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September 26, 2011

6 Mindful Reasons to Travel Solo.

 

“What gives value to travel is fear. It is the fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country we are seized by a vague fear, and an instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits. This is the most obvious benefit of travel. At that moment we are feverish but also porous, so that the slightest touch makes us quiver to the depths of our being.”  ~ Albert Camus

The traveler who ventures into the world alone is faced with an immense and powerful opportunity. Often times, this person leaves home for the same reason a person decides to start a yoga or meditation practice. Whether it is conscious or not, this individual is seeking the kind of transformation that comes from the removal of habitual patterns.

Photo: Mike Tungate

Like an extended walking meditation, traveling solo can be a practice of awareness in action, providing many of the qualities necessary to awaken mindfulness, such as fallen expectations, vulnerability, self-reliance, acceptance in the unknown and presence in the here and now.

Traveling alone can feel like a daunting task to take on, but the benefits are numerous and rich. If you’re thinking you don’t have time or money, you haven’t learned the first important lesson of traveling: it’s not reserved for the overly privileged. It’s a choice. Those who do it have to stylize their life in such way, understanding budget, the willingness to walk uncommon roads, tolerance of others and most of all, sacrificing the things that society says are important.

Six Reasons to Travel Solo:

  1. You Meet New People

“I want to speak, to sing to total strangers. It’s my way of talking to the world.” ~ Adrian Mitchel

When we travel with a partner—be it friend, family, or lover—it is easy to talk to them rather than take the risk of talking to strangers. In some ways, the other person can end up acting as a buffer to the world around us without knowing it. This causes us to miss out on other experiences. On the other hand, when traveling solo we are forced to make connections to other people, which provides a much more engaged experience with the “other.” Furthermore, sometimes being with people who “know us” traps us in our already established identities. Maybe we don’t feel as comfortable trying new things because this is outside the expectations of whomever we are with. When we are alone on the road, there is infinite space to grow.

2. Vulnerability

“I understand now that the vulnerability I’ve always felt is the greatest strength a person can have. You can’t experience life without feeling life.” ~ Elizabeth Shue

Vulnerability awakens our senses. When we feel vulnerable, we tend to pay attention more. This feeling forces us to never go on autopilot. It opens our hearts to what is around us and at the same time, forces us to maintain alertness. Vulnerability makes us feel more alive.

3. Self-reliance

“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” ~ Michel de Montaigne

With the feeling of vulnerability comes self-reliance. We learn how to take care of ourselves. When traveling solo, we become our own mother, and like all mothers, we come face to face with the responsibility of caring for our children. Only in this case, we are faced with caring for ourselves. Within this caring there is love.

4. Getting Away From Patterns

“Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.” ~ Alan Keightley

All of a sudden the familiar patterns that we turn to for comfort and security are gone. As a solo traveler, we are  forced to think differently. Without familiar customs, we rewire our brains; we dismantle the ego. By leaving our habitual ways behind we have the opportunity to discover a new way of being in the world.

Photo: Evil Erin

5. Perspective

 “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” ~ Mohammed

Everyone knows that when traveling we gain new perspectives. However, when traveling alone we gain new perspectives on ourselves and our place in the world. When in an unfamiliar environment the only anchor to who we are is our thoughts. Within this kind of environment though, our thoughts stand out more and we have greater perspective on the way our thoughts shape our identity.

We also get the opportunity to understand who we are without obligations. So much of what we do every day is based on what others want from us, but away from all these demands, we have the chance to ponder over our own purpose in the world.

 6. Letting Go & Learning to Trust in The Unknown

“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”  ~ Alexander Graham Bell

We like plans and we are addicted to knowing what will happen next. With each venture we take the leap, not knowing what the outcome will be and most of the time the events and experiences that take place will be completely different from what we have planned. For instance, we miss a bus or take the wrong one. We arrive in a town only to find that the hostel we wanted to stay at is full. We get lost over and over again. The upside to all these unmet expectations is that there is always a solution and often times it is better than what we expected to begin with. We have the opportunity to not hold on so tightly and trust that everything will work out the way it does whether we fight to control it or not.

Traveling solo is not about alienation.

Quite the contrary, when we start on this path, we must make friends with the world and ourselves. For centuries, Native Americans journeyed into the wilderness in order to commune with the world and ultimately discover their place within it. This type of solo journey has long been a necessary part of letting go of the old self in order to awaken the new self. It doesn’t mean that we won’t be lonely at times. In fact, we probably will be, but we need to only remind ourselves that the most uncomfortable moments are the times that we are learning the most. Nothing lasts forever.

“Through aloneness, the ego is shattered. It has nothing to relate to, so it cannot exist.” ~ Osho

The most important relationship of our lives is the one we have with ourselves, but in this culture we are taught that going solo in any shape or form is not OK. If we are alone then maybe something is wrong with us. Yet, navigating the world on our own is like navigating our own minds through a dream. Very little is familiar, but there is meaning underneath everything. We can learn to walk this dream, finding that dance between stillness and motion, maintaining the flexibility to follow the road when it bends while learning to quiet the mind in times of doubt. We can grow to be assertive in our decisions, knowing when to rest and when to go forth. We can learn to be keenly aware of our environment and at the same time stay awake to our own desires and limitations. We can open our hearts to receive the help of others and be resilient in the face of fear and then find the courage to move through it.

What are you waiting for? The world is calling.

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