Bestselling travel writer Bruce Kirkby takes extreme measures to reduce screen time by travelling with his young family to a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the Himalaya.
Feeling stagnant, looking mindlessly at his phone for hours, flipping between emails and social media, ignoring his family and everything alive in his world, a thought struck Bruce Kirkby: this wasn’t living; this wasn’t him. This moment of clarity started a chain reaction which ended with a plan: he, his wife and their two young sons would jump on a shipping freighter and head for the Himalaya. To help with the financial logistics, they would document the adventure for the reality travel series Big Crazy Family Adventure.
And so, trailed by a camera crew, Bruce, Christine, seven-year-old Bodi and three-year-old Taj travelled across the globe in search of tranquility and connection—their journey by canoe, freighter, rail and foot culminating in three months of reflection and meditation at a Buddhist monastery in the Zanskar valley, a remote appendage of the ancient Tibetan empire and one of the last places on earth where Tibetan Buddhism is still practised freely in its original setting.
Exploring themes of modern distraction, the loss of ancient wisdom and Kirkby’s personal coming-to-terms with Bodi’s diagnosis on the autism spectrum, Blue Sky Kingdom is the remarkable tale of one family who fled distraction and ultimately found connection. With wit, insight and deep compassion, Kirkby tells a story that will deeply affect readers—all the while providing a glimpse into the lives of Buddhist monks and lamas in Ladakh, India, where ancient traditions and knowledge intersect with the modern world.
About the author
Bruce Kirkby is a wilderness writer and adventure photographer recognized for connecting wild places with contemporary issues. With journeys spanning more than eighty countries and thirty years, Kirkby’s accomplishments include the first modern crossing of Arabia’s Empty Quarter by camel, a descent of Ethiopia’s Blue Nile Gorge by raft, a sea kayak traverse of Borneo’s northern coast and a coast-to-coast Icelandic trek. A columnist for The Globe and Mail, author of two bestselling books and winner of multiple National Magazine Awards, Kirkby has also written for the New York Times, Outside magazine and Canadian Geographic. He makes his home in Kimberley, BC.
- Short-listed, Banff Mountain Book Prize: Adventure Travel
In this uplifting travelogue, Kirkby, a Canadian travel journalist and photographer, recounts how he and his family fled the pressures of society to “slow down” in a Himalayan Buddhist temple. [...] It’s poignant and gently provocative, much like a prayer flag blowing in the wind.
Bruce Kirkby has lived the dream of the modern globe-trotting adventurer: crossing Arabian sand seas, sea-kayaking Iceland and Borneo, traversing Northern Mongolia on horseback. In Blue Sky Kingdom, Kirkby’s wife and two young sons join him for a different kind of journey—to an isolated Buddhist monastery, yes, but also to the elusive and fragile heart of wisdom that we all hope to glimpse in this lifetime. What a heartfelt, lovely and kind book this is.
Daniel Duane, author of Caught Inside
Blue Sky Kingdom is perfect pandemic reading. Not only does Bruce Kirkby take us far across the world and deep inside a rarely seen culture, but he also allows us an intimate view of his family, all while writing with tender honesty, penetrating insight, and a delightful lack of bravado. And particularly useful when we look up from the page and remember that we haven’t actually left the living room for weeks, he reminds us to breathe, embrace the unfamiliar, and celebrate even the smallest of moments.
Jill Fredston, author of Rowing to Latitude and Snowstruck
A rollicking journey, full of insights on cultivating a nourishing, fully present life amidst so much noise and distraction.
Brad Stulberg, coauthor of Peak Performance and The Passion Paradox
I was blown away by the audaciousness of this epic family voyage, desperately wishing I was there with them. Kirkby’s writing offers a vivid exploration of culture, geography and relationships, but also, more urgently, of how we choose to live—and whether that’s possible to change.
Alex Hutchinson, author of Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance
A breathtaking journey, both geographical and internal, Kirkby’s blending of travelog of an already fascinatingly remote locale and personal family experience is unique and luminous.
In an era when countless demands make it increasingly easy to ignore people and engage instead with devices, Blue Sky Kingdom provides a much-needed call back to the physical world.
Darcy Gaechter, author of Amazon Woman
Family adventure doesn’t begin to describe what transpires in these pages. Kirkby and his remarkable family have built a bridge between the Rockies and the Himalaya, and in so doing spanned the gap between autism and Buddhism. In addition to being a manifestation of deepest love and devotion, this book is a time-bending journey through a landscape and culture that filled me with envy and sorrow by turns, while showing me things I have never seen described in a lifetime of reading. We are lucky to have someone as brave, generous and open as Bruce Kirkby abroad in the world.
John Vaillant, author of The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival
...a timely, heartwarming story of a family’s search for peace away from the din of modern culture. Soul-refreshing reading for armchair travelers and spiritual questers alike.
Insightful and adventurous, Blue Sky Kingdom offers a road map on how to learn from the world … There is wisdom in this book. Open it and let your imagination soar.
Conrad Anker, acclaimed American alpinist
Kirkby's relationships with Lama Wangyal, the monastery students and the other people he meets in the valley are touching. But it is the family's interior journey, and Bodi's especially, that displays the curative powers of adventure.
The New York Times
Bruce Kirkby’s chronicle of living in a remote Buddhist monastery with his family is by turns hilarious and enchanting. What a beautiful ode to impermanence, to the families we choose and the families we find, and to the complicated wonders of a different, and fast-disappearing, way of life.
Kate Harris, author of Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road
By any standards, it’s a big adventure to travel the slow way across the world to a remote corner of the Himalaya and live there for months in a spartan Buddhist monastery—but taking young children along ramps it up to another level. Written with zest and clarity, Bruce’s account is compelling, moving, funny and above all honest, sharing hardships and frustrations along with the joys and ultimate rewards.
Maria Coffey, author of Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow