It is often said that when we travel to a new destination, we leave a piece of ourselves there. The moments that we spend in a new place become precious parts of our lives. While traveling, one not only spends time at a particular place, but they also invest a lot of heartfelt emotions that go on to keep them connected with the place even long after they have returned home. It is only instinctive that one seeks ways in which they can trade a piece of themselves with a piece from their journeys.
Nepal has long been a popular travel destination for backpackers, and people looking for escape and adventures. Its mountains and culturally diverse communities continue to woo travelers off their feet; it is only natural that travelers want to take a piece of Nepal as they fly back to their own homes.
Much like anywhere else, the souvenir culture is very popular amongst travelers coming to Nepal. It is a common sight to see tourists flocking traditional handicrafts and curio shops to pick souvenirs that they can bring back with them.
The Nepali culture surrounding the act of giving gifts and souvenirs to guests is a deep-rooted part of local tradition as well. The age-old saying “Atithi deva bhava:” is something that every household in Nepal follows, irrespective of the topography or ethnicity. It is the golden rule of Nepali hospitality, literally translating to “Guests are the forms of Gods”.
Whenever Nepalis have guests leaving their homes, there is a tradition of giving guests something that can be taken away. This could be any form of food from the kitchen or the garden or even pieces of self-made handicrafts. Such gifts are endearingly referred to as “Koselis.” Koselis are not just tangible commodities but rather gifts that carry the emotion, care, and affection of the hosts.
But mementos and koselis can be more than just things that you are gifted or buy from curio stores. More often than not tourists and travelers are limited to condensed tourist destinations that do little to showcase the full extent and experience of a region, its locals, and their culture. Taking this into account, it is only fair that we shift the notion of souvenirs from commercial curios and tourist areas to ones that are more in touch with the communities they represent and have koselis that actually make a difference and give back to the local communities.
Following are a few brands that let you pick memorable mementos and experiences that also give back to the communities that you cherished during your travels in Nepal.
Koseli products and community-based experiences
Koseli products were created by the Community Homestay Network with the intention of helping tourism-dependent communities have an alternative source of income when the whole world came to a standstill during the Covid pandemic. But while Koseli began as a pandemic relief with products from the communities that could be bought by the travelers, who would be able to bring along a piece of the communities, these products are also an introduction to communities who have never traveled there.
Koseli products range from staple edibles such as lentils from the higher altitudes of Pisang, a community in Manang; to Marsi Rice from the far west of the country; to frozen fish and duck, which have been farmed traditionally by the Tharu communities in Barauli. There are also handmade and skill-based products such as fabric masks and artisan slippers that have been beautifully crafted by women in Panauti.
When we talk about taking back souvenirs from our travel destinations, only the substantial and tangible materials are what pop into our minds. However, these specific cultural immersive experiences are also a kind of souvenir that one can take with themselves as they travel back to their homelands and these experiences are something that will stay with them forever.
After the pandemic restrictions loosened, Koseli has also been working towards connecting both domestic and international travelers to the varied culture of the local indigenous communities of the country. Starting with the beloved community of Newars in the heart of the country, Koseli organizes the “Ranjana Lipi and Aila” event, collaborating with Newa artisans in Kirtipur. The experience allows one to not only learn the beautiful Ranjana Lipi script but also indulge in the famous Newa bhuwey (Newa feast) and its significance giving the participants the most authentic feel of the community.
You pick up a Koseli product from one of their outlets at Bricks Cafe, Avata Wellness Center, Traditional Comfort, or Traditional Stay. They are also available online on Daraz. To know more about their events, look out for their social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram): @koseli.chn
Coffee is not just a mere drink. To many, it is a lifestyle and even a form of art. Coffee is not just the first thing many need in the morning, it is also something many bond over. While South American countries like Brazil, Peru, and even countries in Asia such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and India are among the biggest producers and exporters of coffee in the world, Nepal too has developed a niche market for coffee lovers who seek locally grown and brewed coffee.
coffeeofpromise is one standout coffee venture that has been making its name with the coffee community in Kathmandu and other urban hubs of the country. If you love sipping on coffee while reminiscing the times you spent soaking into the experiences of Nepal then, taking back a pack or two of Nepal’s coffee of promise would be quite the Koseli that you’re looking for.
coffeeofpromise markets itself as a promise that is delivered in every bean that they source. It was initially started as an attempt to ethically source high-quality coffee directly from farmers across Nepal. At present, the coffee is sourced directly from local farmers farming in the higher elevations of Lalitpur. The coffee then goes through an extensive process of processing the cherries, drying, milling, tasting, and roasting to become the coffee beans that are consumed.
The most special thing about getting yourself a pack of coffeeofpromise coffee is that the coffee beans are roasted and ground only after the orders are placed, ensuring the beans reach you at their optimum freshness. The company offers medium-dark roasts, dark roasts, filter light roasts, and medium roasts packed in the form of whole beans, cafeteria brews, espresso, pour-over, cold brew, Moka pot, and drip coffee bags.
To place orders, you could reach them through the following mediums:
Facebook and Instagram: @coffeeofpromise
Waste has been problematic in many places all over the world and the urban centers of Nepal are no exception. The principle of reducing, reusing, and recycling has been a very familiar band-aid for the issue. However, the concept of upcycling, although new, has been gaining momentum over the globe. Upcycling is the process of creatively transforming by-products, useless or unwanted materials of production, into something new and desirable in a new form.
Re-Kriti brings together the skills of local women artisans who have been upcycling for more than 15 years individually. They aim to bring environmentally friendly products which are fashionable and of high utility.
Travelers can contribute by being a part of upcycling communities that companies like Rekriti have been relentlessly promoting. Adding upcycled products as souvenirs allows one the satisfaction of traveling sustainably. Upcycling not only reduces the immediate waste in the landfills, but also reduces the carbon footprint of the entire production cycle of a new product — from sourcing the raw materials to distributing the products.
Their flagship product transforms old jeans into custom designs for customers to choose from. This could be a piece of clothing or even accessories such as bags, pouches, and more.
They also retail a growing range of products which include drawstring bags, travel bags, utility pouches/makeup bags, laptop sleeves, earrings, coasters, table mats, and a lot more. Products use discarded jean fabrics or used packaging plastics and single-use plastic bags.
To know more about their products and how you can be a part of their movement, you can check their social media handles on Instagram and TikTok: @re.kriti
With these souvenirs, travelers far and wide can add new meaning to taking and giving gifts from their travel destinations. Souvenirs are an age-old tradition that requires revamping given the growing changes in the tourism industry. With initiatives such as Koseli by Community Homestay, coffee of promise, and Re-Kriti; travelers in Nepal have a wide range of opportunities to leave an impact as a sustainable traveler.