I had a day to myself in and it was perfection.
When it looks like you’re a woman traveling alone, people in Bhutan are excessively kind. Pema, one of the women who works in the hotel dining room, greets me warmly and makes special eggs for me with chilies.
My group was arriving tonight, and I got to be completely on my own. Chador — the best guide I’ve ever had — said “take the bike and ride where you want to today.”
I need the silence and the solitude and I had a blissful day. I drank tea looking over the valley after breakfast, read for a while in the shade, walked down to town to drink a good coffee and quell the knotted headache of caffeine withdrawal that woke me up in the night. Watched the street and savoured a land with absolutely zero electronic noise pollution — no TVs or music as a backdrop to public life, just people gently going about their business.
My soul needs this silence.
Then I got on my bike — a fat-tired heavy mountain bike — and rode to the end of the Paro valley road, gently uphill for about an hour. I passed the mythical Tigers Nest monastery perched up above the valley, heading for a dzong on a hill at the end of the road. Everyone I passed smiled hello.
I pushed the heavy bike up the path to the old stone steps, then climbed up. Like the hermitage yesterday, closed. No chanting, just construction. I sat for a bit in front of a stupa, then turned back to Paro.
The road was quiet and sloped downhill, and when I got back to Paro I headed straight for the momo shop.
Then I had a nap.
It was the perfect day. I’m glad to start the cycling trip, but I could happily spend the next week just riding by myself supported by Chador. It’s hard to explain how I feel nibbled away by interacting in a group when I’m traveling, no matter how nice they are. When I travel like this, I’m reminded over and over that I’m a deep introvert who leads an extroverted life. I thrive on the light gliding of connection with people bringing me food, the 5 minute conversations with people intrigued by me traveling alone. The social world of traveling in a group is… fine. But it’s work for me, and that quiet core that comes when I slide toward exactly what I feel like doing at that moment is essential.