Raw, Huge Land. Humble People.

Our last two days of this second big section of trekking took us up 4,500 feet over Rodang La (pass) followed by a 7,000 foot drop down an ancient trail built so that the first king’s 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.

Expedition Bhutan - Raw, Huge Land of Bhutan

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.

Expedition Bhutan - Humble People of Bhutan

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 whose two children had recently drowned 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’.

Expedition Bhutan - Raw, Huge Land of Bhutan

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.

Terri Schneider
Written while perched atop a mountain in the village of Minji, Eastern Bhutan.

Comments

  1. Joelle Dunnell says:

    I think it is great to have the opportunity to learn more about Bhutan with your pictures and blogs. I enjoy reading how humble the people are. According to Tourism Council of Bhutan, “Bhutan is a unique blend of the old and new. Here is a country that is slowly opening up to the modern world in a fine balance with its ancient traditions. Those fortunate enough to visit Bhutan describe it as a unique, deeply spiritual and mystical experience. This kingdom is an adventure like no other.”
    As more people discover Bhutan and want to visit the land, the Bhutan Government has restricted the level of tourist activity from the start. Since the government is aware of the environmental impact tourists can have on Bhutan’s unique and virtually unspoiled landscape and culture, it can be challenging to visit the country. There are regulations and heavy fees to visit Bhutan, creating a higher quality of tourism.
    Do you see any changes in the future to allow for mass tourism as the country becomes more modernized?
    I have enjoyed reading how you have crossed the country and interacted with the people. Your experience has changed the way I want to travel in the future, as I travel more I would like to trek or bike across a country, interacting with the local people. I would like the opportunity to learn about the culture and traditions from the people.
    You have helped broaden my thoughts of traveling.
    Joelle Dunnell
    San Jose State University

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  2. Kyle L says:

    Hey Terri,

    Again glad to see you guys are still ahead of schedule and getting through the trails so you can have some rest and fun once you get to the festival. Its also great to see that you are all stilll very willing to interact and speak with each other just like you have been saying from the beginning. The people there are so receptive to your presence, it makes it that much better of a trip to see people actually want you to be there and share their time with all of you.
    The only thing i can find damaging this welcoming atmosphere would be too many tourists coming to see the land and ruining the experience because you lose that feeling of intimacy with the people. So I just wonder, will mass-tourism to Bhutan begin to take away from the great experiences that you speak of, and will the great heart to heart talks be lost with larger groups?

    Your articles have made me look at these fantastic pictures, but as good as these pictures are, I cant even imagine the feeling that you get when looking off of these mountain tops. These pictures are what make me want to explore places of this nature, as you said, ” harsh, raw, and beautiful”. There are few places in the world have that description. It makes me change my mind, instead of traveling to a nice beach or a big city, instead travel to a place that is filled with culture, great sights, and great people.

    Kyle L
    SJSU

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  3. Kevin Kirkup says:

    hey team!

    I hope all is well . I know how horrible it can be to be sick and a trip and i hope the whole team is rested and feeling better!
    Without your team, many students would not know about the culture and lifestyle of Bhutanese people. I personally have learned so much through the blogs and pictures that you have provided.
    With the language barrier, are there a lot of things you wish you could ask the Bhutanese people? I know you translate through Karma, but was just wondering if you are getting ALL your questions answered?

    Mountain biking through Bhutan is a great idea and not many people choose to travel this way. I think riding a bike is the best way to travel because you are going slow enough to view items that you would otherwise not see in a car, but fast enough to travel in a timely manner.

    Also, i read about the Bhutanese women and how they are primarily the bread winner in remote villages. What types of things have you seen that make this statement true?
    Do Men in Bhutan work an 8 hour day?

    Have fun and safe travels!

