Our Story

Not your typical travel company

Josh Edwards, Chadd Thornton and Magdalena Bokowa

Josh Edwards, Chadd Thornton and Magdalena Bokowa

Whether its the mountains of Nepal, the beaches of Bali or the bustling cities of the Pacific Northwest, people are people and everyone has a story. At Dharma Trips we try to foster humility while creating lifelong connections around the world.

We hold a deep love for the countries we visit and value the lessons we’ve learned while traveling on the road, infusing them into our own local communities and relationships. Our aim is to shine through the stereotypes and common misconceptions about the developing world and show our fellow Dharma Trippers the magic that exists around every corner.

how we came to be

Chadd and Magdalena met while hiking in the mountain town of Dharamshala, India in 2013. On their own adventures, Chadd was midway through a solo motorcycle journey through northern India when he met Magdalena who was completing her yoga teacher instructor course. Since then, they have traveled the world over, seeking genuine people and authentic experiences.

In 2015, while backpacking on their honeymoon in Nepal, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake shook through the steep valley they were in, devastating everything in its course. Narrowly escaping landslides, rockfalls and avalanches it took three days to make it out of the mountains and back to safety. They, like others, had a choice: be evacuated by their own government or stay behind and give support. They chose the latter. That very evening a motley group of likeminded individuals all met for the first time and held an impromptu meeting at a guesthouse. About 20 people came, one of them being Josh Edwards.

At only 19, Josh had also been hiking in the Annapurna region and was feared missing by his family back in Oregon. Serendipitously, Chadd and Josh were unknowingly from the same hometown and had even attended the same high school years apart in Bend, Oregon. Out of cell service and out of reach, Josh’s family sent messages to Chadd and Magdalena asking if they had seen Josh. They hadn’t. Until that faithful day he strolled into the guesthouse.

Six weeks and $50,000 sourced from friends, family and complete strangers, they delivered food, tents and medical supplies to over 10 local communities devastated by the earthquake, often braving washed out roads and trekking in supplies by hand. As the monsoon quickly approached, a small group landed in Pokhari-Nebot, surveying the local needs in the community. Unknowingly, here the group would spark the connections with locals that would last a lifetime and inevitably plant the seed for Dharma Trips.

A makeshift tent set up in the yard of a collapsed school complex, the group spent the next few days surveying the area and getting a better idea of exactly what was needed. After a few days the topic of the collapsed school came up; what was happening to it? When was it going to be rebuilt? No one knew and it seemed that many had been too overwhelmed with their own family and property to even think about what to do with the school.

Eventually the team all went back home with really only one thing on their mind: how to rebuild the school.

A few months later, a handful of the team arrived back to Nepal, armed with volunteers and Kenny Quinn, an alternative earth bag builder. Over the course of three months, they built a four-room primary school, working tirelessly, filling earth bags and mixing cement by hand. During this incredibly special time, the close knit team would eat with local villagers, play with the school children and sing—albeit very badly—Nepali songs around the campfire. This would form the lasting connection and deep roots that would inevitably spark the foundation for Dharma Trips.

Several years and countless projects later including spearheading a clean-air smokeless stove project to help eliminate deadly carcinogenic fumes and a compressed earth brick machine to speed up the rebuilding process post earthquake, the group switched to an educational focus, hiring an additional two Nepali teachers to instruct in English, in order to help bolster the small community as tourism opens up in the emerging Manaslu area.

From its humble roots from the 2015 Nepal earthquake to a small group of like-minded individuals who came together in shaky circumstances (pun intended) there has always been a common goal of giving support in anyway we could. The people we’ve met and the connections we’ve made, have shaped who we are today. Because of this we are committed to helping in any way we can to ensure a promising future.

We do this by encompassing a social enterprise business model which gives back 10% of profits to our projects in Nepal. Whenever possible, we use carefully vetted local guides in addition to our western team members and choose locally-owned and managed guesthouses and transport services. We partner with Terrapass to offset all of our carbon footprints, making us a carbon neutral travel company while generating revenue within the local communities we guide in so that the income stays there and helps change lives. In the end, our ultimate goal is creating memorable collaborative experiences to empower sustainable communities.

Together we have:

  • Raised more than $75,000 in total relief, rebuilding and educational programs.

  • Rebuilt a primary school using the alternative building (and seismic resistant) method known as earthbag.

  • Supplied a Nepali designed and manufactured Compress Earth Brick Machine which assists villagers in rebuilding their homes. These bricks can easily be made from local materials, are solar dried with as many as 7,000 bricks manufactured in one day.

  • Hired two English-Nepali teachers to bolster both English and literacy to the region, crucial for the next generation as tourism unfolds in the Manaslu area.

  • Began a small school library with over 300 Nepali and English books.

  • Outfitted 53 homes with clean-air stoves to reduce harmful cancer causing cooking vapors from open air wood fires.

  • Supplied emergency relief supplies to 10 surrounding villages during the 2015 earthquake.