Journeys take you out of your comfort zone. You land up in strange places where you feel you have nothing. And where all your egos, fame, preconceived notions, assumptions and accomplishments vanish albiet temporarily. You feel vulnerable. You feel naked. You don’t know how to behave; you even don’t know what to eat (I am a veg) or even how to eat (the sequence or combinations). What to talk about? In the sense what is permissible and what are the social, political or religious taboos out there? How do you dress yourself appropriately? All in all, you are thrown into a whole new world, new culture and new social reality.
Once you tide over these initial apprehensions and challenges, you start connecting to the new world around you. You start assimilating, adjusting, making new friends, creating acquaintances, learning the social norms, etc. The result: you come out a stronger person – confident, proud, knowledgeable and with more wisdom. You have accumulated more over your previous achievements. You have new notions and loads and loads of fresh experiences. And, of courses, a bigger network of friends. You rediscover yourself – a new self. It could happen whether you land in Los Angeles or Lunana. But the further you stray from your comfort zone, greater is the feeling of vulnerability and bigger will be the sense of satisfaction.
So you want to travel to distant lands, to a distant culture in future? Yes?
Then start now. Today. Move out of your comfort zone. Train yourself in your own surrounding first. Visit places you haven’t been and meet people you didn’t know. Like, take a weekend trip to Nub Tshona Patra – on your own. Or to a nearby place if you are not living in Thimphu or Paro or Haa. Try get yourself to spend a night in a temple, or in a hut or in a simple monk quarter. Negotiate. Interact.
That’s what I did. I traveled to every part of Bhutan in my life. I was fortunate that I also had jobs that allowed that. But, again, I chose the job. I slept in a cowshed in Dagana, ate with locals everywhere, begged for food on our way from Singye Dzong (our ration ran out), nearly died at Gangla Karchu between Laya and Lunana, risked getting buried inside Tala tunnels, nearly got gored by a yak at Pelela, suffered a food poisoning in Kengkhar.
Then slowly you can venture further. Become bolder! Get yourself transferred to a remote school, BHU, Extension Office or a Range assuming that you are either a teacher, health worker, agriculturist or a forester.
Face the hardship. Cherish it. Take pictures. Keep a journal. This is important because when you write them down, they magically turn into beautiful memories immediately. Try.
Those who are already there (remote places), start looking around with a different lens from today. Objectively. Without prejudice. Can you see this as an “opportunity”? As a training ground for yourself for a greater role in your life? You should, if you just open your eyes – if you reflect on or see the beauty around you. But if you think that you are getting punished or that Thimphu is a better place, then you are in misery.
When I left Italy in 1995, where I could have easily landed a job (some of my Bhutanese colleagues did stay back), my Italian friends thought I had gone crazy. Now 20 years and loads of experiences later, they think little better of me. Bhutan is to Italy, what Lower Kheng is to Thimphu. Same analogy.
But don’t think of jumping straight to China when you are homing in towards 50. It won’t be just hard. It will kill you.