Yesterday, 11 of us climbed up to Phajoding Monastery (pronounced fudge-a-ding). There is nothing like a good hike. I asked a fellow teacher, “Why do we climb the mountain?” and one responded, “Because we can!” More on the hike another time. Why do we travel? ‘Cause we can.
Traveling is in itself quite a selfish act. You use a tremendous amount of resources, (monetary, jet fuel, etc.) to give yourself a new experience. (If you look at the demographics of who backpacks, you will feel even more privileged). Traveler’s want their experience to be profound, happy and unique. I noticed that the majority of 18 year old backpackers that I met in NZ were completely content staying in one hostel with some new party pals for an extended time period. Older travelers seemed to be in a competition of who is living the best life by climbing the most mountains, surfing the perfect wave, taking the best photograph, or telling the best story. (The best stories come from the worst situations, so people continually put themselves in ridiculous situations). Although, this seems quite cynical, I do not believe there is anything wrong with traveling. There is something to be gained, but it is up to the individual to decide what that is.
Using an analytic knife splitting travel into Romantic and Classical thought, traveling is two different things. The idea of going off on an adventure to the far corner of the world full of flightless birds, volcanoes, beaches, hitchhiking, tramps, and extreme sports sounds extremely appealing. The Classical side of planning (following the biblical lonely planet), payment/budgets, 30 hours of flights/airports, and hostel dorm rooms is not quite so beautiful, but almost more important. I am currently to the Land of the Thunder Dragon, the last eastern kingdom presumably unchanged by globalization, so strong in it’s Buddhist principles and far from the ‘wants’ that seem to plague the West. This after 6 months of planning, anticipation, a roller coaster of emotions, 3 months of fundraising, 40 hours of flights/airports. The most accurate description of Bhutan that I can give you is a Monk talking on a cellphone wearing crocs in an unheated 17th century Monastery overlooking the world’s tallest unclimbed mountain. But do not get any expectations. We have a running joke about how everything we know, we heard from somewhere or something and nothing is guaranteed to be true. “You know nothing John Snow.”
Maybe that is the reason that I am traveling. At home, I know a lot, but here I am like John Snow. If I was to name countries that Canadians know nothing about, Bhutan, Suriname, Equitorial Guinea, and Tajikistan would top the list. According to the ‘Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’, the connection of the romantic and classical sides comes from quality. The pursuit of what is good or quality or god, encompasses all action. Traveling is about pursuing a quality of life that you could not attain at home, for better or for worse.
I have been thinking about why I have come here to the other side of the planet. It is to make a difference, gain unique teaching experience, learn about a place and culture that has completely different stories than what I am used to, pursue a more simple life, and share my gifts with people who would otherwise never get to see them. Do my reasons reconcile my absence from the people and land that I know and love? Maybe, we’ll see. The director of Human Resources at the Ministry of Education thanked all of our families for allowing us to come to Bhutan.
Also Thanks for the Birthday Wishes!