As I sit here nearing the end of my school year, I am planning my summer trip to Bhutan. My travels take me to the Vajrayana conference in Thimphu and then into the country side with my friend and guide, Namgay.
My goal this summer is to scout sites for my next student tour into the country. I am looking for appropriate home stays and talking to folks about ways to expand and enhance the student experience in Bhutan.
As you may have read, student’s experiences in Bhutan are remarkable. The people students meet are always interested in talking about their country and the U.S. While I’m not suggesting that somehow these experiences can’t be had in some other place, the particular experience for students in Bhutan is unique.
A student asked me a couple of weeks ago why I go back to the same places in Asia. She said, “With all of the world in front of you, why keep going back to Japan, Thailand, and Bhutan?” I thought about that idea for a minute and offered, “What I find, each time I travel to those places, is something new, something interesting, and something I can be a part of.” For me, visiting the whole world or having some kind of “bucket list” seems anathema to the whole idea of cultural exchange. I have been to a few places in the world, and I come back to these places because I’m interesting in digging in; in meeting people and being a part of a community (as much as you can in a short time). I also want students to realize that you don’t have to see every possible historical or cultural site in the world to gain an understanding of a people, a history, or culture.
So I’m headed back to Bhutan in July. This trip will be my first one on my own; without 20 students in tow and all of the planning that goes with it. I’ll let you know how the trip fares, what I learned (or didn’t learn) and where this all takes me. Maybe, what I find will be something completely new in a place I have seen many times.