Do you happen to have a book that inspired you to travel to a specific destination? I had such thing. After I had lost my father in 1987 and throughout elementary and middle school I became very introverted and a sort of white sheep of every situation: I was the child that never gets in trouble or walk outside the lines, a good student, terrified of making adults angry or disappointed. I put on the diligent child’s mask to compensate for the loss in the family, and, as soon as I knew how to read, I started reading all the books within my reach. Not the ones that looked boring, though! Reading became the perfect escapist behavior for me!
Life was methodical and rigid, but I could take a break from the usual habits during summers, that I would spend at my auntie’s house. Without school and homework, I had a lot of time to play, but I often reached out for more books and readings. When the others were busy, I would hop to her bookshelf and gaze at the different books. Two of them, in particular, had attracted my attention over the years but I never asked for them, somehow I felt like I was not allowed to. Those books by Asian writers looked too exotic for a little girl, but I knew I had to access them, sooner or later, to satisfy my curiosity and thirst for mystery.
I took them home with me and started reading them secretly. One of those was “The Third Eye” by Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, a Tibetan author. The cover art of the book represented two eyes and a third one in the middle of them. Have you heard of it? I have one of the earliest editions in Italian, but I discovered to my surprise that it is still around, and if Tibetan culture attracts you, I recommend it! I was probably 12 when I started reading it. Page after page, I realized it was the most interesting thing I’d ever read. The story recounts the life of the author from early childhood through his harsh but rewarding training as a monk up to the time he was forced to leave the country after the Chinese invasion of Tibet.
The narration of Tibetan traditions, occult religious practices, characters of extraordinary mental and physical skills, cosmology, and mountain landscapes, affected my imagination. I started daydreaming about traveling to Asia and looking for books and photos about Tibet.
When I finished high school, it seemed a good idea to get a University degree. I pondered on how that could take me closer to my dreams and looked for information about contemporary Tibet. Tibet had lost its independence in 1950 to the People’s Republic of China.
I enrolled in the course of Oriental Languages and Civilizations at a university in Italy and waited. After graduation, I moved to China, and in June 2014, almost 20 years since I had come across that book, I booked a flight from Xiamen to Lhasa, reached Tibet and felt like the luckiest person in the world: I had realized my dream!