Archive for Dispatches
For the next six weeks you can follow along on my second Bhutan venture on my business blog! I won’t be posting on this blog for this trip so sign up for the feed on my blog…
I’m off to Bhutan again in a few days with a FIRST travel experience in place. After spending a good portion of my life traveling abroad and to over 70 countries, this will be the FIRST time I’ll be basically staying put in one place for most of the trip. It feels mostly natural, with Bhutan as the destination.
Though all you twitter users out there have proven me wrong, I’ve never been one to think that others are really that interested in reading about the minutia of someone else’s day to day life (how/why do people find time for such things?). But I’m going to break that view I’ve set and blog about my experience as much as possible (sorry no Twitter). I am as intrigued as you might be about what it will be like living and working in the Bhutanese culture and I’m psyched to share that with you all.
I’ll be living in the capital, Thimphu, for 6 weeks volunteering with the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) part time while continuing to run my own business. The basically-staying-put part means that I’m certain that at least several significant physical excursions will arise once I get my bearings—the mountains are too alluring there—but I’m just not planning anything on the front end. Some gear will be in hand, some aspirations in place…and we’ll see how it goes. Being someone who will read a Lonely Planet country guide cover to cover and then lovingly enjoy planning the details of a trip, I’ve left this one to play out as it will and I couldn’t be more pleased.
Its been heartwarming and inspiring sharing interviews on my blog about What Matters to people I know and love and who truly make a difference, not only in our community, but in the world. I’m carrying that inspiration with me as I head back to Bhutan. My aim is to support the BOC in developing and executing events that will showcase their gorgeous country and raise money for their Olympic programs. I’ll also be evaluating and offering support in developing sport in their schools and communities.
One of the challenges the BOC faces is that Bhutan is not an inherently competitive or individualistic nation. They are in a position of selling competitive sports to Buddhists. Thats kind of like trying to sell even range fed, organically grown chicken—to a vegan. Competitive sport, as WE know it, is not a part of their culture. And hard physical labor tends to happen in the rice fields, and not on a playing field. These realities are unique challenges to developing Olympic teams. But both the BOC and I believe that what they do embody—obvious physical talent and a significant connection to their country and cultural tradition—are ingredients to huge potential within several Olympic sports. All Bhutanese love their country. A Bhutanese athlete would train and dedicate themselves to their sport to go to the Olympics for the sole reason of representing Bhutan in the Olympics—with any personal gain as a secondary priority.
All that said, its easy to ask—why do they want to create an Olympic Program in a country with such a traditional culture? Their motive is authentic. The BOC believes that heath and well being are important means to happiness, and that a big part of that is having a healthier and fit body (and therefore mind). Creating sporting programs in schools to educate the young people puts in place a desire for and a message that the overall well being of the people is important. Sport is a means to that objective.
Its distinctly clear for all of us long time athletes, that we can indefinitely experience the virtue that sport and fitness shines in all aspects of our lives. I have been pleased to see the meaning of competition evolve and mature as I’ve gotten older. Joining the BOC in this process of developing sport in a manner that is in closest alignment with their culture and beliefs is a phenomenal opportunity to expand my own view and the view of my clients as we continue to assess what sport brings, not just to our racing, but to our lives and our communities.
I want to give a heartfelt shout out to Melina Lillios with Live, Laugh, Love Tours who has generously sponsored the initial part of my journey through Bangkok. If you want to be FULLY taken care of on an amazing trip—Melina is the woman to talk with.
Back at you very soon from Thailand, while en route.
The first Expedition Bhutan: Experience ‘What Matters’ presentation is on, April 27, 6:30 PM, 1818 Felt Street in Santa Cruz. This wine social and silent auction will be inclusive of presentations by me and the founders of the Music of Bhutan Research Center. Come and meet the Expedition Team as well as the director of our expedition film and see a teaser of the film! Our hosts will be the Santa Cruz Triathlon Association (SCTA)—and our efforts are about raising funds for people in Bhutan and in our own community to help them participate in sport. You can get tickets to this exciting evening on active.com. See the below info poster for more details.
