“Be Prepared” ~ Boy Scout motto

When I received the three separate ten-page documents about what to expect and what to bring on my adventure in Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet, I had my work cut out for me. I approached this trip with a level of preparation appropriate for taking the bar exam. After reading countless guidebooks cover-to-cover, I made long to-do lists, reviewing and revising them many times over. I was confident my trip of a lifetime would be smooth sailing from start to finish. Or so I thought.

My immediate focus was on clothing. I had twenty-two days to pack for, and I attempted to have a different outfit for each day. Where most people would simply pack jeans and t-shirts for parts of Asia not known for resort wear, I bought an array of capri pants with matching tops, colorful scarves, and sundresses with coordinating hats, along with five pairs of the cutest sandals and two pairs of fashionable sneakers. Although I read it, I paid no attention to the what to bring section of the travel agent’s documents, which emphasized the following: Do not bring delicate clothes. Comfortable, practical clothes are essential. Footwear should be durable, supportive, and comfortable. The most important sentence of all, the lighter you pack, the better, would come back to bite me in the ass, again and again.

On my packing list were medications and nutritional supplements. I take eighteen different supplements on a daily basis plus several prescription drugs. Together that came to a staggering 484 pills. Looking back, I wonder who in their right mind takes that many pills, let alone takes them on a trip? Wouldn’t a multivitamin suffice?

I packed all the usual items such as deodorant and toothpaste and then added a new loofa to accompany my favorite shower gel and lotion, a small bottle of Woolite to hand wash my delicates, and a Waterpik. Never can tell when you might need a Waterpik in the jungle. Big Red was filled with everything but the kitchen sink—stuff that no one bound for the farms and jungles of the Himalayas will ever need. Suitcase ready? Check.

It didn’t register that I somehow missed the essence of the minimalist nature of Buddhism. In hindsight, I became an oxymoron of sorts—some would say leave the oxy out. I was intent on packing and carting all my must haves while forgetting the purpose of my journey: to free myself from my Western attached way of being. I neglected to practice what the Buddha meant about clinging and attachment as an impediment to spiritual freedom. If I had, I might have packed a hell of a lot lighter. Instead, my stuff weighed me down, becoming just another ball and chain to contend with. Only this time halfway around the world.