Pankaj Pradhananga with mentor, the late Dr. Scott Rains
A Conversation with Mélange Editor, Fred Maahs Jr.
Pankaj grew up in the small town of Bhadrapur in Eastern Nepal that borders India. He attended a college in the same town, later moving to Kathmandu where he pursued his Masters degree majoring in Marketing. His first job was at a 4-star hotel in Kathmandu catering to international travellers. At his present job today, he also caters to international travellers but his focus is now on people with disabilities.
What was your earliest exposure to a person with a disability and what got you interested in helping people with disabilities?
I had not met any people with disabilities prior to meeting my mentor, Dr. Scott Rains in California in 2013. In 2014, I travelled with him for 10 days in Nepal and I became more interested in learning and working with people with disabilities.
What does your job entail?
As an Incoming Tour operator, my typical schedule involves managing the daily operations, meeting with clients and planning for future business. The job also requires travel to source markets of Europe, the US and East Asia also to the areas of tour operations, The Himalayan region / Indian subcontinent.
What are some of the things Nepal has done to become more accessible?
As a destination, Nepal has been working relentlessly towards its accessible tourism goal despite the challenges of physical facilities in public places, hotels etc. The Government of Nepal, Nepal Tourism Board, tour operators and hotels are working in tandem with local Disabled People Organisations in order to build synergy and transfer knowledge. In the last 5 years, Nepal has seen significant progress as the hotels are coming up with a few accessible rooms that is mandatory as a part of building code, accessible vehicles and more trained personnel. Furthermore, the first accessible trail near Pokhara was launched in 2018 during an Accessible Tourism conference. Near Kathmandu, the Dhulikhel municipality will soon have an accessible Eco Trail that will attract domestic as well as International travelers. Many locally organized events are coming on stream to bridge the knowledge and expertise gap, in partnership with Independent Living center, Four Season Travel, International Development Institute and NFD-N.
You are known as The Himalayan Storyteller. How did you get that name? What types of stories do you tell and how do you share them with your audience?
I took this name myself which I use when I write articles and my podcasts called Beyond Limits. My trips in the Himalaya over the last two decades have significantly transformed my perspective about myself, the world and the world of business around us. I was fortunate to meet amazing local people in Tibet, Bhutan and the mountains of Nepal. Needless to say, that encouraged me to share those stories to many more people who I meet in person or virtually. I am also a Toastmaster where we practice public speaking and leadership so storytelling is a part of learning and growth and I simply love to connect with people and places.
How does your faith help you in your work?
Faith is important in life. I believe I need to have faith in myself before I look outward. My faith is beyond the religious belief, I have faith in humanity, ability and imagination. Believing in what is not visible has helped me strive to achieve the goals that appeared to be previously unattainable.
How do you feel about working with people with disabilities?
I am deeply grateful to my mentor, the late Scott Rains who taught me a great deal and encouraged me to work towards Accessible tourism. This has been more than just a business. Working with People with Disabilities has been a wonderful learning opportunity. I am grateful, helpful and hopeful. Organising trips in the Himalayan region for People with Disabilities gives me a great sense of achievement and fulfillment and also Team Four Season Travel. We have been more aware of our behavior and activities and it affects others we go about our daily lives.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to read and write. I strive to take time to read about philosophy and history as much as I can. I meditate regularly and practice stoicism. As a Toastmaster, I love to deliver public speeches. I am also an adjunct faculty in Business school and organize trainings on mental toughness and resilient leadership. I love to walk and cycle around in my spare time. I have two daughters and one wife – one is enough in this life 🙂 My wife is a school teacher.