For the weeks leading into this local community gathering, and during my time in Bhutan this summer, I’m going to be dedicating a large portion of my Blog and our Expedition Blog to looking at What Matters. I’ll be doing short interviews with athletes, entrepreneurs, students, teachers, monks and more, delving into the heart of What Matters to them and why they do what they do. My first interview will be with Mark Allen, who just got inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame. Look for that post soon.
Interested in hosting an Expedition Bhutan slide show presentation at your company or for your group or team – contact me about possibilities. I’d love to support what your community is up to through one of my presentations.
Check out my new website—I’m psyched that its open and bright and expansive as thats now I’m feeling these days.
Stay tuned for what matters to Mark Allen!
This is the first in a series of brief conversations looking at What Matters to YOU. While I’ll be highlighting people who are really taking on what matters in their lives professionally, my aim is to uncover what matters to them deeply. To expose their foundational passion. Because one thing that matters to me is getting to know what makes the really big doers tick. Thats exciting. Perhaps it will stir you as well—or maybe even cause you to revisit or define—What Matters to YOU.
If this conversation interests you too, let me know and share it with others who matter to you…
What Matters to MARK ALLEN
Some of my words about Mark and some background info:
Back in the ’80’s and ’90’s if you were a professional triathlete specializing in 70.3 and Ironman races it was common to run into a similar crowd at various events around the world. Days leading into an event in say, Japan, we’d all train together, eat together, chat together and then go out on race day and try and beat each other—the perfect combo to generating intimate and respectful camaraderie. Mark Allen was one of the ‘similar’ folks I’d encounter world-wide—yet he wasn’t.
Mark has a distinct dichotomous personality—one part fueled by his public persona. You may ‘know’ him via the media as the laser-focused, intense, articulate, triathlon champion and coach. Which he is. Yet, if you’ve had the pleasure to get to know him one-on-one, you’ll also see that he’s a deep curious seeker. Calm demeanor, honed listening skills, sharp wit, a thinker, and an old soul with a deep knowing that authentic life no way resembles what is on the surface.
Even though these chronicles on what matters aren’t about the resume—I’ll throw out some stats in case you aren’t familiar with Mark: Six-time Hawaii Ironman World Champion; been featured numerous times on major network television and in national publications; has appeared on more than 100 popular covers worldwide, sports commentator, motivational speaker, author and triathlon coach. Lets face it, the guy is a big player in all he takes on.
But what REALLY matters to Mark Allen…
Terri: Mark, you have accomplished to unique degrees in your athletic and professional lives and don’t seem to be slowing down as you recently co-authored Fit Soul, Fit Body and got inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame. What would you say matters the most to you in your life right now? If you could sum up what matters to you in one word, what would that be?
Mark: That word would be Gratitude. There is always so much going on in the modern world that can weigh a person down or that can put immense demands and pressure on them to put huge amounts of effort into endeavors that are not really feeding their soul but that are important say for basic survival. Maybe it’s a job that you just don’t gel with, or it could even be one that you love but that is going through a period of extreme pull on your energy and attitude. In those moments I find it personally encouraging to just stop and ask myself to find at least one thing that I AM grateful for in my life that brings me solace or a feeling that even in the midst of all my challenges there are still positives around me. With gratitude, we get energized and feel a certain peace that takes the edges off of the rough times in life. It can also become a reminder to pursue the things that do bring you a feeling of being grateful.
The thing that matters most for me is to just keep learning about life and to stay connected to family and friends. How you go about those two pursuits depends on the individual. For some learning about themselves comes through sports, others through spiritual endeavors, and for all of us from our relationships with other people.
