We all travel for different reasons, but deep down I suspect that each of us is seeking something that we feel we don’t yet possess. It could be that our lives aren’t exciting enough. Or maybe we’re chasing adventure. Some of us run off in search of romance, perspective, or even danger.

So what is it that drives you? And how can you find what you’re searching for?

old wooden raft on a river in Cambodia
In search of something…

If you want a deeper connection to the world around you, look to the history and culture of the places you visit. Stories and legends rich in meaning are often found right under your feet. That busy sidewalk cafe may have been the site of an ancient battle that changed the course of history. That dirty ferry terminal may have been an 17th century trading port that brought clothes, jewels, and exotic spices to your ancestors.

You never know what you’ll uncover once you dig a little deeper. Then all of the sudden, everything springs to life. Everything feels so real.

Experiential Travel – In Search of Something Real

But not all those who wander find what they seek. This probably has a lot to do with the way travel has transformed over the years. Like many industries, travel is big business. It’s become commercialized, even in so-called “off the beaten path” locations. It’s difficult to immerse yourself in a culture when you’re surrounded by people who just got off the same tour bus as you. You’re all speaking the same the language. You’re all posting the same photos on Facebook.

So what’s a traveler to do?

There’s nothing wrong with staying on the beaten path. Angkor Wat attracts 2.5 million visitors per year. That’s a staggering 6,800 people per day! Now THAT is a seriously beaten path. But for those who have seen this wonder in person, you’ll understand why. It’s simply awe-inspiring. Even with the crowds.

Seeking a Deeper Connection in Myanmar

Take Myanmar for example. The country is by no means a tourism hub (although that may soon change), but it’s home to some stunning sites that have become very popular in recent years. The sublime scenery around Inle Lake may leave you speechless, but it’s also easy to see how you might come away a little disappointed. From the “authentic” crafts and jade jewelry, to the long-neck Kayan women who work in the shops, you can’t help but feel like the entire setup is all for show.

Floating village above Inle Lake, Shan State, Myanmar
Floating villages of Inle Lake

So is it possible to dig deeper? Can we find a real connection to the place, the people, and the culture?

Absolutely.

By exploring the legends and oral traditions of Myanmar, you’ll enjoy something that most people only dream about… a life-changing travel experience.

Hpaung Daw U Pagoda – Legend of King Alaungsithu

Hpaung Daw U Pagoda is home to 5 gilded Buddha images and is the most highly revered pagoda of Inle Lake. It’s believed that the images were brought to this area over 800 years ago by King Alaungsithu of Bagan.

Hpaung Daw U Pagoda of Inle Lake
Hpaung Daw U Pagoda of Inle Lake

The reign of Alaungsithu was prosperous. He was known for his kindness. He continued with the rapid construction of temples in Bagan that began with his grandfather. In fact, Alaungsithu built the tallest structure in the history of Bagan, Thatbyinnyu Temple which stands over 60 meters tall. Impressive by 12th century standards! And it still stands to this day.

But King Alaungsithu had trouble at home. The story goes that his eldest son and crown prince, Min Shin Saw, once refused to kneel before the queen. Another story says that this same son once stripped a robe from a royal attendant. The rebellious heir was imprisoned for these offenses, but eventually his sentence was reduced to life in exile. It was then that the second son, Narathu, was named heir to the throne.

Centuries-old temples of Bagan
Behold, Bagan in all its glory…

Some years later, King Alaungsithu got very sick. Narathu, eager to seize power, moved the king out of the palace and into a nearby temple. When the king recovered he was furious. How dare his own son push him aside so quickly? But unfortunately for King Alaungsithu, there wasn’t much time to vent. The ambitious heir wasted no time in ensuring that the king never made it back to the palace. He snuck into the temple and killed his father in cold blood.

Hearing of his father’s death, but not knowing about the murder, Min Shin Saw returned from exile to claim the throne. He was immediately consecrated as the new king upon arrival, but his reign was short-lived. Later that night he was poisoned by his murderous younger brother, Narathu.

So what became of the treacherous, Narathu? After executing both his father and brother, he went on to become King of Bagan in 1167. He eventually murdered his queen who was from a tributary kingdom in present-day Chin State along the Indian border. In 1171, the chief of that region sent 8 assassins disguised as Brahmin astrologers to avenge her death. Hiding swords beneath their robes, they gained access and killed Narathu in his very own palace. Legend has it that when the king’s guards realized what happened, every last one of them committed suicide.

Discover Your Own Authentic Experience

As travelers, we give up a lot in pursuit of an “authentic experience.” While on the road, many things are beyond our control. But as we search for… whatever it is that each of us is searching for, we always have the power to choose. We can’t control under what circumstances we’ll arrive at a destination, but we can control how we respond to those circumstances. We can control how we prepare for each journey. We can make the choice to expand our perspective in a way that allows for greater discovery. That’s where you’ll find the authentic travel experience.

Bagan landscape, temples as far as the eye can see
Imagine King Alaungsithu… 800 years ago…

Look back at Hpaung Daw U Pagoda now. Do you see it in the same way that you did before? Look at the surreal landscape of Bagan. Imagine it through the eyes of King Alaungsithu, just as he saw it 800 years ago…

What do you feel?

That’s what experiential travel is all about. It moves you. It stirs your emotions, even in the midst of a crowded tour bus.

Travel the World, Be Inspired

Experiential travel provides so many incredible opportunities. Not only do you see amazing places and meet great people, but you learn so much in the process. It broadens your perspective. But the deepest experiences rarely come from being a passive watcher. Don’t just sit back and accept the destination as it’s presented. Be active. Ask questions. Stay curious. Get out there and LEARN something that will revolutionize the way you see the destination… and yourself.

Remember, you’re traveling for a reason. You’re out in the world in search of… something. Don’t wait for that something to find you. Get out there and discover it for yourself. It’s waiting for you, if only you’ll look a little deeper.

Travel the world. Be inspired.

 

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