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Krystal Tan: Breaking the pattern of what you thought you knew

The director and founder of Blue Sky Escapes, and Next Gen guest columnist considers the possibility of changing fixed mindsets.

The Peak’s Next Gen personalities take over to share personal stories close to their hearts – get to know all nine of them here.

 

“I love them both equally,” muttered Pel. She was referring to her two husbands, both of them brothers. The women of Laya village, one of the most remote mountain villages in Bhutan located at an elevation of 3,800 m, practised polyandry and had multiple husbands.

“How does either husband know which child is biologically theirs?” I asked.

“Well, my first child belongs to my first husband and my second child belongs to my second husband. My third child belongs to my first husband, and the pattern continues. We worked it out this way to avoid confusion,” she responded nonchalantly. How practical, I thought.

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Conversing with Pel, who looked about my age, challenged what I thought I knew about marital constructs. Lifelong monogamy was, in fact, a rare societal construct that had only really begun to take root globally in recent centuries. The unravelling of my old patterns of thinking had begun.

Running a travel company founded on the ethos of immersing oneself in transformative experiences means that I’m constantly challenged to rethink what I thought I knew. For example, a safari lodge in Kenya had me rethinking sustainable, water-saving measures beyond the classic “shut-the-tap-while-you-soap” method. The answer: bucket showers. A bucket was simply provided in the shower for collection of the initial outpour of cool water as you waited for it to turn hot. The water collected was then used to water the plants, wash the floors and so on. How could I have lived all these years in “developed” society and not done this once? It’s hard not to become just a little bit more earth-loving from life on the road.

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As it were, one could not have experienced a true mobile safari camp without having had a bucket shower. And frankly, you only really need just that one bucket. These small yet impactful practices speak volumes as to how communities living more than 7,000 km away think about the same issue, offering transformative insights into the psyche and heartbeat of a culture.

But the beauty of embracing that pattern-breaking lifestyle is that it rubs off on those around you too. To my husband’s amusement, I returned from a retreat in Bali a vegan. “Are you seriously not having any cheese or prosciutto on your pizza?” He chuckled as I sheepishly chowed down a slice with just tomato spread and olive topping. I had to customise the pizza or else the only thing listed on the menu that I could eat was bruschetta. But a couple of months later, my husband — the red-blooded carnivore who could never live a day without eating some form of animal protein — was, on his own volition, ordering Japanese shabu shabu, sans beef. He too, had begun to challenge what he thought he knew, through the adoption of a plant-based diet.

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“The more I know something, the more I know nothing!” Samir exclaimed, raising his hands to the sky as we navigated the terrain of the High Atlas mountains in Morocco. Samir, our guide from the Berber tribe, was explaining to me what he loved about guiding. Indeed, there can be no end to what you know, and it is exactly the kind of curiosity emboldened by the growth mindset Samir had, that made my hike in the High Atlas especially memorable.

Perhaps Samir is right – curiosity is all it takes. Over the years, I’ve chosen to embrace every day occurrences with an open heart and a hunger for experimentation. What I’ve come to find is that the adoption of a pattern-breaking lifestyle is best accompanied with the harnessed ability to observe things as they are without judgment. If we could develop a meditative practice and choose to view every curveball or discovery thrown our way as opportunities to stretch the realms of what we thought we already knew, wouldn’t that be extremely liberating? And in turn, if all of humanity succeeded at the unravelling of old patterns and fixed mindsets regularly, what might our world look like?