It all gets wrapped together for me in the spiritual path I have been studying for over 20 years with Brant Secunda. It the tradition of Huichol Indian Shamanism. Brant is a shaman and healer in that tradition, one that is very simple in its practice, but very deep and complex in its positive effect on both people and all of life. He was the driving force that built my inner character in a way that enabled me to win my six Ironman titles in Hawaii. It’s a way for me to keep life in a broader perspective and to hopefully put my energies into endeavors in the modern world that help bring about positive change not only in my life but in others as well.
Terri: It sounds like your work over the years with Brant has helped you keep your eye on being grateful. What does your practice look like daily or weekly, that helps you keep this in clear focus? Do you have any recommendations for others who are seeking a way to get to ‘Grateful’ each day?
Mark: There are many, many tools that he teaches to help a person find that place of being grateful rather than dwelling in a negative space. One simple one is to just go for a walk. Whether if it’s in your neighborhood or out in the wilderness somewhere the simple act of walking helps cleanse your mind and set up the possibility of being grateful. Another tool that Brant emphasizes is to go to the ocean or a river and breathe in the sound of the water as a way to let go of stress and to just feel good again. And feeling good is a form of being grateful isn’t it! A third thing that Brant emphasizes is the importance of community, of making time to connect with friends and family and to just laugh together. It’s a way to, as he says, change the channel, and to become more grateful for your life and for the life of others. Then something he says in many of his workshops is that if you are alive then you have at least one thing to be grateful for!
While meeting with His Royal Highness, Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, prior to leaving Bhutan, I shared that we came to his country with a naive and vague concept of documented Gross National Happiness. And that what I now peruse after 7 weeks of immersion, is a vastly-layered, multi-colored view of happiness. Bhutan showed me that the qualities of contented societies and the nebulous concept of happiness can not be found on paper or in anything material or man made. They are felt when experienced. Happiness foundationally lies in just being in what is. It seeps into whichever space we hold, at any time, with any emotion—right now—if we allow it. It doesn’t hold tight with us if we acquire more stuff or become more beautiful or more comfortable. Comfort may offer a glimmer of contentment—for a moment. But we can not will, eat or buy, long term, deep rooted happiness. It comes to us when we are using our senses to experience the world around us and while we are choosing the right intension when interacting with others. Happiness comes to us when we create an authentic space for it to enter.
I shared with His Royal Highness that I was taking home from Bhutan a ripe opportunity to reflect on the strengths of our country as well as its continued challenges and pitfalls—another chance to view my own little world through a different lens. Another perfect opening for expansion. In part, because the people of Bhutan shrouded us with a reflection of what really matters in organized communities—humble people, respect, kindness, and the innate ability to adapt. Bhutanese don’t embody these qualities because they read a document—most of them seem to have never studied anything written on Gross National Happiness. They are adaptable, accepting and respectful because its how they raise their children and because adapting makes the most sense in their communities. Bhutanese are sensible Buddhists. They know that everything is impermanent and that embracing impermanence can help their lives be easy and freeing.
We were asked why we had come to Bhutan to trek and bike when our own country was so physically beautiful. Why would we not just stay and enjoy our own geography? My response involved the resultant experience gained, when one marries land and people. That any place—America, Bhutan or other—are all majestic on the crust in their own ways. But to truly feel a country’s soul is to immerse oneself in its unique culture and its beautiful landscape, and by our preference—one step and one pedal stroke at a time.
Bhutan’s rugged landscape is the untouched, maverick, unwieldy man who presents himself with no glitz or puts on no facade. To get to know him you take some time, ease into the inner workings, respect his way of being and flow with it without expectation. If he lets you in, as Bhutan’s culture does fully and in good time, you will see clearly that you have uncovered a kind, soft, rare jewel indeed. You’ll see that he’s a keeper.
