I have just been planning and organising a trip for myself in the Summer… Yes indeed, I plan to go trekking in Peru and walk the Inca trail to Macchu Picchu, something I have wanted to do for a while… Next year I have planned to spend some time in the Amazon rain forest with a shamanic native family and have plans to travel alone every year for the rest of my life. This may sound unusual for a very happily married man.
Following my extensive travels in my student years, I continued to travel by myself all the time when I was a single professional too, to get away from the craziness and drudgery of my training rooms, my therapy consultancy and my world in general. I’d fly, sail or ride away into a kind of life, however brief, that felt different, renewing and gave me hope for a continued, passionate future.
It amazes me to look back and see all that emerged as a result of those solo trips. My time on a Kibbutz in Israel, Syria, Egypt, Jordan is something very difficult to do today, my time all over Europe, Scandinavia, Africa and beyond – throughout all of these I discovered, absorbed or created some adventures that I almost obsessively threw myself into, one after the other.
I would spend long hours journaling, and reading, and staring into space thinking about life. Traveling alone can be lonely, shockingly so at times, but it was that loneliness that pushed me deeper into myself, cracking me open and making me think about my life, sometimes just to pass the achingly quiet, slowly ticking hours. I ruminated endlessly and wrote page after page about what I liked, what I didn’t like, who I was, and what I dreamed of. I can remember being on a train journey watching the mountains in Suadia Arabia virtually glowing red with the end of day sun and yearning to say to a loved one “wow, look at that” and the photos never managed to recreate that moment in the same way.
I haven’t done those kinds of trips for a while and so am starting again this year. I do still travel a lot, but mostly to speaking engagements, where I grab time on the plane to read as many books as I can (I used to have a lot more time to read in my previous life), then go through the whirlwind of whatever conference I’m speaking at, and then happily collapse into the starched sheets at the hotel, before flying back home the next day.
When I travel on holidays these days, I’m always with my wife, the most wonderful companion with whom I love to fine dine, walk, explore and lounge around with. The closest thing I get to solo time is lounging on a sun bed, sipping drinks while we are both absorbed in a book, a marvellous break indeed. Though it is not that deep kind of solitude that takes you to a very different place inside yourself.
It can be a strange phenomenon, “living the life of your dreams”. The life I have today, with a very busy training school, thriving online business, highly meaningful therapeutic practice, incredibly beautiful wife and all (she reads this), is exactly what I described so longingly in my journal during those solo trips when I was younger. Yet I am now so busy living all of the elements of this lovingly created dream that I sometimes go and forget how important it is to periodically come back to me.
When alone in Peru, I’m going to be processing emotions that have apparently been in hiding over the past year where I have had to fight elements of development and change that come with modern living and a successful (according to me) commercial life… Despite these being things that are taking me to a new, more exciting level; I still sometimes have a profound wistfulness in accepting that I’m no longer that semi-lost, traveling soul-searcher.
I have now become a doer who doesn’t need to search so intensely “out there” to find my life. This too is a loss, as I identified so strongly with being a seeker and thoroughly enjoyed searching the globe for my real life. I knew that that life would be fabulous, and it is. Yet having arrived means that I now need to redefine myself in this new context, something I have overlooked a tiny bit in the past two years while fixing up our dream home, planning for a family of our own in the future, building a robust career and so on.
Over the last year I have just been going, going, going. My weight crept up slightly, and I had been eating more than I need to, I think because I had all these unacknowledged transitions inside. I didn’t know that they were there, because I simply hadn’t stopped and been truly alone.
So fortunate I am to have a wife that understands and shares and loves without condition… Sooo I am back running yet another marathon, planning some travels alone, reorganising my way of working and relishing the simple fact that I can do those things!
What might you have inside that you’re not aware of? When is the last time that you stopped and were truly alone with yourself, without any of your usual escapes (work, food, sex, television, whatever) at the ready? We live in a society that’s so numbed out, that even those of us with the best intentions end up anaesthetising ourselves without realising it, via the deceptive pace of everyday life.
It takes time to reach this place of honesty, to really feel your heart and what your necessary next steps are.
When’s the last time you stopped and gave yourself the luxury of time to move into the real you? You don’t have to go all the way to another country; you just need to get out of your usual environment, away from the usual people and distractions, to somewhere quiet. Somewhere where you can’t escape yourself. You’ll be amazed by what you observe, feel and discover about yourself and your next steps in life.