GOING TO DOLPO
"To me, though, this book is just the honest retelling of an incredible journey taken by a pair of travellers, one Western and one Eastern, as they walk the long and dangerous road from Pokhara to Dolpo in the Tibetan Himalayas. It's a journey of personal development, amazing scenery, too much millet, spiritual discovery, and little calcified balls of incredible discomfort."
3am Chief Editor Jim Martin on Timothy Doyle's book
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It's a strange book that leaves you not entirely sure what you've just read, but glad you read it. At times, Going To Dolpo is along the same lines as Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. At times it's a travelogue. At times it's a text on the path of the Buddha.
To me, though, this book is just the honest retelling of an incredible journey taken by a pair of travellers, one Western and one Eastern, as they walk the long and dangerous road from Pokhara to Dolpo in the Tibetan Himalayas. It's a journey of personal development, amazing scenery, too much millet, spiritual discovery, and little calcified balls of incredible discomfort.
So many travel tales ignore the fact that the people living them are human. Timothy Doyle is a refreshing exception to that rule, frequently switching from childish to frustrated to awestruck, but always intrigued by the complex and interesting guide, Kali. The author's perspective is really picked up in the mood of the book, and these nuances go a long way towards selling all of the details of the story.
It's a true story, and as such it's hopeless to find meaning in the details. There are certain things that happened, things that Doyle chose to document as a means of exposing us to his philosophy. Instead of looking at the details, then, let's focus on how he delivers that philosophy.
From a non-Buddhist looking in, I don't get a lot of the details the book presents about nothingness and the extinction of the self. I'm not versed in all the dogmatic background to really get why those things are worth striving for. On the contrary, I have a hell of a lot of happiness in my life and it's hard to imagine a guy not wanting things like the joy of family or personal achievement.
Bully for me.
But what I can easily understand is the idea of the journey as a means to develop in a particular direction of thought. So many people write their stories or poems on a bus or in the back of a van hurtling down the highway. I've done it, and have always found that a truly remarkable experience.
Imagine, then, going to Dolpo. Your journey is on foot. You are constantly in danger, be it at the foot of a massive snow pack that threatens to fall, at the jaws of a less-than-domesticated mastif, or from a summer that that can unleash a flood of frozen water over what was your campsite. You'd probably have a lot on your mind. Your thoughts would drift from the immediate to the far-reaching, and the journey would take on a greater significance to you. You'd have the time that we so often don't to reason through all the little things you've been ignoring for so long and come up with some answers to a lot of questions. To me, that's what Doyle is going through in this story, and through clever storytelling, you're along for the ride.
I'm not going to tell you what the point is, or how to interpret this book. Frankly, I'm not entirely sure that I fully get it. But it's a book I'll gladly read a few more times just to make good and sure I do. It's a beautiful book with a great story, and that alone is enough for me.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Jim Martin is a chief editor at 3am Magazine and a Senior Editor at Newtopia Magazine. He is the frontman for an unknown punk band called Johnny Incognito. He has been published in both fiction and non-fiction in publications like 3am, Newtopia, Canadian Content, Mob Hit Productions, Scapegrace, Images Inscript, Comerade, and House of Pain Magazine. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.