What I brought home:
- A re-knowing that 4 intelligent, strong, open minded people can create anything they set their minds to—with life altering results
- A continued love affair with my 3 Expedition teammates
- Realization that in Bhutan one moves in only two-degrees-of-separation
- That in the striving to keep in tact a traditional culture, the soul of a nation can be nurtured
- A clear view of what we sometimes forget to value in America
- A clear view of the sheer magnitude of what we have access to in America and so often take for granted
- A clear view of how much we regularly complain about the things we forget to value and have access to in America
- A renewed love and appreciation for my country’s strengths
- That kindness and civility can bond a nation
- A refreshing view that a sustainable life can bring the purest kind of pride and happiness
- Four love notes
- A marriage proposal
- An example of how integration of religion and state can work
- The powerful feeling when a country loves its leader
- The yummy warmth that lingers from a shared arduous adventure with coveted old friends
- Lots of new friends including a healthy budding relationship with the Bhutan Olympic Committee
- A reminder that laughter, smiles, a warm fire, games and song and dance will always break down language barriers and cement friendships
- Awe for a country who treats all its guests as royalty
- A strong appreciation for the geographical diversity of America
- How easy it can be to support your neighbor when you are conscious of how important that is
- A re-reflection of how self-ful and individualistic we are in America—the huge virtue that offers us and how strongly it can limit our communities
- A re-view of the value of money and “stuff” in America—mostly how we naively believe that our stuff ultimately defines us or makes us happy
- A new love and huge respect for our film team—Ben, LD, Peter—my yak- haired-dred-hat is off to you all
- That Ben Henretig is a rock-star director and human being
- A new love and huge appreciation for all those who trekked with us on the front end of our Expedition, believed in our inquiry, and supported us wholly. They launched us into this incredible journey with their deep sharing and we were so touched and moved.
- A new love affair with Bhutan
- A lack of desire to eat rice for a long while
- A strong desire to keep traveling because it seems to make the most sense
- A stronger body
- Yet another renewed love of pushing my body day after day through tough country and a re-appreciation for my ability to do so
- The ability to drop into each moment without “trying”
- A few rocks
- Cow skin mask found in an abandoned herders hut in the mountains
- Crude hand carved wooden bowl found in an abandoned herders hut in the mountains
- Bhutanese stamps (wow)
- Antique silver and copper coins
- A drum that is used in a Buddhist Festival Mask Dance
- A yak vertebra
- Prayer flags that have been blessed at a Monastery in Thimphu
- An ancient wood carving with the 8 auspicious symbols and Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion
- A traditional yak hair hat worn by the women of Sakteng
- A definitive knowing that I will be back in Bhutan soon
- A gorgeous set of Athleta clothing that got the crap beat of out it for 45 days and that still looks gorgeous!
I want to send out a heart felt thank you to Athleta and Discovery Adventure for hosting our journey. They have both been a lovely pleasure to work with. Thanks to all who shared your thoughts along the way. Though we have not responded to them all, we have read each one and appreciate each thought provoking comment.
For the holidays I wish for you all; a clear authentic space for happiness to enter.
Festival Love: My mind lingered on the twirling colors, still enamored of the captivating Buddhist Festival staged in the spacious courtyard of the Tashigang Dzong. As we prepared to set out on two more days of biking and several more days of hiking to our final eastern destination—Sakteng, I was giddy remembering this elaborate celebration and its rich tradition.
A Buddhist Festival is a formal affair in Bhutan. From far and wide in their best Gho’s and Kira’s and with a special meal in hand, families come to take in the festivities. The dances and songs emulate Buddhist lore and despite the translation barriers we were transfixed each moment by the movement, colors, costumes, elaborately constructed masks and impeccable people watching.
Our Final Journey East: But our schedule only allowed us one rest day at the Festival and we were off the next morning on bikes—climbing yet again. This cycling leg would take us south and then east to the end of the road past Radi for our final trekking leg. Trekking in far eastern Bhutan would prove to be unique to our journey while revealing—one final time—the lovely essence and soul of the Bhutanese people.
