Solitude allows a deepening of the present. The Dalai Lama says spend some time alone every day.
Much is said of the virtues of connecting with local cultures, but in aloneness you can connect with the forces that shaped them. Native peoples of the southwest hold the earth as a sacred place holding special power. With arms opened wide they face east calling upon the wind for life, turn south to face the warmth of sun and its activating life force, then west recalling the water that flows like the bloodstream within you in Earth Mother’s veins, and to the north for the nurturing mineral power of land. They were closer to the elements and more in harmony with their environment than moderns. We can learn their secrets by being quiet and feeling our connection with these forces.
We tend to have romantic notions about traveling with someone. How many times have you heard a friend say they would take a trip if only they had someone to travel with them? We see ads for a tropical paradise depicting two suntanned bodies glistening in the sun but traveling with someone can make your trip an insular experience, confined to the bubble of the couple and less apt to interact freely with strangers.
Traveling alone can be a truly liberating event and opportunity to grow. As a solo traveler, you are free to interact with locals who can give you insights to their culture and a different point of view. Solo travel allows you to sink into the present moment and to intuitively make your way through the world. Relying on your own instincts to deliver you to your ordained destination is an exciting prospect. If something goes awry, there is no one to blame but then, there is no one to blame you either. Perhaps you have the soul of an artist and just want to feel what it is like to sit quietly contemplating a landscape that captures your spirit.
You need only consider what it is you enjoy, which places in this richly varied world you would like to see, touch, and drink with your senses, and what places trigger your imagination and fill you with nervous excitement at the thought of placing yourself into that postcard.
As we stroll in sacred solitude our minds begin to relax and to digest the constant stimuli we receive. Answers to questions that have been troubling us bubble up when we are not being distracted from our thoughts. Stress is released like the steam from a teapot and we are free to just be. Traveling solo is an opportunity to get to know yourself. We are always creating our own realities, but in travel, on your own, you don’t have any rude interruptions in the process or competition for your time on the planet.
While in Sedona, I wanted to test the theory that vortexes in the region provide an upwelling of spiritual energy. A vortex is defined as a place where the elements are in harmony and the Earth loves herself. For some people, feeling this love gives an uplifting, re-charging, energizing sensation. It is said that whatever feeling you bring to a vortex will be amplified—be it one of expectation of a spiritual connection, a release of emotions, or simply being reunited with the elements.
I planted myself on the ground at the base of Kachina Woman, a massive rock sculpture attributed with spiritual powers. The valley floor that spread below me with its mesas carved by wind and water over millennia was once an ocean where dolphin and whales played.
Contemplating the insignificance of my problems in the grand scheme brought me peace. My heart and mind felt cleansed of conflict, overload, and doubt. Tears of joy welled and rolled unchecked down my cheeks. I believe I achieved what the Navajo people call Hozho, or a state of being in harmony with the elements and one’s society.
Traveling alone is a genuine opportunity to discover and explore a place, the elements that shaped the people who live there, and your own innermost desire. Don’t let the need for a security blanket prevent you from experiencing personal growth and inner wisdom.
When hiking with a friend, the temptation is there to share thoughts. The intrusion of their mental energies upon your own is there whether you speak or not. This may be good therapy for the individual and has its place, but it does not aid in reflection of any sort of genuine thought process.
Talk prevents you from hearing the voices in nature and scares any game you might have encountered on your nature walk. If you want your mind to settle and ideas to bubble up from the deep well of your subconscious, you must be alone.
Author’s Note: Segments of this piece are excerpts from “Not Enough Said for Solitude” in my book, Lost Angel Walkabout.
Adventure travel writer, Linda Ballou, shares travel essays in her book, “Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales,” and “32 Day Trips along the California Coast” in Lost Angel in Paradise on her site www.LostAngelAdventures.com.