Myanmar, or Burma as it was known before 1989, is a nation in South East Asia with so many hidden wonders. Before I travelled to this country I knew very little about its people or culture. Myanmar felt like a well-kept secret, often overlooked by travelers preferring to go to more popular locations in Thailand or Vietnam. Upon arrival, I realized that I had stumbled upon a place so untouched by tourism that every aspect felt genuine and real. There is something wonderful about going to a place not many people have ventured to. Don’t get me wrong, some of the best places I have visited are some of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, but this trip to Myanmar felt different.
I decided to spend my time in this country at a monastery in the Sagaing region, outside of Mandalay, Myanmar. This monastery was secluded, quiet and felt like stepping back in time. I stayed in a small and quaint room with other visitors and every day we would be guided though meditation practices by an older Burmese monk. The way he would sit so still and serene was an inspiration to us all. I had never tried meditation before visiting Myanmar and it turned out to be the perfect country to explore this relaxing practice. It was difficult, far more difficult than I was expecting, but it allowed me to experience the true Burmese way of life.
* The main dome of the monastery I resided at *
Throughout my time in Myanmar and at the monastery I began to truly appreciate the situation I was in. I was only 19 at the time and so much of my life was focused on what the future was to hold. In Myanmar, I got the opportunity to be fully and completely present. I learned practices that I still use today to help me decompress and observe life in the now.
I find that when I am traveling, I feel the need to be so “on” all the time. I want to experience all I can, see all the best sights, and do as much as I can in the shortest amount of time. I think a lot of travelers feel this way too. My advice is to take the time to slow down. Do a meditation retreat, stay at a hotel where daily yoga is offered, go camp out in a secluded forest and just breathe for an afternoon. No matter where you go, find time for reflection. My time in Myanmar was not packed full of adventure but it gave me clarity and allowed me to immerse myself in the culture of the country, not just in the activities I could do there.
* I have left out the name of the monastery in this post due to the fact it is not a place that usually allows visitors. I went as a student while studying abroad and this specific trip was set up as a “one time educational thing” at this monastery. *