Page 14______________The Wilbraham-Hampden TIMES_______________ May 18, 2017
ARTS & LIFESTYLES
Wilbraham woman details life lessons through travels
By Tyler S. Witkop Staff Writer
Always fascinated with the Buddhist traditions of the Himalayas, Ellie Dias set out to explore the region for herself. Her trip of a lifetime, fraught with obstacles, became more than that all thanks to a simple suitcase. Her book, “Big Red: How I Learned Simplicity from a Suitcase,” details her experiences from that single trip taken in 2009. Alone, Dias toured Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet, and through struggles, learned the ultimate of life lessons: to live without. The Wilbraham author recently discussed her book with a gathering of friends at Cedar Ridge in town. Speaking to the book club, she explained that her experience and lessons came as a large result of over-packing her suitcase. “It didn’t hit me until after I sat down and read what I had written that I took 482 vitamins [with me],” Dias explained. Her suitcase, packed with everything she could possibly have needed on her journey, weighed a whopping 95 pounds. Dias related she blogged about her Himalayan trip and took a writing class through the Springfield Museums. Seeing what she wrote, she realized there were more than just words on a page but a real spiritual journey, with her suitcase, “Big Red,” as her biggest teacher. For Dias, the trip was a dream 30 years in the making. But in many ways it was a comedy of errors. “I had booked the trip with a travel agent in Utah,” she said. As time passed and she had not received trip itineraries, she learned the agency went bankrupt. Viewing it as an omen, “My husband didn’t want me to go … no one wanted me to go,” she added. Determined and with her vacation days set, she had no choice but to go alone. A self-described perfectionist, she explained she wanted nothing left to chance, packing everything she could’ve needed, from flip-flops to sun dresses and vitamins; frivolous items unnecessary for a hiking tour of the Himalayas. Alone, she would have to drag her luggage everywhere she went in a foreign land where she couldn’t speak the language. At every step, situations went awry. From being questioned by Chinese authorities, to losing luggage, and even being left alone atop an elephant by her guide who ran off with her camera. Among her greatest realizations was the devotion and dedication of the Buddhist pilgrims to their holy temples. “These pilgrims come from the high hills of the Himalayas,” she said, noting that their journeys can take as long as two years, trekking through the heat, snow, sleet, rain and any obstacle. Despite her trip’s challenges, Dias said she would like to go back, with less material possessions, particularly to see how much, if anything changed. Bhutan, she explained, is especially open with their Buddhist philosophies of love and appreciation toward all life. “It’s present even in their ecology,” she explained, “The environment is protected. I found it much more open and freeing.” Dias lives in Wilbraham with her husband Ron and dog Roxie. She is a devotee of the Buddhist philosophy and her career has been focused on women’s health and wellness issues. Her book is aimed at adult women and men who want to learn to let go of their attachment to things and find a deeper meaning in their life. “I wanted to be able to share the culture and that experience with readers,” she said. “It’s a beautiful thing to observe.”
Her book, published by Buddhapuss Ink, is available online at Amazon.com in both print and e-book format.
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