Wherever You Go, There You Are: A Meditation On Traveling Alone, An Escape From Everything
In an attempt to help me through a particularly tough situation from across the world, my mother sent me this quote:
That which gives light must first endure burning. -- Viktor E. Frankl
After a lot of time burning to what feels close to simmering ashes, I've found and I continue to find my light. I've discovered it living in the purest of places: nowhere and everywhere.
Traveling this world alone, I am not simply a tourist. I am displaced, in constant motion, in an unceasing pause from my known, living in my purest known. I am my home.
And so, I've become my own light. Travel, motion and truly solo motion, can guide us to ignite our inner lights. I've learned that as much as my journey is about me, I must share. And so, I share with you.
Means making mistakes only you know about and triumphs strangers see. No one sees; you see.
It means chatting with baristas and bathroom attendants; full days spent talking to no one except for that little voice in your head that you always push away out of fear.
It means selfies in front of epic monuments that might as well be in your bed because the monuments aren’t identifiable. It means no pictures at all.
Only memories, fleeting memories and moments of bliss you — no one else — has hidden away. It means no shared laughter, or tears when everything goes right… or wrong. It means learning the beauty of enjoying a sit-down meal by yourself. It's the thrill and adventure of walking in circles without any notice or care.
You slowly embrace what you used to push away. It means being the only one who looks like you, talks like you and speaks your spoken language. It means learning to find the gorgeous wonder of the unspoken language of humanity.
It entails unlikely connections, glorious one-night friendships and hideous conversations with arch nemeses. Eye contact alone can constitute an intellectually stimulating conversation. When alone, you are pushed to learn and share with whoever is there to listen.
Sometimes, it's just you. You become skilled at asking for help when you don't want to. Alone means discovering all the ways to let go, embrace vulnerability and take leaps of faith in yourself and others.
Judgment becomes scarce and unhelpful. That which made you bitter or cold or unhappy is flipped upside down. Or right side up. Your center of gravity is no longer where you are or where you've been or what's in your bags.
Traveling alone means life becomes as easy and as hard as convincing yourself to move. When you wake up, your day begins; you wait on no one. Without others, you can get lost, as you are your only worry. Full control. Too much control. Too little. When all goes wrong, you have to freak out to yourself.
You write Facebook statuses to the news feed of your mind. And in turn, you gradually learn to filter out the garbage, complaints and negativity you let sit in your head and in your heart.
You hear and see the things that made others turn from you, which now make you turn from yourself.
It means being lost and lonely. It means being free and lonely. You define and redefine lonely. Traveling alone can mean motion, change, stasis and pause. Too much time to think. Not enough. Just enough.
In this excess time to simply be -- reflect, meditate, wander and wonder -- you can begin to learn who you are, not in the context of the world, but in the context of yourself.
There comes a point where you must realize that your bags, phone, camera, jacket and belongings are not you. You are you. You are exhilarating and terrifying. You are stuck in yourself but are also freed from all binds of others. You are your own secret.
You find security, not in what you wear, how you talk or to whom you talk, but in who you are, were or will be. You don't need to find yourself.
Simply be. For, wherever you go, there you are.
Traveling alone doesn't have to be anywhere glamorous — just somewhere new. Somewhere that forces you to look further, somewhere that unsettles. Where you can test yourself and push limits.
Somewhere that cuts you off from all you know, where you will look outside of yourself and into yourself. Curiosity will fade into thought and just as you feel stable, let go and leave on that bus, train, plane or foot and reflect on what kept you sane.
We look for stability wherever we are; when traveling alone, “lonely” becomes stable and sane. When you return, you will relate to others, the world and yourself with refreshed eyes.
To retreat into yourself is not sad, selfish, boring or vain. It's comfortable. You will gain a new capacity for selflessness, even with yourself. For judging oneself on the road, in the reflection of a coach bus window or in a foggy hostel mirror becomes less relevant than becoming friends with yourself.
When you are truly free, you open yourself up to uncensored emotion, to the scary, raw you — to bliss.
When you listen, you can listen purely. You can learn to be present so it becomes easy to be present for others.
Share yourself, your thoughts, your wisdom and your fears. Now that you are open to yourself, open up to others in new ways. Share pictures, stories and words. Share insignificant fleeting glances and looks. Moments that were once overlooked will become a part of your intricate, ever-weaving story of yourself, of life.
You're not on a quest to "find" anything; you are simply you -- changing, growing, moving, loving, challenging. The “you” once defined by the people who raised you, the debts your school left you, the lovers you clung to, will be renewed.
It is difficult to shed yourself; to leave and stay left. Trust in yourself, the one with whom you took the journey: you. Find solace in yourself but also in the ever-changing reliability of the earth to provide.
For me, it's a moment with skies; the sun I've always known; the cycles in and out, no matter where my bag, my head or my heart is. The way that no matter the cultural or lingual makeup of the bus, plane, train, situation in which I find myself, I can look up and remember, I am my home.
We are home. And so far from alone.
This article was written by Amanda Crommett of WildSpiceMag.