Then the end came into focus – only a short climb on foot up to the stunning Tiger’s Nest Monastery and this happiness journey would be considered complete. At last I was in Bhutan, it was International Day of Happiness, and I was at a place I had imagined being at for an incredibly long time. A personal triumph. . .then would come elation. . .then happiness. . .surely. . .as anticipated for all these months!!!
What does another’s triumph look like
It is not uncommon to look at another’s triumph and believe that it must have brought them unbridled happiness. Indeed, when we personally triumph, we may even wish to encourage others to believe that our achievement brought us happiness. Perhaps we only show the pictures where we were smiling and we keep the pain and struggle well hidden. We might end up stoking envy and giving people false conceptions of ourselves, which are unlikely to be beneficial to anyone’s happiness.
Should have stayed in bed
Over the last week as my journey about happiness came to fruition the tone of my blog posts and my social media updates were unmistakably triumphant. Whilst there was a lot of happiness, this happiness was at times slightly strained. I then went very quiet. I was experiencing a struggle and, in the face of jubilant responses to many of my updates, I couldn’t find a way to express myself – I was supposed to be happy, wasn’t I?
When I reached the foot of the Tiger’s Nest I was actually feeling completely exhausted. Maybe I should have stayed in bed that day.
I had briefly considered having a day of complete rest but since it was International Day of Happiness my mind was set on reaching the Tiger’s Nest that day. In fact, my mind was very much in charge, such that I was on my way to making a mistake I’ve made many times on this journey of not listening to the needs of my body.
It had been a long week. A major mechanical issue had brought a psychological challenge and put a question mark on me arriving to the Bhutanese border by bicycle on time. Then once in Bhutan there had been two back to back days, each with over 2000 metres of climbing. Though the scenery was spectacular I didn’t finish either ride until dark, and by then it was very cold. Amidst all the excitement, sleep had not been coming easily either.
Nevertheless, I made it up to the Tiger’s Nest – and unsurprisingly the elation didn’t come. As well as being exhausted I knew I had probably been full of anticipation for far too long. There was relief, knowing there would be no more cycling, and there was something of a calm, possibly on account of having no energy and being in nature.
The body eventually refused
I awoke the next day much too early. My throat hurt and my limbs ached. I should have stayed in bed, but then came some interest from the local media in my journey – TV, newspaper, and radio. It was very exciting, and also highly flattering. I decided again not to stay in bed anxious that there might not have been another opportunity.
Perhaps the next two days wouldn’t have been as difficult as they were had I taken rest sooner. Since a Bhutanese visa is not easy to obtain I wanted to make the most of my time in Bhutan, but I had to finally concede that the best use of my time was to stay in bed wrapped up in a warm duvet.
Of course there was happiness
This is not to say I didn’t experience some moments of pure delight in Bhutan. For example, getting my first glimpse of what were unmistakably Bhutanese mountains as I approached the border, when I was making some well-earned descents on my second day in Bhutan, the connections created with the Bhutanese I met along the way, a Bhutanese hot stone bath at the quaint farmhouse I stayed at after a long day cycling, and coming into contact with Bhutanese way of life ranging from their traditional clothing to their grand administrative buildings.
My personal struggle is of course no bearing on Bhutan as a place to visit. I will write more specifically about my experience in Bhutan and what I learnt about happiness beyond the personal process soon enough.
Authentic and honest
However, I want to be authentic and honest. I don’t want to delude others, nor myself, because in the long run I think it is better for happiness. There is often much more than we can ever know going on beneath the surface of another’s triumph. If we are not aware of that possibility, then we might easily become distracted from our own process – to doubt whether how we are feeling is how we should be feeling, for example.
We are humans – we all have ups and downs. The last few days for me have been quite a down, but it has uplifted me a little to share that authentically. Thank you. I hope it helps others too.
***I have since written and published a book about the journey to Bhutan on a bicycle. If you like what you’ve read here then consider buying A Journey For Happiness: The Man Who Cycled to Bhutan today.