After two days of mountain bike riding we transitioned to trekking toward Sakteng—the most easterly established settlement in Bhutan. This trekking section is a well traveled trade route so our rugged trail was rife with yaks, sheep, horses, donkeys, goats, people of ALL ages, and oddly in a country of stray mutts—countless small white dogs (they are bred in Sakteng). All carry food goods, roofing materials and power poles. Yes—power poles.
The Essence of Bhutan Embraces The Power Pole Carry: Electricity is finally making its way to eastern Bhutan and the people are psyched. So much so that each family in Sakteng is helping in this process—literally.
The government drops a pile of the steel power poles (weighing from 100-300 lbs) at the end of the road past Radi. Villagers from Sakteng then make the trek to Radi to then carry a pole back—a steep, muddy and rocky two day trip on foot. A family whom we met carrying their pole on the trail, invited us to tea at their home in Sakteng where we found out why the villagers are quite wiling to lug the poles back to their villages. Electricity will allow their children to study at night, and their lives in general will be more efficient and cleaner. Rather than smoky wood stove heat, they can use an electric heater as well as cook by electricity.
We continue to be supported by our small contingent of adorable and highly competent RBG army staff and have noticed that they are not only impeccably helpful, cheerful and respectful of us, but they are equally so to their countrymen. If a car is broken down on the side of the road Bhutanese stop to help. If a farmer needs extra hands for a harvest, all step in. When a person is without family and needs food or shelter, Bhutanese offer assistance. One does not see others homeless, starving or begging in Bhutan.
So when we came across two brothers and one of their 15 year old daughters carrying a 300 pound power pole to Sakteng, two of our army staff immediately jumped in to take the place of the girl. When we inquired about the guys eagerness to help in such a tough task, one of our staff declared enthusiastically–“My People, My Country!”. Bhutanese just help each other. They don’t act put out or ponder the ramifications of taking the time out of their lives. Helping is just a part of who they are. It brings them happiness and contentment to know they are supporting others.
My People, My Country: On this end point of our journey we had an opportunity to view old Bhutan at its finest. The village of Sakteng is densely compact as the mud, cement and stone houses are snugged together—separated only by dry stack stone fences or a narrow muddy “sidewalk”. The women wear a distinct black hat made of boiled yak hair and beaded necklaces passed down within the females of a family. Men don maroon colored yak hair jackets, deer fur vests, turquoise earrings and boots of hand sewn colored leather. But despite their unique dress and distinct facial features, they all embodied the same mantra of Bhutanese we encountered prior—”My People, My Country”—a warm greeting, big smile, and eagerness to help all sentient beings.
The Fox is Eating the Moon: The past couple of days we’ve been making our way back across Bhutan by car (yikes: I’d much rather trek and ride a bike). And as I am writing this blog post in the lobby of a hotel in Punakha, Nadick, the fixer for our film team, comes into the lobby and informs us that tonight is the night that the fox is eating the moon. He says that this is a special day and is celebrated by villagers coming out to bang pots and pans and yell and howl to try and scare away the fox that is eating the moon. I remember that tonight is the full moon, so as I’m chatting with him trying to get more information on what this “holiday” is all about, Tony rushes into the lobby and announces—”Come outside and check out the lunar eclipse!!”
Bingo. Fox is Eating the Moon = Lunar Eclipse. Perhaps the villagers noisy efforts were not in vain, since we only witnessed half of the fox eating extravaganza due to cloud cover…
Written by Terri Schneider
Finishing up writing this on a very bumpy car ride from Punakha to Thimphu.
Our last two days of this second big section of trekking took us up 4500 feet over Rodang La (pass) followed by a 7000 foot drop down an ancient trail built so that the first kings father could pass through. Our camp tonight is perched on a precipice, similar to most monasteries in Bhutan. I can see mountains in all directions and am glancing down into a deep river valley sprinkled with a small settlement far below.