    Kevin K
    SJSU

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  4. Amanda Benson says:

    Hey Terri and team!,
    I hope all is going well with your travels.
    I have done some research about Bhutan and according to a Bhutan website, “Recognizing the importance of environment, conservation of its rich biodiversity is one of its development paradigms. The government has assured of maintaining 60% of its forest resources for all times to come through the recently enacted law passed by the National Assembly. As of today, about 65% of the total land area is under forest cover and about 26% of the land area fall under the protected area. The protected area comprises of four parks that is designated as home for the wild life sanctuaries.” I think that it is nice to hear that Bhutan cares more about the environment than making money from tourism. How do you think we can get more areas to have this conservation method enacted? Most places are ruining lands in order to make more hotels and attractions to accommodate the increase of tourism.
    I enjoyed reading about your travels and about your interactions with the Bhutanese people. Most people who travel are there to just relax and not even get to know or help out the locals. The next time I travel I would like to help out the local communities by buying things such as food or little gifts made to help them out financially. I think that if most tourists did this then it could help alleviate the impacts that locals have to go through with the increase of tourism. Also I would like to learn more about the culture and traditions from the local people next time I travel. Hearing about your trip is very inspiring and I can’t wait to hear more!
    Have fun and be safe!
    Amanda Benson
    SJSU

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  5. Cree Daniels says:

    The previous post submitted by itself before letting my proof-read it. ;/

    Hi Team!

    I hope all is going well! I am happy to see that this trip is going very well. In my research, I’ve noticed that Bhutan isn’t as “advanced” as some people would say “the times call for”. Do you know if they have any plans to become more “industrialized” or “current” and also, what way do you think they can do that without losing their culture and sense of self?

    One thing that really stood out to me about this piece was when you said “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.” I always find myself doing that even when I am suppose to be relaxing and on vacation. Seeing this, you have inspired me to get out of that mindset and whenever I find myself there, just go back to the peace and tranquility that I am in. I have a hard time traveling because I do feel like I am being unproductive but I am happy that I am not the only one. You have inspired not only to actually “be there” in the moment but to also take in my surroundings and be aware. If I feel like writing, to write about my trip and the beautiful things that I see – not check my emails and reply to work or write a paper for school. Being in the moment is something that a lot of the people in my generation (and previous) forget because we are always on the go looking for the next best thing. We forget to slow down and treat ourselves every now and again and we forget that our body needs experiences like these and rest.

    Please continue to be in the moment and share those moments with the people that forget what it peace and perfect tranquility feels like

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  6. Anthony Mogannam says:

    Terri,
    Since you have traveled to many countries around the world, have you noticed anything specifically different about Bhutan? I ask this because it is known that Bhutan is not very keen on allowing visitors into their country. Have you seen or experienced anything that implies where the money paid to enter the country is going or what it’s doing?
    I recently read an article online written by a person who visited Bhutan for the specific purpose of visiting monasteries. He claimed that his group was only permitted into the main square in all the monasteries and that they were not allowed further into the premises of any of the ones visited. At one point he stated that he had obtained a permit to enter through the whole monastery but was still denied access. Have you experienced anything like this on your current trip?
    On a side note: I recently went on a fantastic 3 day backpack trip through big sur. I am not the athletic or adventurous type and probably would not have gone on the trip to begin with if I had not been following your excursion through Bhutan. Even though I would say my trip was grueling (to say the least) the 20 miles I hiked in one weekend does not stand a chance against what you guys are doing over there.

    “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.”

    Although my body was practically giving up on my towards the end of the trip, I can only imagine the fatigue you must be feeling on your excursion. All I can say is that it was that grueling painful feeling that makes the trip more enjoyable to look back on. Just to know that I crossed mountains and raging rivers is enough to keep me happy for a long time.
    I feel as though I can really relate with you guys.

    Thanks for everything!

    Anthony Mogannam
    San Jose State University

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  7. Ricky Davis says:

    You all have been traveling thru Bhutan for a while now, from what I can tell about their culture is very respectful. From this quote “We are all incessantly curious of each others cultures and lives and with our cumulative open minds our exchanges are rich and deep” within your conversations around the bonfires. Have you noticed a difference in the level of respect has it grown, and in what ways it has grown? What affects have you had on them and what effects have you seen in yourselves? I know from personal experiences where I stayed in Scotland with a family of five, in their home. They truly affected me and changed my opinion of foreigner’s and they said I changed their thoughts of American’s. This was only a week for me and it truly changed my outlook. You have been with your host’s a lot longer and on a much deeper level. I can only hope that someday I will be able to travel abroad and have experiences like you are. One final question Do you feel that you will be in contact with any of your host’s from Bhutan, and would you recommend this type of travel to others? Maybe not the extreme activities but the getting to know the host’s and the culture exchanges with them. I can only imagine how amazing the exchanges are for you especially in the back country.
    Thank You
    Ricky Davis,
    SJSU

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  8. EJ Baluyot says:

    Hello Team,
    I love how all of you are motivated and passionate about your expedition through Bhutan. All of you are enduring through so much, but continue to push through every single day. I truly all of your hard work and dedication.
    I have read that in Bhutan’s beautiful scenery includes 2,500 mountain lakes, 300 medicinal plants, various shrubs, 40 species of orchids, and 770 species of birds. With all of this beautiful types of wildlife I am sure you all have had your share of seeing some of the natural beauty of Bhutan. I am curious to know what wildlife image will you remember most from your expedition? And how do you intend to expand the awareness to those that are not following your amazing journey.
    The way you are biking and trekking through Bhutan just wants make want to trek through a foreign country that I have never been to before. The way you are traveling through Bhutan will make me want to learn more about the culture of a country I were to visit. If I were to travel through a country, I most certainly want to interact with people and know what their daily lives is like.

    Again I am truly amazed by all of your hard work and cannot wait for your next post!

    EJ Baluyot
    SJSU

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  9. Lizandra Santos says:

    Hello Terri,
    As I follow your posts and keep track of the pictures it is apparent that Bhutan is a wonderful place. The camping at an old monastery site and the warm fire with friends you mention in your post makes me want to travel. I feel that usually when I travel I stick to the routine book a hotel, pay the bus tours, take pictures, go back home. I see that there is more to travel, especially eco-tourism, that I want to explore. Get to know the land and culture of the people better. This voyage your team is taking has sparked a desire to travel to Bhutan someday. Now I did some research on Bhutan and found some interesting information which has not been mentioned in you blog. I was wondering if you have encountered this in your trip. According to the U.S. Department of State Consular Affair Bhutan has very little crime, majority is petty crime, such as pick-pocketing and purse snatching. It does not state in the website where the petty crime is committed but one can assume it occurs in tourist location. With this information I question how Bhutan plans to prevent theft as more tourist come into the country. Have you seen crime in Bhutan? Are there even prisons in Bhutan?
    Thank You for your time
    Lizandra Santos
    SJSU Student

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  10. Emily Law says:

    As I read through all of the blog posts I am struck by how seemingly well balanced the country of Bhutan is becoming . You speak of the way you see the pride these people take in their heritage as well as how welcoming they are of guests and travelers. Thinking along these lines this quote spoke to me “were thrown a party by local villagers; had our first sighting of villagers carving meat; witnessed power lines that are only 6 months old”. Your are immersed in the local culture and while the people of Bhutan are not abandoning their heritage simply because they now possibly have electricity running to their homes they are not entirely shunning modernization either. This inspires me to travel differently because it shows that through reverence of the past one can maintain the richness of their future. All too often when foreign tourism comes into a culture the culture is for all intense of purposes commercialized. Take the Hawaiian people for example, they had a rich culture of dancing language, and music and though these traditions are still taught to the children all too often however if is a watered gown digestible show for tourism. As you are trekking through Bhutan I find it lovely that though this country and culture allows tourism they are focused and maintaining the true meaning behind traditions. Doing them because it honors their culture and ancestors and not because tourists are coming to pay to see you do them. your trip inspires me to, when I travel, to find a authentic experience in order to encourage the maintenance of traditions.

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  11. Dan Chilcott says:

    Hi Terri,

    From looking at all of these pictures day by day it seems like your enjoying yourself. It looks like an amazing place to be and explore. That’s great that your ahead of schedule but its a bummer that Tony is ill. “Off Road L’Alp Duez” sounds like a fun trail to hike on. It seems dangerous but exciting.

    To me this is a country that is free with their mind and spirit. They think on what their heart tells them to do. I really envy the community there and how supportive they are to you and their land. According to National Geographic, “Bhutan is the first country in the world with specific constitutional obligations on its people to protect the environment. Among its requirements: At least 60 percent of the nation must remain under forest cover at all times.” I really cherish that they do that do their environment.
    The way that you travel from biking, hiking or trekking is something that always caught my attention. Also that you get to stop to see some exciting festivals that go one is something really cool. I wish I can be able to travel like that someday when I’m older.
    Thank you for all of the blogs and hope to hear from you soon.

