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July 19, 2013 / A Mindful Traveler

Looking Without Seeing

Dawn on January 1, 2013

Dawn on January 1, 2013 seen from Phou Si, Luang Prabang

“He looks at me, but his eyes don’t see me.”

-Kristin Addis, author of Be My Travel Muse

Many of my best travel experiences have come when I found something I wasn’t looking for.  The quotation above reminded me I’ve experienced the same thing online.  In the process of trying to ascertain the safety of Copan Ruinas, Honduras I encountered Adam Pervez’s marvelous website Happiness Plunge.  It inspired me to begin blogging myself.  In searching for information about Wat Suan Mokkh’s ten-day retreat I encountered this helpful advice from Kristin Addis.

Intrigued, I opened her latest post, “Stoned, Drunk, and Drugged in Southeast Asia,” and found my eyes drawn to her literally bold-faced reminder that  “there’s a dark side to backpacking, but it seems that hardly anyone ever speaks about it.”   I’ve encountered the same connection that she has between backpacking and drinking (and sometimes recreational drug use) wherever I’ve traveled.  It’s unfortunate, particularly since my experience is that the isolated places where I’ve gone  to seek solitude tend to host a disproportionate amount of drug use because of the absence of a police presence.

Her words brought to mind this year’s first sunrise, which I watched from Phou Si (literally “holy mountain”), the hill at the heart of the ancient Lao city of Luang Prabang.  As I watched the Nam Khan River and the city’s eastern outskirts become visible, I heard a number of young men to my right slurring their speech.  As I walked past them to leave, I saw they had bottles of Beer Lao and were smoking (what, I’m not sure).  What remains with me, however, is what one of them said to the others as they posed for a photograph together, “You’re missing this.”



Leave a Comment
  1. Kristin Addis / Jul 22 2013 8:59 am

    I’m so glad that you found the wat suan mokkh post to be helpful. I promise, nobody there is drinking or doing drugs, or even drinking coffee!

    I love the ending: “You’re missing this.”

    So true. There’s definitely a time and place for partying and a spiritual location simply isn’t it.

  2. A Mindful Traveler / Jul 22 2013 1:54 pm

    Thank you for your kind words and wisdom Kristin. You capture so well the combination of people’s fascination with the spiritual and the sensual that makes Southeast Asia both a fascinating and frustrating place to travel in my experience.

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