How we chose Bhutan

by Andrew Stein

We love debating our next destination.  Figuring out how to balance all that we might want out of a trip – adventure with culture, good food with new food, convenient timing with favorable weather, popular with obscure, and cityscapes with nature.  So why Bhutan?

We selfishly and semi-ironically want to see a culture untainted by the West while at the same time bring with us all of our ideals, clothes, tastes, and biases.  We want to visit a culture that still resembles how it might look if the influences of TV, media, super brands, and western fashion had never infiltrated.  We think we might come closer with Bhutan.

It’s a country that didn’t “modernize” until the 1960s.  A country that didn’t have TV until 1999.  A country that opened up its doors to foreign tourists in 1974, but even through today has very few come visit each year.  A country that believes in Gross National Happiness before Gross Domestic Product.  A country that is home to the highest unclimbed mountain.  A country with a capital city without a traffic light (they tried and took it away).  A country with a name that translates to “land of the thunder dragon.”  It’s impossible to be untouched by Westerners and for us to still be going, but without a McDonald’s or Starbucks, it at least comes close to having some of that authenticity we seek.

In addition, as it has been engrained in all Americans through the Declaration of Independence, I’m a little obsessed with the idea of the pursuit of happiness.  Bhutan, with its Gross National Happiness, is supposed to be incredibly happy.  Did they have to pursue it to get there?  Are they actually happy?  Does happiness mean the same thing across all cultures and languages?  These are just a few of the happiness-related questions I’d have.

And finally, it’s beautiful.  Nestled in the Himalayan mountains, no path will be flat, all will be either up or down.  Like the culture, the people, and their happiness, their terrain will be forever interesting.  We have so much to learn, live and love about Bhutan, and we look forward to exploring.