The Noble Path
One of the books I read while travelling is called A fortune teller told me. It tells the story of Italian born Tiziano Terzani, a journalist in Asia who decided to follow the advice of a fortune teller from Hong Kong, who told him not to fly for one whole year.
The commitment changed his work profoundly: suddenly he couldn't cover breaking news, wars and unexpected events anymore, as it would take too long to get to the episode's site. Beyond that, the experience changed his perspective about life, places and relationships with others.
As Tiziano, I spent 7 weeks travelling to all corners of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia overland, taking old buses, crossing rivers and seas on boats and feeling some adrenaline flowing while on the back of motorbikes and tuk-tuks.
The fact that every trip takes many hours really changes things. Our commonly accelerated pace slows down and we appreciate the diversity and beauty of the landscapes around us. As well, our contact and conversations with people go much beyond a 5 minutes weather talk, once we have time to build trust and ask deeper questions.
If I would highlight one learning from this trip, I guess it would be the 4th Buddhist Noble Truth, which is the concept of Magga (or Middle Path). According to Buddha's teachings, Magga is the path leading to the cessation of suffering, consisting neither of sensual indulgence nor self mortification - and I would dare to say neither of religious extremism nor lack of spirituality; neither of government control nor economic single mindfulness; neither of deprivation of simple comforts nor empty advertising of goods; neither of lazy nor workaholic routine; neither of passiveness nor forcefulness.
Still according to Buddha, this Noble Path reveals itself in 3 steps: ethical conduct, mental development and wisdom. In my case, there's one thing I'm positive about: observation and reconnection to nature has a central role for pursuing such path, as for me there's nothing as tested, complex and beautiful as the intricate harmony of millions of years of dynamic equilibrium and constant re-creation. And nothing as calming and self correcting as the smell of the forest, the sounds of the birds and the sight of the underwater life.
Boat going to floating markets, Thailand
Communal breakfast in the NGO, Cambodia
Buddhist Monk in Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Waterfall in Luang Prabang, Laos