The film team has decided to stay in Jakar to film for a couple of days and then hook into our current journey on Day 4. Tony was extremely ill when we took off from Tang Valley so he wisely opted to stay back as well then meet up with us along with the film team. Our much smaller group is traveling swiftly and easily and we are already 2 days ahead of schedule—which will allow us to hang at a Buddhist festival in Trashi Yangsi a bit longer.
Each night our hard working and cheerful army staff gather with us around a huge bonfire—3 westerners and several Bhutanese. We chat freely with our host from Bhutan Olympic Committee, Karma, who speaks English fluently, as well as interact through Karma with the other Bhutanese. We are all incessantly curious of each others cultures and lives and with our cumulative open minds our exchanges are rich and deep.
Each day I am seeing huge country—the kind that so poignantly causes one to feel minuscule (yet not)—while feeling the country through our tough physical endeavor and through the eyes of those who inhabit it. The Bhutanese revere their land. They also covet mutual respect, being humble, and supportive. They garnish enormous virtue in being of service. The land here is harsh, raw and beautiful and the people have yielded to it in their soft spiritual ways.
The sun just dropped below the mountains, causing the temperature to instantly plummet to quite chilly. Time for me to seek the fire, hot soup and the warmth of my new friends.
Since the above was jotted down just a couple days ago we’ve: been guided off trail through the dynamite blasts of road workers, by a villager who’s two children had recently drown in the river; moved through the land of the Yeti; took a cold plunge in the river; spotted 4 National Geographic wildlife cameras; rescued a trapped calf; extracted a tick from Greg’s arm; were thrown a party by local villagers; had our first sighting of villagers carving meat; witnessed power lines that are only 6 months old; nursed Greg back from fever and illness while jammed through several days of steep and visually stunning trekking; joined back up with the film team and with Tony; and pedaled an excruciating 2 hours of climbing on a bone jarring road with 22 switchbacks and that we labeled ‘Off Road L’Alp Duez’.
Four more days of trekking and one day of biking will bring us to a Buddhist Festival at the Dzong in Tashigang. My body desires to stop movement for a day but there is so much incredible land to cover here in Eastern Bhutan—through we are told we are setting breakneck speeds on foot, one does not move quickly nor in a straight line through Bhutan. We are camping tonight at an old monastery site at the top of a peak. Another warm fire with friends and party by the local villagers is anticipated.
There is an occasion when my mind wanders to all that I could be getting done back home. But only occasionally and for a fleeting moment. Because these current moments in their simplicity seem more precious than any I could conjure up. For right now, they are just perfect.
Written while perched a top a mountain in the village of Minji, Eastern Bhutan.
I started jotting down these thoughts several days ago while nestled in the ruins of a rock fortress at Jangotang camp in the eastern Himalaya range of Bhutan. Protected from the chilly mountain breeze by ancient crumpled drywall, I gazed directly up at 7,000 meter Jhomolhari peak outlined by the cobalt blue sky. As our “staff donkeys” gathered around to snack on grass and share my sunny spot, I reflected on the challenge and unique intimacy of our journey thus far.
Though our initial trek through the mountains of Bhutan with our film, expedition and Bhutanese teams plus 10 guest trekkers has been filled with deep and rich sharing, stealing away from the group for a solo moment on day four has been key for me.
After much discussion and meetings and at the suggestion of our host, His Royal Highness Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck (whom we had the honor of meeting on our first evening in Thimphu) our route had been changed from the standard Jhomolhari Trek to the Naro Six Pass Trek, the latter of which has never been done in total by tourist trekkers in Bhutan due to its difficulty. This trek involved eight days of hiking over high passes, 10-15 miles per day, and a total of 42,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.