    Good Luck
    Dan Chilcott
    SJSU Student

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  12. Melanie Noble says:

    I love reading your blog posts and looking at the beautiful scenery of Bhutan. I’m glad to hear that the trip is progressing as hoped and that everyone is well, for the most part. Ever since I first heard of the plans for this expedition and discussed it in our ecotourism class I have been wanting to know more about this tiny country that I had admittedly never heard of before. I know that Bhutan has an agrarian based economy, but I have also been reading that the country is starting to modernize and that tourism is contributing more and more revenue to the economy. I am curious to know how the Bhutanese people feel about modernizing and how open they are to all the changes that it will bring. Also, I think it would be really interesting to see how the government will go about developing the country since the Bhutanese have so much respect for the land I can only hope they go about it in an environmentally friendly way.
    I think the biggest thing that I take away from learning about this expedition is how important it is to connect with other people while traveling. And also that we can learn so much from different cultures if we are open to new experiences and ways of thinking. Sometimes it is difficult to travel in such a green way like how you and your team have gone about it, but I will definitely be more open to new cultures when I travel, and try not to judge their beliefs and ideas simply because they don’t line up with how I view the world. I wish you all the best on the rest of your journey.

    Melanie Noble
    San Jose State University

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  13. Jessica Friedman says:

    Hello Terri,

    The way you have described the people, scenery and raw feel of Bhutan makes me want to visit someday. I love traveling and seeing new places, watching people live their lives and wondering how different their world is from mine.

    I never thought of seeing the world from something besides the window of a car. I think traveling so far on foot and bike is such a wonderful thing. I imagine you feel so much more connected to the world and the culture. A car has a physical barrier, making more like watching something on television than real life.

    I have been reading about the environment out there (my main purpose for traveling anywhere). I cannot believe the richness and biodiversity. After learning in our ecotourism class about native people and their lack of understanding of the effects of global warming or deforestation in the world makes me wonder if the people of Bhutan know what’s going on in the world.

    It feels like it would change so much knowing how much pollution is being created by places like America and China and what it will do to Bhutan’s biodiversity. The Convention on Biological Diversity (http://www.cbd.int/countries/profile.shtml?country=bt#status) discusses how many of Bhutan’s protected areas (roughly 35% of the land including corridors) has communities living in and around them, dependant on their resources.

    I wonder how scientists feel speaking to people like the Bhutanese who live on farms about global warming or deforestation. The Bhutanese are not the cause of the problem, but they can help protect their world from corruption. It doesn’t seem fair.

    I will do my best to make small changes. Biking more in my travels will be a fun way to start.

    Thank you for your insights.

    Jessica Friedman
    SJSU

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  14. Ariel B says:

    Hi Terri and Team!

    It’s great to hear about another leg of your journey! I find it so interesting to read the new posts every week and see what you all have been up to. I love that you are so candid about your journey. You tell us about your team getting sick or pulling a tick out of one person. It’s good to hear about those things too because it makes it more real for us back home reading on a computer. It’s funny how you saw some National Geographic cameras because I love those magazines.

    On another note, it’s so exciting to hear you are ahead of schedule and I can’t wait to hear about the festival! You are all so lucky to be gaining these experiences and sounds like you are learning a lot from the Bhutanese, as are they from you. It really makes me think about past trips I have taken. From now on I will really try to learn something new and interact with the people who live where I am traveling. It makes for a more rewarding and satisfying trip.

    Good luck to you all and can’t wait to hear what happens next!

    Ariel B

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  15. Hei Man L says:

    I see Bhutan is becoming a more and more popular tourist destination, even though I have never heard of the place until this semester through the class. We were at a hunger banquet this past Saturday and one of the guys who talked spoke about going to Bhutan earlier this year too. Since it seems to be getting more and more popular, how do you see Bhutan growing or adapting to mass tourism 5-10 years down the road? Everything seems very small and narrow and doesn’t seem fit for many people to come all at once.

    The last blog post I read and this one also mentioned Tony being extremely ill. I think if I ever traveled that far or to Bhutan, I would make sure that I keep my health in check and be more prepared with medications. I certainly wouldn’t want to miss out on the adventure because I’m terribly sick. Thanks for your consistent blogging!

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  16. Matthew Araujo says:

    The visualizations do not do this land justice. Here in the states individuals are very inconsiderate towards one another. It seems the opposite in Bhutan, where everything is lush and natural, contrasting with the man-made artificial environment that we have here. While Americans make the land exactly what they want and are forceful in that way it was beautifully worded that the native people of Bhutan rather than manipulating the land “yielded to it in their soft spiritual ways”.

