To celebrate my birthday, I asked my dearest friends to write me a letter which I read each day during my 40-day trip to Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand.
“Gross national happiness” is within you.
In our art tour in Bhutan, we visited an elementary school during their morning assembly. The students started chanting their morning prayer, then all of a sudden I was in tears. I didn’t understand a word, but it struck a chord in me.
Bhutan is an impossible dream, but when the timing is right, Bhutan will come to you. Being here to celebrate my orbit on earth was bound to happen. I am meant to be here. I am where I should be.
Humility & Generosity
I watched the sun rise and the sun set on top of a temple in Bagan, Myanmar. It was a breathtaking view, I was reminded of how lucky and grateful I am to be alive.
At an alms giving ceremony to the monks, I witnessed that there is no giver and no receiver, just giving and receiving.
“The moon is full, and so is my heart.”
In Luang Prabang, Laos, I stumbled upon a ceremony in one of the temples during the evening. It was Vesak or Buddha day, a holiday tradition observed by Buddhists. There were monks chanting and people holding candles, glowing beneath the moonlight – it was a mesmerizing sight.
On my journal I wrote – “Today is a present… Realization and inner transformation occured. Strength and power, remembered.”
I ended my journey in Thailand where I met a buddhist nun whom I sat next to inside a bus. She told me “Today can be your last day, today is gone Tomorrow, so smile and embrace the world.”
“The foot feels the foot when it touches the ground.”
In the countries I visited, I always had to remove my footwear to enter its sacred grounds. The weather was hot and humid, it felt like walking across burning coals, but what an experience it was to feel the earth under my feet. It kept me mindful. It kept me grounded.
Reading the orbit letters made me feel grounded as well. There were letters that made me smile, laugh and cry. There were things I’ve forgotten and was reminded of again, things that might be difficult to say, so it was better written. I am touched by how my friends and family sees me. I am reminded of the memories we shared, also how I’ve affected their lives in some ways. I am reminded that I’ve always been a happy and positive human being. Perhaps happiness then was more personal, but now it’s more about sharing this joy with others.
Coming to Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand felt like being home. I always see the Philippines in each country, I even look like a local. It felt familiar yet each experience was different. Every country I stayed in brought a lot of learnings and discoveries about myself and about the world.
I went on this journey empty, and now I’m full…
I realized that this is the best version of me so far. I am who I am today because of the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, the experiences I’ve been through, and because of these, I am the happiest person in this planet.
On this 40-day journey, I met travellers who asked me of my age not because I look it, but because as they say, of the wisdom I speak. So YES I am 40! I feel beautiful, I am at my happiest, and the best Jazel I can be.
* * * More detailed stories on Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos & Thailand coming soon.