Solo Travel Benefits

from this blog post:

[ ]  I’ve previously mocked people who claim that traveling is a deep, life-changing experience. But one thing I will definitely grant is that solo travel forces you to evaluate who you really are, outside the context of your family and social circle. You also end up spending a lot of quiet, reflective moments on buses, trains and planes. Nothing to do but sit, think, and observe. Often, there’s not much going on around you worth observing, so you turn inward. You become conscious of your emotions, your thoughts, your body and mind.

[ ]  Travel forces introspection, and I think that’s a good thing. You can replicate these positive effects in your hometown with a transit pass and a willingness to leave your Kindle at home, but sometimes it’s hard to force it, especially if you’ve developed an information addiction over a lifetime of instant gratification. Everyone can benefit from silence, and the ability to tame your mind for even a minute or two at a time. Try it sometime: Sit still and quiet your brain. Let your inner monologue STFU for a minute, or repeat a mantra. It’s surprisingly difficult. [ ]

Personal Retreat

article by Mark Sisson

I’m talking about a different kind of retreat here, specifically the personal retreat, that solo venture in which one gets away on his/her own with no responsibilities but ample quiet and/or adventure. For some people this might mean a week in the wilderness. For others, it’s a few days at the spa or a meditation center. It might be the chance to enjoy anonymity playing tourist in a large city or to try out an alternative occupation for a week. It could be a solo road trip through a stretch of open country. Or maybe it’s something else entirely.

[ ]  The meaning of a retreat of course is inherent in the term itself – a withdrawal from normal life. We leave behind the daily routine, which can become mind-numbing over time. We shed the roles that rule our lives and can – in their confines – strangle even our closest relationships. In the midst of our hectic lives, it’s easy to get caught up in the details of the daily grind. At a certain point – especially at vulnerable times of our lives – they can feel like a network of ties holding us down, binding us increasingly inward. Our sense of emotional coherence and genuine connection seems to give way. We can lose our bearings as well as the mental focus and emotional resilience they give us.

A New York Times article some months ago highlighted the influence personal retreats have had for overworked professionals. (Big paychecks or not, I think the same degree of stress applies to most of us.) For the men and women mentioned, retreats were a time to entirely disconnect from a life that is oppressively connected. Giving up their smart phones and laptops, going without any communication initially instilled a distressing sense of isolation and anxiety. Nonetheless, the experience recalibrated their inclinations. As one man put it, “‘Going into a retreat is really about breaking down the constructs of ‘you.’… The whole idea is for you to take a very close look at the you you have become in your mind. The you you are in your real mind isn’t necessarily the real you.’” Distance yourself from the everyday buzz and chatter, and it’s amazing to hear what becomes audible.

Anyone who’s taken a retreat understands the restorative power here. In stripping away the roles and routines, you’re able to unearth elements of yourself long neglected, even unrecognized. You remember strengths that you have. In the best retreats, I think, you take them out for a drive again and test them. You recall the interests that you’ve had, dimensions that complexify and enrich who you are and what you have to offer. Most of all, it’s a time for opening up your sense of life – like getting outside under the big blue sky after being shut in during a week long cold snap. An undercurrent of irritation releases itself into the sudden space. A sense of calm and balance settles into its place. The personal retreat, however one designs it, is a cure for the emotional cabin fever I think we all feel at times.

For better or worse, we don’t have the leisure time our hunter-gatherer ancestors did. We can go weeks or months without enjoying a real break from an endless daily drill. (Cue the Sonny and Cher wake-up call – for all you Bill Murray fans out there.) They may not have had the climate controlled shelters, cultural and entertainment centers, or slew of possessions we do, but they had the ultimate Primal commodity: time. It was time to pursue what they wanted (however relatively limited their prospects might seem to us today), time to invest in their relationships, time to tinker and try and turn off.

[ ]  Although time and resources might make getting away difficult, I’d label many things discretionary before this. From a logistical standpoint, not everyone can take an actual “trip” retreat at any given time, but there are ways to adapt the concept to fit a more modest form: camping overnight, a full day’s hike, a weekend’s worth of long evening meditation practices, an extended walk to meet the sunrise. The key is to home in on what we need at a given time. Solitude? Inspiration? Rest? Risk? What aspects of ourselves are going unstimulated in our current circumstances? What patch of our mental terrain needs tending? I think the best retreats aren’t measured by expense, novelty, or even duration. They’re gauged by growth, repose, and restoration. Answer the instinct that presents itself.  [ ]

Flaner

article

There’s a French word, flâner, which is the best travel advice I could ever give. Flâner is hard to translate, something like “to meander about with an eye for beauty, with the eyes of a poet.” It’s the art of strolling, the art of observation. It’s slowing down.

Travel Checklist

Minimum things to pack for travel:

Toiletries:

  • 3 pairs shirts
  • 2 pairs pants or shorts
  • 2 pairs underwear
  • 2 pairs socks
  • One belt
  • Baking soda to double as toothpaste and deodorant (or bring deodorant and buy toothpaste at your destination)
  • Toothbrush
  • Baby wipes
  • Baby powder
  • Clothing soap (or just have your clothing washed at your destination)
  • Other toiletries that fit in your shaving kit
Electronics:
  • Laptop computer
  • E-Book Reader (gone are the days of packing 5 books)
  • MP3 player
  • Cellular phone (remember, skype can be used to make calls from your laptop – or you can have skype forward the calls to your cell phone)
  • Camera (I use the Nikon D90, it’s bulky but it’s excellent).
Money:
  • A small amount of cash
  • ATM card(s)
  • Debit/credit card(s)
  • Passport/ID

That’s everything you need to bring. Now let’s look at some extra stuff you may want to bring.

Miscellaneous Items:

Sunglasses – Especially if it’s a warm, tropical sunny climate.

Condoms – Some souvenirs you don’t want to bring back.

A padlock – You never know when you will need to lock your stuff up at a hotel or at a beach somewhere.

Don’t Bring:

Lighters, liquids, travelers cheques, your girlfriend.