Milla von Tauber, an upcoming junior at Richmond Hill High School, has done her fair share of traveling.
Von Tauber, 16, lived in Germany for many years with her military family, giving her the opportunity to explore much of Europe. She has visited France, Czech Republic, Italy and more.
“Paris has been my favorite so far,” von Tauber said. “I remember seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time and thinking, ‘Holy moly.’”
But Paris isn’t all von Tauber has dreamed of. She also wants to visit Asia.
“I think it started when I was young,” von Tauber said. “I really loved the movie ‘Mulan.’ From there, I began to love India, and the culture appeals to me. It’s so different from ours. Everything they do is very different, and that’s fascinating.”
When she heard about the opportunity to be a part of a trip to Nepal, she knew it was ideal.
“Nepal is perfect because I’ve always been interested in Asia, and it’s right next to India,” von Tauber said. “I’ve always felt this pull to India. It’s like it’s where I belong. I have to travel there someday.”
For now, though, she is happy to settle for Nepal, home to the Himalayas. She will take the trip through Unschool Adventures, an organization that hosts international trips for youth. She will travel to Nepal with 10 other teenagers from all over the country, none of whom she has met in person.
“With college just two years away, I want to be prepared in more ways than academically,” von Tauber said. “During this adventure, I expect to determine whether or not working in poverty-stricken countries is something I can handle after a lifetime of privilege. I want to know where the majority of the world sits in their challenge to just make it through with the basics. This is an educational, spiritual and a heart-felt adventure.”
Von Tauber thinks she may want to work with children overseas someday, but she isn’t sure yet and hopes this trip will point her in the right direction.
“This is that opportunity in life that shows you where you should go,” she said. “The thing I’m looking forward to most is volunteering at a school in Nepal and teaching English. After I graduate, I plan to do work with children in that part of the world, so it’s the perfect opportunity to see if that’s what I should be doing.”
The group will leave Sept. 12 and spend six weeks in Nepal before traveling back to the United States on Oct. 26. The teens, along with three trip leaders, will immerse themselves in Nepali culture by staying with a rural family and volunteering at their children’s school.
The group also will participate in an intensive, 10-day Buddhism and meditation retreat run by Tibetan Buddhists, including two days of total silence.
They also will visit the Nepal capital of Kathmandu, go on a multi-day hike into the Himalayas, take an elephant-back rhino-seeking safari in Chitwan National Park and, if they choose to do so, experience a 160-meter bungee jump near the Tibetan border.
All those activities make this much more than an ordinary trip. Since being accepted into the program by Unschool Adventures, von Tauber has been training for the high-altitude hiking and learning the ins and outs of fundraising through her Indiegogo campaign, “Milla’s Nepali Adventure.” The website gives anyone the opportunity to donate money toward her trip.
She hopes to raise a total of $6,500, which will cover most of her expenses including airfare, travel expenses while in Nepal, most meals, lodging and items like hiking boots. Von Tauber has raised a total of $300 so far through the website. She plans to get a summer job to help pay for the trip, as well as using money she’s saved.
However, if she can’t raise the funds, her mother, Tatiana, is ready to pay for the trip in full if she has to.
“It’s my life savings going into this,” Tatiana von Tauber said. “I’m prepared to pay for it in full, but getting support from others is more helpful for Milla because she can see she can accomplish something that’s challenging. It’s challenging to get people to believe in your dream, especially enough to give money toward it. If she can raise some of her funding, it will give her the confidence to do something courageous like this again.
“She’s not doing the usual planning for her future; she’s taking action now, taking opportunities given to her now and not just dreaming until she is old enough,” Tatiana continued. “She’s a role model for other young girls, a doer and a go-getter, and this makes her worthy of the financial support.”
Milla von Tauber said her mother has been her biggest supporter when preparing for this trip.
“My mom knows how much I want to travel and how much I want to go to the parts of the world that no one sees a lot,” she said. “I’ve been talking about this since I was a kid, and she’s helped me latch on to this opportunity.”
Tatiana said she supports her daughter because she thinks this trip will be educational and will help her plan better for her future.
“I think I’ll be important because it will broaden her view of the world,” she said. “Being 16, she doesn’t really know exactly what she wants to do in the future, so it will help her plan out her college — what she wants to major in and what classes she wants to take. It will just add to the richness of her experience.”
Anyone wishing to donate can go to www.indiegogo.com/projects/milla-s-nepali-adventure.