    As this land teaches you so many new and interesting things, it is great to read about your contributions back to it. Saving wild life among other things is where true ecotourism comes into play. Leave no trace is simple, but to leave the land better than you found it is much more exciting and meaningful.

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  17. Allison T says:

    In the year 2010, Bhutan exceeded its goal of having 35,000 tourists by 17% and received 40,873 instead. That year, there were 7,481 jobs that directly correlate with tourism and approximately 11,000 indirect jobs that indirectly correlate with tourism (restaurants, taxis, small businesses…). This meant that 2,600 jobs were created in or around tourism in the year 2010. The largest job sector in Bhutan is in agriculture. (All data found on the Bhutan Tourism website). In many countries where mass tourism takes place, jobs created by tourism for the local people are low-end jobs with little or no room to grow into management positions. My two questions are, based on your observations during your travels are: do you find that those employed directly or indirectly within the tourism market to be low-end jobs, or is there room for the locals to gain advanced positions? And, do you feel that those employed in this industry have a better quality of life and chance to advance their station in life than their agricultural counterparts?
    During your travels, it appears that many decisions you have made are affected by what the local people deem important rather than what you all initially would have wanted to do. I think, when traveling, it is important to understand the local people and what is important to them. This will provide the traveler with a much richer experience and deeper understanding of the place being visited. When I travel next, I would love to be flexible enough to see my destination through the eyes of the local people, as you all seem to be trying to do.

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  18. Monica says:

    First off, I hope Tony is feeling better. The Buddhist Festival should be fun. What an amazing adventure you and your team have been on. All of the pictures are awesome. It seems like you and your team get to see quite a bit by trekking and biking. It’s a low-impact way to travel and you get to stop and meet the people. Have you seen any of the Bhutanese archery yet? Being their national sport, I’ve read that villages hold competitions regularly. I’ve always been fascinated by the sport but it seems like their competitions are a little different than those held during the Olympics.

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  19. Vicky Guan says:

    The economy of Bhutan, one of the world’s smallest and least developed, is based on agriculture and forestry, which provide the main livelihood for more than 60% of the population. All the people of Bhutan are deeply dependent on the crops that they grow. If mass tourism were to expand in Bhutan, it would be very difficult for Bhutan to hold up the demand. Even though there is a tariff charge of up to $200 per day of stay in Bhutan, it is unknown whether this money actually flows back to the local people. Even if this money helps the people of Bhutan, it does not help with their agriculture nor does it speed the crops to grow faster so there are more food for people to eat.

    The main goal of ecotourism is for tourist to travel to places not to take away from the local community, but give an opportunity for the locals to pursue a better life thus benefitting the tourists and the locals.

    Your experience had inspired me to think differently about traveling, “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.” How often do tourists actually connect with people that you did not travel with so well that they can call them their “friends”? It is truly amazing how genuine your friendship is established with the local people. Although they are so different from you but because you simply care about their well-being, and in return you receive the same care and kindness back from them. When I chose my next travel destination, I will think about my impact towards the local and how I can achieve what you have in this expedition.

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  20. Julianna Smith says:

    Reading this blog has prompted me to do some research on my own about Bhutan. The ethnic diversity that is there must be so interesting wherever you travel there must always be more new culture to learn about and witness. For me, that would be one of the coolest parts interacting with the local people and learning about their way of life. From reading the blogs it seems that your group is doing a lot of that. It has made me wonder though, has there been any impact on the culture and ways of life for the people of Bhutan because of tourism?
    All the pictures and experiences you talk about have made me want to travel. Yet I want to travel and really get to know the culture and experience it through the eyes of the people living there. You guys have really been able to talk to the people ask questions and interact which is really great and I believe it is something that a lot of people miss out on when traveling.
    Keep it up!

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  21. Scott Lueke says:

    Hello Terri and team! Thanks for the detailed update. The excitement does not appear to have slowed down, and neither has the learning experience of the Bhutanese land and culture.

    One interesting thing that I learned through reading about Bhutan’s tourism policies is that a significant number of people have found employment from tourism as guides, cooks, transport operators, as well as hotel and restaurant owners. How much of this aspect of Bhutan have you seen during your visit? Have you noticed the local people benefitting financially from the visitors in their country? This is an important part of ecotourism, having benefits to the local communities as well as the visitors.