Our first couple days we ascended through rain, mud, rocks, snow and wind to emerge into the crisp sunshine and my perfect view of Jhomolhari from 13,000 feet. We would trek and sleep between 13,000 and 16,500 feet for our journey, and within the pristine beauty the conversation, interactions, and shared reflections among our group were easily inspired to ride large and high. Five to eight hours of trekking each day at high altitude was followed by hearty meals of rice, vegetables, and various types of meat. With full tummies and ensconced in down in the cold night air, we’d either share song and dance around a bonfire or ponder the question as a group—what did you notice today?
With our group of motivated, successful, big thinking seekers, what did you notice today? evolved into what matters to you, what are you struggling with, or what is the meaning of life? Surrounded by the type of natural beauty that allows the head to clear, our group easily and immediately dove deep into these raised questions. The depth of connection that normally takes adult groups several days to attain, we achieved in seconds.
Thomas Ermacora, an urban planner, shared how engaging in nature at this magnitude has allowed him to realize an even deeper importance to creating living environments for humans that allow for the daily touching of nature. Nature not only feeds the soul, but the daily lives of satisfied humans, and being in this environment cemented that notion. Fueled by challenging and beautiful days of trekking, warm and open Thomas would continue to add nightly to our substantive discussion as time on the trail nurtured our peeling layers away.
Thomas’ partner and Grammy Award winning musician Imogen Heap and I shared repeated rich trail conversations surrounding the role of the strong, independent woman in today’s society. Imogen shared choices she’s made to build and maintain an authentic sense of self in an industry that can sweep one into oblivion. We discussed intimate relationships, the requirement to be passionate about our work, our childhoods that molded our current lives, marriage, and what it looks like to mute society’s standard view of woman and create one’s own. We were athlete and musician—from vastly different walks of life—sharing wildly similar views of the independent woman. Amen.
As terrain rolled by all inquiries continued to delve deeper and longer. As the dirt collected on our cold skin, each of us peeled layers of our psyche away—trusting, sharing, hugging, seeking—together.
But as the thick, substantive conversations now float in my head while we prep to leave tomorrow from Thimphu and head east on mountain bikes, one particular discussion of ‘What Matters’ sticks in my mind. Entrepreneur Joe Gatto, shared at one of our evening group chats a moment that he, Tony and I shared on the trail. The few of us had stopped to interact with a local mountain man. Joe spontaneously asked him, “Are you happy?”
“Oh yes, I am very happy,” declared the villager.
“What are you happy about today?” probed Joe.
“I ate!” he said with a large, warm grin.
Written by Terri Schneider
We've finally arrived. As we fly through the valleys and mountains on our descent into Paro, Bhutan it's clear we are in for the experience of a lifetime. The mountains, valleys, and rivers all come into view and seem to open their arms to our arrival. There is a significant sense of excitement and an emotional relevance that I've felt only a few times before in my life when I know that the journey ahead will give me an opportunity to get a glimpse of many things I haven't felt, seen, or ever experienced before.
The flight to Bhutan is easily one of the most magnificent flights anywhere. Almost immediately upon take-off you start getting views of snow-capped peaks almost level with the plane; Everest, Lhotse, the list goes on. As we descend into Bhutan through one of its many valleys surrounded by mountains a calm peace sets in. A significant change from the hectic pace and sounds of Kathmandu, Nepal. We are greeted gracefully into the Land of the Thunder Dragon. It's very clear after only a short time that the country and the people of Bhutan are special.
The first couple of days have been filled with meetings and preparation. We meet multiple times with our sponsor, The Bhutan Olympic Committee. They have been very gracious and supportive of our upcoming adventure. While meetings and preparation are our main focus before we fully start the expedition we've made one excursion into Paro to get a small initial glimpse of Bhutan. Paro is the entry point for all visitors flying into Bhutan and thus is a mixture of old and new. The new is the airport, the cell phone shops, the old is the dzongs, the monasteries, and the prayer wheels. The transition from old and new can be seen in the faces of the young and old.
Our journey is just beginning and we are realizing through our preparations and meetings that this is the first time anything of this type of magnitude has been undertaken in Bhutan. We are so gracious that we've been given this opportunity.
