Book give-a-way and travel read: The Open Road, the Global Journey of the 14th Dalai Lama

When Pico Iyer was growing up, his father was a friend of the Dalai Lama. That was the beginning of Iyer’s own relationship with a person that many seek out as a spiritual rock star of sorts. In his book The Open Road, The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Iyer gives insight into what it’s like inside the Dalai Lama’s circle, as well as, what it’s like being inside Iyer’s life.

When the book first came out in hardcover last year, I gave a heads up. This month the Vintage Press paperback version was released.

The publisher has given us two copies to give-a-way. For details, go to the end of the Talking Travel interview with Iyer and post a comment there. You have until tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. to win.

Iyer is a global traveler and a careful observer which makes his books a sensory exploration into the worlds where he ventures. Landscape, people, and the hum of life are woven together into a lush reading experience for anyone who picks up his work. I’ve happily discovered this book does the same.

The backdrop this time is the landscape of the world where the Dalai Lama lives and travels in relation to where Iyer has also ventured. The result of Iyer’s observations is an intriguing examination about the people and places that surround the Dalai Lama’s life and work, as well as the Dalai Lama’s perspective on it all.

Along with certain conversations Iyer has had with the Dalai Lama, including a disinterested version when he was a teenage boy, Iyer weaves throughout the book his observations and musings about Tibetan Buddhism, life in Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama’s speaking engagements where Iyer sometimes sits in the audience and the changes in the scenery and intentions of the Dalai Lama’s work that Iyer has noticed over the years.

I was particularly captivated by the sections where Iyer describes Dharamsala, India a place I have also been, and as luck would have it, one of those people sitting in the courtyard at the monastery where the Dalai Lama lives listening to one of his talks. This book is a welcome companion to that experience because it fills in all the behind the scenes details such as what happens in his life when he is not addressing an audience. Because Iyer’s thoughts were gathered in various personal conversations that range from the Dalai Lama himself to his family members, helpers and random people who Iyer has come across in his travels of meeting up with Dalai Lama in various locations, the result is an unusual, intimate look at places people may have visited themselves, read about or seen pictures of in a lush coffee table book. Iyer brings such scenes to life.

One of Iyer’s purposes for writing The Open Road was to give readers another perspective of a remarkable man about which there has been much written before. I say he has succeeded, as well as, offering the reader another opportunity to see the world through Iyer’s eyes. Every time I spend a few hours enjoying the world the way Iyer sees it, I feel I understand a little bit more the visual cues and subtleties one encounters in a traveling life.

China Exiles the Dalai Lama – Again!

A few weeks back we reported on China closing Tibet to travelers in preparation for potential unrest in the country as the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama fleeing into exile grew near. Today marks that anniversary, and and in a attempted display of nationalism, Chinese President Hu has called for a “Great Wall against separatism” that would protect the unity of the “motherland” and ensure that Tibet stayed part of China. He also banished the Dalai Lama to the other side of that wall, despite the fact that he’s been in exile for 50 years.

In the past few days, leading up to this anniversary, there have been rumors of unrest in Tibet, but with no information flowing in and out of the country, it is impossible to confirm the reports. Foreign journalists were expelled from the Himalayan country and all travel visas have been denied for at least the month of March. Yesterday, the mobile telephone system was shut down, under the guise of system maintenance that will last for three weeks, and a variety of websites were being filtered for content as well.

The latest shutdown of the borders of Tibet comes just a few weeks before what is considered it’s traditional tourist season. The spring usually brings backpackers and mountain climbers focused on Everest or other major Himalayan peaks, but for the second year in a row, Tibet is closed off from the outside, and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

Pico Iyer: Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

Pico Iyer, my ultimate favorite travel writer, has a new book out Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Whenever I see Iyer’s name, it’s like a laser beam calling me to read it.

The book chronicles Iyer’s 30 year history with the Dalai Lama that that began when he first met him. This was back before fame struck either of them. As he told in an interview with World Hum, Iyer got the idea for the book five years ago after the war in Iraq started. Then Iyer began to look into the patterns of the Dalai Lama’s life and travels and Iyer’s own. From my understanding, the book is mostly about the Dalai Lama with Iyer’s presence dipping in and out of depending on the chapter and theme.

The idea sounds fascinating to me. I do think there are people who come into our lives at particular times that are turning points for us. Certain world events offer a backdrop or a heightened sense of awareness in our own day to day meanderings. The book also intrigues me because of my own chance encounters with both Iyer and the Dalai Lama that left an impression.

In Dharamsala, in the courtyard of the monastery where he lives, the Dalai Lama walked right by us as he made his way to address the audience who had crowded in to hear him talk. It was the day before the U.S. went into Iraq. I remember how beamy he seemed when he walked by right where I stood leaning against a fence of the courtyard. Being with people from all over the world at an audience on the day before the U.S. went into Iraq is something I don’t think I’ll ever forget. It’s an unusual happening at an unusual time in an unusual place kind of thing.

As for Pico Iyer, I had no idea he was in New Delhi when I sat down in my living room with a cup of coffee and the newspaper one morning. There his name was under a things happening today type section. At a writers conference. “Pico Iyer’s at a writing conference!” I sputtered out, spewing coffee. “Pico Iyer! Today, as in now,” I moaned. “Oh, why do I find out about these things so late?”

“Let’s go then,” my husband said, grabbing our then one-month old and the diaper bag. He didn’t want to be left stranded for who knows how long until I returned. So there we were, hustling for a taxi. We sat in the balcony of the auditorium during the panel discussion that Iyer was moderating.

Afterwards, I went downstairs to say hello and hand Iyer a short odd little creative non-fiction piece I wrote about him. He shook my hand, seemed pleased, and sent me a thank-you post card later. And that’s my Dalai Lama/Pico Iyer global journey story. I’m not sure what turning point I had in my life as a result of seeing either one of them. I think I’m still waiting, but the encounters make me smile when I think about them, so perhaps, that’s enough. [via World Hum]