Steve Main shares the tale of his family trek in Nepal which led to an unexpected branding lesson.

When our family decided to hit the reset button and go trekking in the Himalayas for a few weeks, the search began for a guide. And there are so many options – around 600 registered guides operate out of Kathmandu alone. Google and TripAdvisor yielded a bewildering array of exciting, extremely well organised but generic looking operators; those with the best marketing machines clearly percolated to the top.

But having worn out a few pairs of Birkenstocks traipsing about Asia before having children, the option of choosing young, flag carrying, branded polo-shirted guides didn’t feel right for my wife and I. We had a ready-made group too as our travel party quickly escalated to three families. So the group tours, which are perfect for many, were less attractive to us.

That said, going unguided didn’t seem like the right call either. Subjecting our capable teenage kids (actually subjecting ourselves) to lugging full packs up hills in 50% oxygen, dodging Yaks and porters carrying unfeasibly colossal loads then traipsing around tea houses looking for accommodation each night wasn’t going to win me Dad of the year.

Wading through podcasts on trekking in Nepal for enlightenment, I stumbled upon a more than glowing reference for a guide named Samir Tamang. It even included a non-branded email address.

I went looking for Samir’s digital footprint and once found, it wasn’t convincing. He was on Instagram and Facebook but still, I wasn’t sure if he was legit. I emailed Samir and received an obliging but slightly cryptic note indicating our dates worked for him. Then we too’d (is that a word?) and froed before settling on an itinerary and rates.

A down payment was sent to Samir then we packed our bags, including paper undies (a friend said they might be useful!) the whole time thinking we must have been nuts.

Turns out, it was an amazing call. Samir, who lives in Kathmandu is from the Himalayas and has 11-years of guiding experience. But most importantly, he is an absolute gem. He is experienced, flexible, authentic, caring and kind. All things helpful for adventurous but hopefully responsible parents.

But all this wasn’t clear from his online presence. Despite being an amazing guide, a terrific person and spellbinding flautist, he’s just not a marketer.


Having been conditioned in the Western world to expect a certain level of presentation, it was a timely reminder that authenticity of experience can win out over slick branding and marketing. That and peer reviews are a great way to filter the barrage of ‘content’ we are subjected to as we go about our daily decisions.

I’m happy to report we had an incredible, authentic experience with a highly capable guide. It’s easy to see why he generates enormous loyalty from his clients.

But of course, it’s impossible to go on holidays and leave your work entirely at home. Before we said our goodbyes, I offered to develop a brand story, values and a website for Samir. The challenge will be ensuring his service not only ticks all the boxes but that his unique kind, caring and competent approach shines through.

Oh and the paper undies... They weren’t needed.