Living on the RoadStories

6 Things we learnt in Nepal that help our buslife

Jill Palmer3 comments1609 views
GreenBus crew and Annapurna
With our five lovely kids, Chris and I have been living and working in Nepal for the last nearly two years.  He’s been teaching, I’ve been getting involved here and there. Our children have been at school!  Actual arrive-on-time-wearing-clothes brick-and-tile school!  We all loved it.


Perth, Western Australia feels worlds apart from busy dusty Kathmandu. We spent a few weeks reeling and wobbling in culture shock. We ate lots of cheese and wondered how to fit back in. But actually,  we don’t want to just fit right back in. We don’t want to be unchanged from our experiences.  Back in Australia we have the opportunity to integrate what we’ve learned in Nepal into our life.   It turns out, this post is only part one of me trying to articulate what we’ve learnt:

Big things we learned in Nepal

1. There’s no such place as AWAY. Whether its rubbish chucked out or unfiltered fumes, everything goes somewhere. There is no AWAY. The actions of the powerful have direct and serious impact on the vulnerable. Some of the stuff we throw away ends up in the lungs and homes of kids like these:
Chris with Tameem and Nadeem

 I’m going to reconsider stuff we throw away as we move into buslife. If it doesn’t go away, where does it go?

2. Resources are finite. If they run out, people miss out.  In 2016 the border crossing between India and Nepal was closed. No gas or petrol could get through. Nepal ground to a halt.  Rich folks paid for alternatives, had spare anyway, or could buy what they needed on the black market. Poor folks had none and got cold, hungry and sick.  Stuff ran out, people missed out.

3. Happiness is not proportional to wealth, beyond basic needs.  That is, if I have food, shelter, warmth, safety, and opportunities, I won’t get any happier than I already am by being richer. More relevant to us in Australia is the converse; if I give away everything I have except the necessities; food, shelter, warmth, safety and opportunities, I won’t be any LESS happy. Hmmm, do I believe that enough to test it out?? The great thing about living in a bus is there’s not much room for stuff to begin with!

Little things we learned

4. The trick of using leftovers. We had no microwave and an electric power schedule which meant our fridge might only be on 3 hrs a day. It was very easy for food to spoil and go to waste. I learnt heaps about how to eat up leftovers. Here are just a few ideas:
  • leftovers can actually just be eaten cold, just the way they are
  • leftover rice, porridge, biscuit crumbs and uneaten soggy weetbix can all be thrown into the bread maker and turned into bread.
  • leftover rice can be cooked up into rice pudding.
  • sour milk or dodgy yoghurt makes lovely cheese or pancakes.
  • leftover veggies or meat or cheese can be added to fried rice or biryani or a kind of Nepali style bubble’n’squeak.

In my bus we also have a small fridge and no microwave, I’m gonna keep using these ideas.

Fried Rice Kathmandu

5. The wonderful art of the pressure cooker. If you wander the streets of our Kathmandu neighbourhood at 7pm, the hiss of all the pressure cookers letting off steam can be heard through many open widows, along with the pounding of the ginger and garlic. Everyone is pressure cooking!  I could cook rice in 7 minutes, dry kidney beans in 25, and a tender stew from old meat in half an hour. The humble pressure cooker combines heat with pressure to cook so fast, it was a massive game changer in how I cooked. It saves so much gas. Its a Nepali tool I’ll use a lot in the bus.


Cooked beans
6. How to cook using the power of the sun. I was lucky enough to turn 40 in Nepal, right in the middle the border crossing embargo. It was winter and the whole country suffered.   Many families began cooking on wood fires when their gas ran out. The skies were full of smoke and the hills stripped of trees promised to become mudslides when the rains came. Lots of people became sick, and many died of cold and hunger.  We were in the minority able to afford alternatives, and my birthday present was a solar cooker!

Solar cooking is still an emerging technology in Nepal.  Certain models have been around for years, but it has not taken off in a massive way. Nepalis tend to fry or pressure cook, not bake, so solar ovens have not been widely adopted. The parabolic solar cooker, however provides the intense heat of a gas stove, and uses the free sun, low tech gear, and a patch of ground out side.  It cooks so fast and so hot! The concentrated heat of the sun is so powerful I regularly set fire to my wooden spoon and always wore proper eye protection.  Check out this little video of us solar cooking!

I left my solar cooker with friends in Nepal, hopefully it is being well used! I’m super excited to have bought a mini one for my bus.  Can’t wait to solar cook on the road.
Stay tuned for PART 2 of things we learnt in Nepal that help bus life.


Do you solar cook? Are you happy living with less? Did you inherit your Grandparent’s pressure cooker? Where did you learn the skills you use on the road? Tell us all about it!


  1. Hullo all,
    I’m finding quite a few pressure cookers in op shops (mainly in Perth but sometimes in Geraldton). Many of these are flash stainless steel ones too, not older aluminium. I don’t know how to cook with them coz toast is my culinary limit, but I can certainly help set others up with one if they’re nearby….

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