    This journey of yours will inspire me to be more conscious of participating in responsible and sustainable tourism in my future travels. I would also love to learn more about cultures in the destinations I eventually visit. I enjoyed this quote from your posting, “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.” This is an example of a rewarding experience through learning about the land and culture that you visit. It is fascinating to learn about the Bhutanese people and their connection to their homeland.

    Keep up the great work!

    Scott Lueke
    SJSU

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  22. Phil Sharp says:

    Bhutan has increased its trade with other countries recently, mainly opening its borders to India. Bhutan has also changed into a democracy from an absolute monarchy in recent years. Although massive changes to the country of Bhutan have occurred lately, Bhutan has consciously adopted a controlled tourism and development policy. This has been set in place to keep the number of tourist down thus thwarting mass tourism and a cultural drain. Will this controlled tourism and development policy be enough to keep Bhutan and its people in their serene state? Will the policy even stay in place for long with the vast changes taking place with how the country is run? I hope things don’t get ruined in Bhutan. I love they way this expedition has unfolded. I am encouraged to travel differently based on how much this expedition has focused on a relationship with the local people. “We are all incessantly curious of each others cultures and lives and with our cumulative open minds our exchanges are rich and deep.” I plan to take this type of focus on the people whose homeland I am visiting with me when I travel in the future. Because of your experiences, I will travel differently by spending time to meet locals and exchange beliefs and cultures.

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  23. Juliette says:

    After researching a bit about tourism in Bhutan I learned from the Tourism Council of Bhutan’s Bi-annual newsletter that soon a website will be created. This will bring resort and tourist destinations onto the world wide web. I believe this will be both positive and negative for the culture of Bhutan. People all over the world will become more familiar with the beauty Bhutan has to offer, however will resorts and companies jump at the opportunity to possibly exploit such beauty? The Royal Government of Bhutan sets a minimum selling price for packages to Bhutan and these travel packages must be paid for in U.S. dollars and prior to the arrival of the tourists. Such restrictions help to control the over flow of tourists. At first I thought such rules and regulations were a bit drastic but after learning about the negative effects mass tourism can have on countries big and small I can understand why such restrictions would be put in place. However now that Bhutan is creating a new niche in the tourism industry by creating a website will these restrictions still be held? Will the restrictions change and possibly negatively effect the people and culture of Bhutan? I am also curious about the company working with Bhutan to help set up this website, if they understand the possible negative impact mass tourism could have on Bhutan? And if the website will market the fact that tourists are limited in how they enter Bhutan and what it means to travel to Bhutan.
    Reading about the travels of the team on foot and by bike is very inspiring. I have been camping plenty of times but I have never been backpacking. I have never on foot traveled to a location to camp out. I think this type of travel would be new and fun for me and I hope to start with something as small and simple. Trekking across a country on foot is something I cannot even imagine taking part in. Maybe one day, but for now I would like to try backpacking at least! Maybe a bike trip!
    Juliette
    SJSU

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  24. Victoria Scoville says:

    Hey Guys!

    Reading your blog entries have really intrigued me to research more about Bhutan tourism. On the tourism Council of Bhutan, they encourage biking, hiking, rafting, attending festivals, and bird watching. Since you guys are on this journey, have anyone from Bhutan or visiting Bhutan joined along in your adventure? It seems that the people are very happy to welcome whoever wants to visit. The pictures here look amazing, but I am sure in real life the visual pictures are mind-blowing.

    Being able to follow your journey, is mesmerizing because of how you are traveling. I appreciate you guys really getting to know the locals. Something I want to change when I am traveling is to actually take time to actually observe my surroundings. I want to learn about their culture, and actually have conversation with these people. The locals must be ecstatic to join in conversation with people out of country!

    Enjoy the festival friends.

    Victoria
    SJSU

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  25. Kelly Jamello says:

    Hey there Terri,
    It is so hard for me to imagine how magnificent it must be to be there. The breathtaking views and amazing cultural learning must be just endless. I enjoy hearing about the interaction between you and the amazing Bhutanese people. When you stated that, “We are all incessantly curious of each other’s cultures and lives and with our cumulative open minds our exchanges are rich and deep”, it just gives me so much insight on how life changing this experience is on both sides. The fact that you are opening this up for us to see here is just so pivotal in helping the world see how magical and peaceful life should and could be. I also think that the people of Bhutan are learning so much from you guys and you are truly enriching their lives also.
    The fact that you all have been traveling so intensely and are only now starting to feel it a little bit, challenges your readers. You continue to further convince us that the mind and body are much more resilient than we could ever imagine. I love that the people of Bhutan are also feeling very welcomed and wanting to share so much with you guys. This says a lot about the way in which you guys are going about this expedition. I think that sometimes people can go into an unknown place and do the same trip that you guys are doing, but if they hadn’t treated the people, land, experience and self reflection in such a significant way, there is just no way that such a magical outcome could happen. I think that this trip is truly going to open doors for so many Bhutanese people and their culture, but I also know that you have enriched many people’s lives all over who are following your trip.
    Your ending sentence is most likely the most important piece that I will be taking from this week’s post. When you say “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”. This quote is something that I know I am going to strive for and work towards throughout my life and hopefully help those around me see also. I hope that you guys have a safe and fantastic week! Thank you again for enriching so many lives.
    Kelly Jamello

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  26. Steven B says:

    Based on my own personal adventures, I have a question about your friend Tony. Was this one of the hardest parts of the journey, to leave one of the members behind? When I climbed Mt. Shasta I was with 4 of my 6 brothers and we made a pact before we started up to the peak at 4am that if one person couldn’t make it then we would all turn back. I realize that it is a very different situation in your case but I was reminded of this as I struggled to begin the climb and almost felt like turning back but with the help of my brothers I was able to gain the mental strength to go on and we made it to the peak which was one of the most rewarding accomplishments I have ever done.
    That was just my original thought to this blog post and I know that it is very different with a crew to be there and help with a sick member. My thoughts go out to you Tony and I hope you feel well enough to finish the journey.

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  27. Kyle – Bhutan regulates tourism well – limiting the numbers coming through. We saw very few westerners on our journey – for days and weeks we’d seen none. My hope is that they continue to regulate in a way that keeps the experience intimate for all.
    Kevin – I see men and women working hard in Bhutan – their tasks just look different. The language barrier has not been a huge problem. A lot can be communicated non verbally.
    Amanda – its best to help locals out by giving them a job them paying them. Not with just hand outs unless you are offering a gift. Bhutanese do not take gifts easily but they will work for a wage and take pride in their work.
    Cree – Bhutan has a challenge ahead – to maintain their traditional culture while integrating a more urban world. I think they can do it, but it will be challenging. Yes, be in the moment – work for this – its worth the reflective time.
    Anthony – what I have seen that is unique is that people don’t beg, there are no homeless and they help each other at all times. They are cheerful and happy despite hardships of life. Great to hear you are out backpacking!
    Ricky – Yes the people here have affected me greatly. I will be back here for sure and have made friends that I will keep forever. They are unique and authentic – that is tough to find in this world.
    EJ – I’m not certain I can pick one thing that stands out visually. There are so many poignant moments and places we’ve seen….
    Lizandra – we have not encountered any crime here. We have not seen prisons. They do have crime but it is on such a small scale compared to what we encounter back home. There seems to be a respect and intimacy with the people that may compel them to not commit crimes. I’m not certain on this but it would be interesting to look into.
    Emily and All – yes, travel and get off the beaten path – only then will you see the world as it truly is. Tourist attraction are nice but rural areas of a country are real.
    Dan – there is an enormous amount of work here done to protect the environment – signage is everywhere on this – it s a part of their country “mission statement”.

    More comments to come – gotta run now! – Terri

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  28. Lindsay Catalano says:

    Hello again!
    Since I have started following what you and your group has been doing I have been amazed. I believe that you are getting an experience that every human deserves! Now that it is almost over I have to tell you how I have enjoyed reading all of your posts about Bhutan and everything that you have learned. I have learned from you that some of the smallest things can be the most beautiful things. When you said
    “I can see mountains in all directions and am glancing down into a deep river valley sprinkled with a small settlement far below.” I wanted to be where you were. You seem relaxed and completely content with what you have been doing. This post has inspired me because you have been seeing difficult things in Bhutan like villagers that have not been that fortunate in life but still they have been throwing parties for you and much more. Your efforts have made me feel like I need to explore more in my life. You have definitely made me feel that there is SO much to see in this world and people need to start traveling now! In my own life I have decided to plan a trip for somewhere that I want to see when i graduate. To relax and just enjoy where I am. Enjoy the rest of your trip I will be reading all of your blogs!
    Lindsay Catalano

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