“It’s the not the Destination, It’s the journey.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
I hear what you’re saying, Ralph. The journey is everything, got it. But what if the journey consists of sitting on a truckload of raw tapioca?
I’ve come to Eastern Thailand, along the Mekong River, to visit Wat Phu Tok, an amazing cave temple built into the side of rocky outcropping. Alas, there’s no bus that goes there, so I have to improvise. After an hour of holding out my thumb on the dusty roadway, I’m picked up by a local truck driver carrying a truckload of tapioca roots. If I want to see the temple, the only seating option is to climb into the back cab and sit myself down on a shifting, stinky, pile of tapioca roots. Which I promptly do.
The journey, itself, is happily uneventful. The tapioca pile moves around quite a bit, but at no time do I feel like I’m going to be thrown overboard, or buried underneath. The smell is pretty pungent though, somewhere between sugar and manure. But I’m a mission. I have a destination!
Eventually, I’m dropped off at the entrance of the temple. Needless to say, me and my clothes are not in the best condition to visit a holy place, but the monks don’t seem to care. When I ask if I can go explore the temple, they motion to a ladder and suggest I climb on up. Which I promptly do.
At nearly 1,200 feet in height, Wat Phu Tok is one scary temple. As you climb the 7 levels, corresponding to the Buddha’s seven levels of enlightenment, the path around the cliffs become more and more ramshackle. By level 6, it’s nothing more than a rickety wooden walkway hanging perilously to the mountain. The only break in the routine is a tiny meditation hall built into giant rock. It’s sort of a chicken and egg thing: which came first, the rock or the building?
I never quite make it to the enlightenment level, which is essentially the top of the hill and an area rife with poisonous snakes. But I do stop to take in the view of the jungle, and to contemplate the journey that got me here…a series of trains and buses from Bangkok…a tapioca truck express…and 6 levels of hair-raising walkways. A monks finally suggests it’s time for me to climb down. Which I promptly do.
The destination is great, but the journey is sensational. Thanks for the tip, Ralph.
(When was the last time your journey was better than your destination? When has the destination ever been as memorable as the journey? What if you stopped worrying about destinations at all and just stayed present during the journey of life?)