Longing to Travel?
December 5, 2021
Longing to Travel?
A peek into a place most people overlook.
We are frequent travellers.
My husband and I take our kids to a new destination, every school holiday longer than a weekend. Typically we flock to the mountains and the backwaters to hear the sound of silence. We arm ourselves with anti-malarial tablets; we trek rainforests to escape the humdrum of modern life. We brag about mirror bruises and insect bites like trophies won, and we return with photographs of never-before experiences. Our friends travel to new continents to watch the same sun, set and rise in different horizons, often with a hankering to escape domestic chores, mend a broken heart, heal marital woes, or forget those manipulative colleagues that make the workplace miserable.
Travel offers a short reprieve from the hustle and bustle of life. It works as a panacea for the mental woes we accumulate from the daily grind. A change in the external landscape helps change the inner landscape too.
Getting to a new place with a backpack and an array of camera lenses is my favourite way of hitting the pause button on tedium. I disconnect from routine in the hope of being rewarded with awe and serendipity. Everything about my destination, from the aerial view to signs on toilet doors, piques my interest and is worthy of social sharing.
The zillion travel blogs, publications, and Instagram accounts promote the belief that awe and inspiration are easily accessible in places foreign and far-flung.
These travels enrich my macro view of the world and put my daily life in perspective to its vastness. And yet, despite all the breathtaking landscapes and compelling stories I bring back from each trip, the most fulfilling vacation I have given myself is the journey of silence.
My friends are baffled. ‘What….er..huh…Why Uma?’ they ask. ‘I find tranquility in a glass of Riesling,’ add my friends, as an afterword. My husband’s reaction was not different. ‘Why would I pay to shut up?’ was his sharp retort.
The silence is not just about shutting up. It’s an inner journey – a journey designed to go deep within oneself, using breathing techniques and meditation as tools. It delivers me to a place more profound than any flight or cruise ship has ever brought me: a place within. The wonder and peace I seek in fabulous holiday destinations are manifold in quietude (and sustained beyond the return date).
Travelling for pleasure brings me a change of mood along with the new scenery, but only for a short while. Pretty soon, it’s evident that the things I hope to get away from are the things in my head, the unfavourable thought patterns that return like waves lashing the shore. On the other hand, the inner journey led by silence is a tidying process – it helps let go of the unwanted, the useless, the joyless thoughts and habits that reduce my efficiency. It un-clutters my mind in a way Marie Kondo does physical spaces.
In the realm of the mind, whatever I resist persists. Neither the school nor the university taught me this valuable principle. I could solve differential calculus and write complex code to enhance machine intelligence; still, I didn’t have a toolkit to handle negative emotions that ebb and flow!
What do you do when emotions overpower you or you feel an utter depletion of energy?
Addicted to the lightness that follows a silence break (a retreat or timeout – whatever you call it), we block dates in our calendars every few months for this experience. At the end of every silence break, my husband confirms that it was the best mental detox ever.
For many years now, this has been our undisclosed Reset.
We have traveled to several sequestered locations worldwide – from the whispering hills of North Carolina to the dense mountains of the Black Forest in Germany to lake view resorts in Canada to embark on this journey within. With an authentic smile and warmth of a family, the trainers and program organizers of the Art of Living welcome us and handhold us through every stage of silence – with things-to-do, things not-to-do, timeless wisdom, guided meditations, house rules, and even special diets, in pristine surroundings. The silence awakens us to the truth that everything we seek on the outside to be happy lies within us.
I share this bi-annual ritual now because the pandemic underscores the importance of mental health and the need to invest time to stay fit in the head, just like we do for our bodies. People are waking up to the fact that mental wellbeing doesn’t come with regular sports or by just working out at the gym and most certainly not with a glass of wine.
One of the unexpected benefits of the pandemic is that this experience is also available online. The same silence, stillness, connectedness, and peace – that my husband and I traveled miles to find – can now be experienced at a much-heightened level, wherever you are. We were thrilled to bits to hear this. We signed up instantly for a four-day silence program. The kids were in awe of our tranquil demeanor. Our older daughter begged that silence be the spirit of communication between parents and adolescents. At the end of the fourth day, we emerged more energetic and calmer than before. We made decisions with greater clarity in the days and weeks to come. Our productivity at work increased manifold. We were acting instead of reacting to situations. The silence delivered us to a destination we were yearning to be – a place that was peaceful and devoid of clutter.
Despite the pandemic, we travel frequently. Sometimes the distance we travel is rewarded with frequent flyer miles, and some other times, the intangible miles we travel is the reward.
This inner journey is not a substitute for travel. Yet, it might be the most valuable holiday you can give yourself.
Wishing you well.