Jeju's Narrow Road
Jeju's Narrow Road
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One man's journey to carry the message of slow living

We live in a fast-paced era. The temptation to overfill one's days and sacrifice sleep – and community – can be found even in Jeju's island culture.

Tommy Tran, a young Buddhist Chinese-American man living on Jeju, hopes to help others see the value of a slower and more deliberate lifestyle. To that end, he has planned a 7-day, 150-kilometer pilgrimage, making use of the Jeju Olle trails and stopping at eight Buddhist temples along the way.

Tran's journey is modeled on those of 17th-century Japanese poet Basho, and he is calling his pilgrimage “The Narrow Road” after the most famous of Basho's literary works. He is further inspired by Buddhist precepts of mindfulness and right living, American Transcendentalist exploration of simplicity, and Chinese Taoist value of harmony with the natural world. 

A global Slow Movement is underway. The Slow Food concept was founded in Italy by Carlo Petrini in 1989 and is now represented in 150 countries. By 1999, The Sloth Club had developed in Japan and a focus on slow dining had expanded to one of a slower, more deliberate and thoughtful lifestyle.

The concept of “time poverty” rings all too true for many of us. Pressured to be productive and overstimulated by a glut of input in our consumer-oriented, technology-driven societies, we feel the loss of community and, often enough, of meaning.

Suh Myung Sook founded the Jeju Olle trails precisely to counteract this tendency toward Korea's 'ppalli ppalli' [rush-rush] lifestyle. Tran, integrating the Olle trails with others specific to Buddhist pilgrimage, will attempt to embody that message. He will also write one poem each day of his journey, inspired by Basho, in order to connect more deeply with the natural world through creative expression.

“I've chosen to make this pilgrimage in the extreme winter weather, as did Basho, to be inspired both spiritually and artistically,” Tran says, “and to show that if I can do this, anyone can accomplish something similar, step by step.”
Tran will be making his pilgrimage from Jan. 9 to Jan. 15 and invites others to join him for all or part of his journey. For more information, contact him at

(Dr. Anne Hilty is a psychologist and educator with a focus on wellness.) <Jeju Weekly>

<Anne Hilty ⓒ Jeju Weekly All rights reserved>

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