on a tour in Israel, where she was visiting for the Forbes 30 under 30 Global Women’s Summit in Tel Aviv. Her go-getter spirit and commitment to sustainable travel caught their attention and has inspired me as well. On a recent trip to Nepal, Vic began talking with the porters and guides on her trek. She was horrified to learn that the porters often slept outside or in caves after lugging tourists’ heavy bags, because their salary wasn’t enough to cover the cost of sleeping indoors, and accommodation wasn’t covered by their company. Furthermore, she learned that despite claims to offer insurance, many companies don’t offer adequate coverage for employees, resulting in loss of wages upon injury or illness. Vic, a mergers and acquisitions professional from New Zealand, knew that she had to do something. So she did.
Why choose VX Tours Nepal for your Everest Base Camp and Gokyo Lakes Trek
All guides are given free Guide and Wildlife training. Want to know what animal or plant you’ve encountered on the trek? Just ask your guide! This cutie is a dzo, which is a cross between a yak and domestic cattle.
VX Tours Nepal staff carries an emergency oxygen tank, a satellite phone and are trained to monitor altitude sickness. Spotting the warning signs early is imperative and this training is, unfortunately, something that many other companies don’t offer. If you get in trouble, you’ll be happy to be on the trail with a company that offers a level of care that goes above and beyond the norm.
“I never thought I could be a guide because I didn’t have the money for English lessons, but now I have hope.” – Lakpa Sherpa, VX Tours Nepal porter
In Nepal, English lessons are often unattainable for the local population. VX Tours Nepal knows the value of education, so they invest in their porters’ future through education. When porters are promoted to assistant guide, the company pays for free English courses. It’s important to VX Tours that the porters have a clear employment path and a chance to become a lead guide.
Vic says that she knows her porters and guides may progress to other companies in the future. Some of her guides have aspirations to guide Mount Everest climbs (something VX Tours doesn’t offer). Vic is happy that the training she provides (including access to climbing training facilities) will help them achieve their dreams.
As the company grows, she plans to promote older guides into management positions. After a physically demanding career of leading treks, she wants to ensure that guides have an option to continue on a less physically demanding career path.
Today’s children are the guides, porters and leaders of tomorrow. Vic has long-term goals to build a free English school for local children. I love that her company is committed to investing in a better future for the citizens of Nepal!
Education is important, but the immediate, daily risk to porters is in the heavy loads they carry day after day. There’s a direct correlation between back and neck injuries and the heavy loads porters are required to carry. To protect the hard-working porters, VX Tours imposes a limit on the load each man carries.
Did you know most companies don’t cover medical insurance for their porters? (Yep- the guys who aren’t even earning enough to sleep indoors.) Then I learned that some companies are misleading their guests to believe that their guides are covered, when in reality, they are not.
Since injuries can happen, this company is committed to paying for medical insurance for porters and guides while on the hike.
I bet you’re thinking that a company like this is going to charge the big bucks. Think again! On her last day in Nepal, Vic set up VX Tours Nepal. She created the supply chain and hired English-speaking guides and porters, paying her employees 50% higher wages and insurance. Because she pays well and offers good working conditions, she says that her company employs some of the best guides in the Himalayas. And because her company is run using a lean, efficient business model, she’s able to offer treks to clients at rate that’s cheaper than most of her competitors.
Cheaper is good… it’s even better because despite the lower cost to clients, she’s still able to share the higher profit margin with the guys on the ground. Her competitors fees are being distributed to thousands of employees around the world, taking valuable funds out of the country where the locals are guiding and portering for the clients. When you’re not paying the salaries of thousands of employees at a worldwide company, there’s more money in everyone’s pocket. (Well… except the president of that worldwide company.)
Boss babe. Fem-preneur. There are hundreds of cutesy, hashtaggable phrases for lady bosses. But don’t even think about downplaying the intelligence – both emotional and intellectual – it took to take an idea and see it through to fruition.
Because of her experience in mergers and acquisitions and strategy and risk roles at investment banks, Vic had a solid foundation to start her business. But, she says the main reason for her business’ success is her passion for travel and philanthropy.
Everest Base Camp and Gokyo Lakes Trek options with VX Tours Nepal
VX Tours Nepal offers three options for hiking in Nepal. Ranging from 15-21 days, options to see Everest Base Camp and Gokyo Lakes will take you through stunning scenery with views of the tallest mountains in the world. All three trekking options offer a chance to take a helicopter flight above Base Camp and around some of the tallest mountains in the world. (This is something none of the competing organizations offer.)
Which one’s right for you?
Everest Base Camp & Gokyo Lakes
From: $2,200 USD for 19 or 21 Days
If you want the beauty of Gokyo Lakes with the bucket list Everest Base Camp, this one’s for you. When I asked Vic about her favorite trek, here’s what she had to say: “My favorite hike is the extended Everest Base Camp trail that passes through the Gokyo region. The Gokyo region is stunning, offering views of the bright blue Gokyo Lakes against a backdrop of pristine white mountains. While on this trail, we also hiked up to the famous vantage point that is Gokyo Ri. We had panoramic views of the tallest mountains in the world. It was simply stunning.”
Everest Base Camp Trek
From: $2,000 USD for 15 or 16 Days
So you want to tick Everest Base Camp off your bucket list? On this trek, you’ll join the multitudes who are intent on achieving the honor of completing the world’s most famous hike. Along the way, you may even get the chance to rub shoulders with the brave men and women who will continue on to climb Mount Everest.
Gokyo Lakes & Gokyo Ri
From: $2,000 USD for 15 or 16 Days
Hate crowds, but love great scenery? This Gokyo Lakes and Gokyo Ri Trek offers a panoramic view of four of the tallest mountains in the world. You’re guaranteed a more peaceful experience, since most of the trail is separate to the Base Camp trail.
VX Tours Nepal is just starting out, but with their affordable treks that support the local community, their fan base is growing quickly! I know that if I get the chance to visit Nepal, VX Tours is the company I’ll support. If you’d like to learn more, visit the VX Tours Nepal website to book your trip!
Note: Brittany wrote this blog post. VX Tours Nepal provided photos and sponsorship of this article.
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