A couple more days of preparation and we take the next step, an unprecedented journey through the country of Bhutan. With the support of The Prince, His Royal Highness (HRH), who has taken great interest in our expedition, we begin our traverse of this great country called Bhutan.
There is a magic moment when the idea for an adventure project takes hold of you in a way that you begin to picture yourself in the dream. You begin to get your head around what it will take to make it happen and you fully commit your mind and heart and resources. For me, that moment is usually one specific instance when the idea shifts from out in the world and lodges itself deeply in my heart. I have always been curious when the commitment takes hold of other adventurers. As our team came together in Kathmandu and gathered each day for logistics meetings, I had the opportunity to ask them when the spark was ignited for each of them.
Listen in on the conversation.
This adventure became a priority for me, not only because of the incredible team, and the beautiful Kingdom of Bhutan, but because this adventure has a larger goal. The vision is to share the journey and to involve people in a conversation about the things that matter most: to the people of Bhutan, to us and to the world. Who wouldn’t want to tell this story?
– Candra Canning storyteller for Expedition Bhutan.
When does a project matter enough for you to get committed?
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Steve Jobs offered these final words of enlightenment at his commencement speech to the Stanford class of 2005—“Stay hungry and stay foolish”. Thanks for the poignant words to live (and die) by, Steve. And thanks for my gorgeous MacBook Air we’ll be using in remote Bhutan to upload satellite feeds of our journey. We’re on it.
Logistics are in place with our gracious hosts the Bhutan Olympic Committee, our 4-person Film Team is finalizing gear, TEDxThimphu is set for November 14, and we have a full contingent of guest Trekkers who will be joining us for “the inquiry” on the first leg of our journey through the northwest—including Emmy Award winning Imogen Heap. ‘The Lovely Hunger’ has been our driving force for this massive project—let the foolishness begin!
Both the Expedition Team and the Film Team will be heading out the last week in October. En route and via our 4 flight traveling extravaganza into Paro, Bhutan we’ll do a stop over in Kathmandu, Nepal for a few days. Hanging at a clubhouse sponsored by the American Alpine Club and run by The Mountain Fund—we’ll have just enough time to take in a bit of the excellent frenzy of that city and chill at the Kopan monastery, while letting all our gear catch up with us.
On November 1 in a once-a-day-weather-permitting, Druk Air flight we’ll head east along the southern edge of the Himalaya range before dropping into Bhutan—literally (it is a notorious landing). This passionate dream turned into 14 months of creation while my team of one grew to 10+ phenomenally talented people with a clear vision and driving inquiry. As Jobs can attest, being unrelentingly hungry gets results. Its refreshing to gather a bright crowd and head off to such a beautiful and remote part of the world. I couldn’t be more pleased with the possibilities of sharing our journey with you all.
Expedition Bhutan and our subsequent film is a marriage of high adventure and cultural inquiry. While the Bhutanese speakers at TEDxThimphu will be preparing and presenting on “What Matters”, we’ll take that inquiry into remote parts of Bhutan on a shared adventure with the geography and people of Bhutan. Shared with each other, with the camera, our 9 guest trekkers, and shared with you via satellite fed blog posts from the field.
In addition to last minute gear prep we are in the final stages of partnering with the companies that will be hosting our posts. We’ll get you their info prior to our departure so you can join us in Bhutan.
I’d like to toss in another thanks to James Fitzgerald, Candra Canning, Sonam Tshering and The Bhutan Olympic Committee, Yangki Tshering of Glimpses of Bhutan, Kinlei Wangchuk at Cafe Bhutan, and the hugely bright and hungry collective of our Film and Expedition Teams. Big power comes in a small group with unrelenting tenacity and a passionate collective vision. You’ve all rocked it huge!
I’ll check back in a week with info on where we’ll be blogging while in Bhutan…