Some of you may already be familiar with Travel with Metta, a non-commercial travel initiative I founded.
We propose atypical learning journeys to remote pockets of the globe – always hard to reach, always treasure troves of local wisdom and always completely worth the effort.
While I took a hiatus in 2013 to hone my craft as an experience maker and make it a point to explore destinations previously foreign to me, Travel with Metta is resurfacing this year with an experiential, culturally immersive journey to Spiti, nestled at the heart of the Indian Himalayan region.
The idea to put together small group experiences emerged when increasing numbers of friends and acquaintances asked to be included in my future travel plans. The places I visited were beautiful, they shared, but they were hard-pressed to find enthusiastic travel companions amongst their own friends and it seemed daunting to plan a trip like that on their own.
Creating run-of-the-mill itineraries was not something I was keen on, particularly since the destinations in question have so much more to offer than simply sights and attractions. Instead, I experimented with the content by embedding three broad themes into our programme: ethnographic travel, cross-cultural exchanges and global awareness. To quickly summarise:
1. Having been trained in the anthropology and ethnography of Southeast Asia, I understood that having prior knowledge of a destination can profoundly transform the way you experience it. With a grasp of the local context, however flimsy, you often find yourself able to add on layers of understanding with each interaction.
2. I also knew that I wanted participants to have time to engage in conversations and nurture friendships, allowing for meaningful cross-cultural exchanges that enrich both parties. While some have expressed that a 2-week long programme is too long, I do feel that slow travel is a necessary pre-requisite to building these connections.
3. Finally, living with a community that leads a way of life completely different from our own inevitably forces us to reflect on our place on the global stage. I wanted to facilitate personal journeys where travellers would find themselves drawing lessons from the experience and returning home to apply these to their own context.
The project is constantly evolving, adapting with each learning journey and the input of its diverse participants. As a consequence, this year’s is going to be a little different from the last.
However, at its essence, I’ve learnt that I want to create journeys that evoke personal discoveries and nurture a wonderment for diverse peoples and cultures, and that’s exactly what Travel with Metta’s journey to Spiti aims to achieve.