British Columbia

B.C. photographer took 6-month family trip to Himalayas to reconnect with family

In 2014, Kimberley, B.C., photographer Bruce Kirkby embarked on a six-month journey with his family, travelling to and living in the tranquil Himalayas. He wrote about the experience in his new book, Blue Sky Kingdom.

Bruce Kirkby has written a book about rebuilding connection to family in a busy world

In 2014, Kimberley, B.C., photographer Bruce Kirkby and his wife Christine took their two young sons for a six-month trip and stay at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Zanskar, northern India. (Submitted by Bruce Kirkby)

Kimberley, B.C., photographer Bruce Kirkby was no different from other professionals, sometimes getting overwhelmed by the daily barrage of emails and text messages, but paying less attention to family.

Eventually, he felt it was time for a restorative break. 

So in 2014, Kirkby embarked on a six-month journey with his family, travelling to and living in the tranquil Himalayas. He wrote about the experience in his new book, Blue Sky Kingdom.

Without the daily distractions of email and text messages, he was able to focus more on the beauty of each moment, including many with his two young sons. 

"They're so peaceful when they're sleeping. Their mouths are a little open and drooling on the pillows," Kirkby said to Sarah Penton, host of CBC's Radio West, about watching his two boys sleep during their adventure in northern India, a region under territorial disputes with Pakistan and China.

The Kirkby family spent three months travelling to their destination by various modes of transportation, including train, cargo ship and canoe. They didn't set foot on an airplane.

They stayed at 1,000-year-old Tibetan Buddhist monastery for another three months, where Kirkby and his wife Christine taught English to the monks there and prayed to the Buddha every morning.

Stay away from distractions

Kirkby believes the prayers helped the couple better understand their older son Bodi, who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. According to Health Canada, people with this disorder have difficulty with social communications and are interested in only a few activities.

Kirkby believes Bodi has taught him how to manage worldly distractions. 

"[The Buddha] forsakes nirvana and returns to the world to help all of us on our journey of understanding, and it's probably the perfect parallel for the role Bodi plays in my life," he said.

Bruce Kirkby says his elder son Bodi, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, has taught him how to stay away from worldly distractions. (Submitted by Bruce Kirkby)

Kirkby and his family have taken several other trips since completing the voyage in Asia. And, over the years, he has realized the importance of being grounded in the present and connected to his loved ones.

"The biggest enduring thing for me has been this understanding of the precious nature of our attention, that is something that we give away without thinking largely," he said.

Kirkby believes the COVID-19 pandemic, which has generally slowed the pace of the world's activities, could be an opportunity for people to learn to focus on the present moment. 

"We're all looking ahead [and] reminiscent of the past. But we're here," he said.

With files from Radio West

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