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Book Review: A Season in Heaven by David Tomory
Published by Lonely Planet in 1998, this slim paperback is an attempt at catching the spirit of the "Hippie Trail" through the stories of people who traveled in the region of Northern India and Afghanistan in the 1960s and '70s as young adults.
Several factors converged to produce this phenomenon: besides the presence of a large demographic group of disaffected young adults seeking budget travel (though affordable airfares are cited, more affordable still was the fact that one could actually take an extended bus/train ride to from Great Britain to the Northern India/Afghanistan area at the time) and downmarket accommodations (descriptions of which abound within), there was the idea in the zeitgeist that the culture in that region, believed to be relatively uncorrupted by material things, worldly ambition, and the puritan ethos, offered a freer "ideal society" of live-and-let live attitudes and the open smoking of wacky tabbacky.
While the latter was true (and the negative societal consequences thereof were perhaps less easy to see), the former proved to be a disillusionment to some of the "go to India and follow a guru to attain the wisdom and serenity of the East" set who were there long enough to realize that women were not treated very equitably in that society, class differences were marked, social mobility was more difficult, and sexual stereotypes and proprieties, if not laws about where and what you could smoke, were more strictly enforced.
In spite of being criticized as a "waste of time" experiences spending extended periods of time living and experiencing another culture were cited by those who told stories of having experienced the "hippie trail" as opening their eyes to a very different culture.
The book ends as most of the idealistic young peoples' physical journeys ended: old, cheap but hazardous hotels made way for improved dwelling for the emerging middle class among the locals, travel costs went up, free time went down, material security became increasingly important.