We got back from Bhutan yesterday, and while we were immediately grateful for Japan’s efficiency, clean bathrooms, and the great food, we also felt detached from the world we came back to.
Though it was a mere two-week vacation, we feel like we’ve been gone for months. While we were gone, the dollar plunged to around 100 yen, Bear Stearns went bust, and a big riot broke out in Tibet. I realize now how truly disconnected we’ve been.
Before we went to Bhutan, we imagined a magical country and an equally amazing adventure. It was all that we hoped for, but we came back with much more. To answer the question, Patrick’s brother asked us — No, we did not come home as Buddhists. But I think we took something of the Bhutanese spirit back with us.
When we got home, Patrick took one look at his office, and said he wanted to clean it out because there was too much crap. This morning, when it rained, I thought about taking a taxi to work as I often do. But the thought that I would be spending the equivalent of a week’s salary for Chencho on a single ride stopped me from doing so. At the train station, I could have rushed to get on the train that was pulling up, but decided against running to catch it because I can just take the next train, and I would get to work eventually anyway.
I’m certain that as the days go by, we’ll be sucked back into our previous lives, but I hope we do hang onto some of the spirit and values that we took away from Bhutan. I used to think the idea of Gross National Happiness instead of GDP was amusing, but I think I understand it much better. If the little girl at the Bhumtang school asked me now whether I was happy, my answer would still be the same – yes, I am. But I would be more comfortable with my answer now that I have a better sense of why happiness might be all that matters when it comes down to it. As long as you try to do what you can to be happy then the little things won’t matter as much. Thinking about what makes one happy will also help you figure out what is most important to you. It’s not fundamentally different from my past outlook on life, but I’m definately more aware of it.
We may eventually forget a lot of the details about our time in Bhutan, but I think Patrick and I will wonder from time to time what Chencho, Ugyen, Rinzin and all the people we met are up to.