Imagine living in a country that did not have any traffic lights, where all tobacco products were illegal, and where it was forbidden to hunt, fish, or even climb extra-tall peaks (where spirits dwelled). Imagine a nation that kept itself closed off from the rest of the world for centuries just to protect its unique culture from outside influences. Now imagine a country that measured the well-being of its citizens not in dollars, cents, or in any other economic terms, but rather in happiness.
Well, welcome to Bhutan! A small, predominantly Buddhist nation in the Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is famous for the preservation of its pristine lands and traditional values, as well as in implementing the philosophy of Gross National Happiness (in contrast to Gross National Product) as the measurement of the country’s prosperity. In Bhutan, instead of high-rises and fast-food restaurants, Buddhist monasteries abound in the pristine mountainside amidst thick forests and flowing rivers. It is within this beautiful, peaceful, and somewhat mysterious country that we find Karma (not the philosophy—the man!).
Karma, a native of Bhutan, started his own tour company in the year 2000--the year that Bhutan legally liberalized tourism and began allowing travelers into the country. When asked why he decided to start a business leading tourist groups through his home, Karma disclosed, “I want to share our rich tradition and culture with the tourists who visit. I want to show them the Bhutanese people and our way of life.”
Karma is truly aptly named: his gentle spirit and fervent pursuit of gratitude in his life are evident in all who meet him. However, while he is deeply passionate about his country’s traditions and Buddhist values, Karma admits that growing up in Narphung, a remote farmer’s village in southeastern Bhutan, was not without its challenges. Karma learned hard work from an early age, working in the wheat fields and helping his parents on the farm, herding cattle and picking oranges from the orchard and selling them in the nearby shops. When Karma was young, there were no schools in the village where he and his family lived. Desperate for their son to have a proper education, Karma’s parents enrolled him in the nearest school: 65 kilometers from town. Since the school did not have boarding facilities, Karma had to stay alone in a small, bamboo hut near the school; it was there that he learned to cook and to care for himself. As he reflects on that time in his life, Karma divulges, “This time really made me be independent in my life.”
Today, Karma lives in Thimphu, the bustling capital city of Bhutan, with his beloved wife and five children. His admirable work ethic and love for his country and its culture has never diminished over the years. Yet, despite his hard work, Karma reveals that his greatest treasure in life is the harmony and peace that he has discovered through Buddhism and daily mediation. “My goals in life are more geared toward spiritualism than materialism. I would love to have a balanced business, spiritual, and family life.” His strong values are manifested in his work: Karma is deeply passionate and enthusiastic about sharing the Buddhist culture and the pristine natural environment of Bhutan with all the people with whom he comes into contact.
Let Karma show you around the mystical country of Bhutan, and it will be an experience you will treasure for a lifetime!