I like quiet.
I can spend hours by myself in silence. No computer or phone. No music. No podcasts. Walking along a lake or doing chores or whatever. Just me and my thoughts.
As digital communication is being relied on more than ever for work and for staying in touch with family and friends, I think a post about the pleasure of solo travel and the value of silence, away from our digital devices, is appropriate.
No devices? What's left?
Once our devices are turned off, what's left?
With devices off, your mind is free to mull.
Mulling is an undervalued activity that is difficult to do with devices on and a deluge of information coming at you. Time to mull frees you to digest and draw conclusions from that deluge. It allows your values to percolate through your thoughts. It allows you to wander from thought to thought, connecting dots of information or forging new questions for exploration.
In tiny beautiful things, Cheryl Strayed suggests “long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”
Travel solo in silence, whether for a day or longer, to spend time in the act of becoming with real intention.
Stories of Solo Travel and Silence
Traveling solo you can choose quiet destinations or busy, noisy ones. It doesn't matter. As long as you are off your devices and not in conversation, you can find silence and be in the present with your own thoughts.
Here are just a few of the trips I have taken where solo travel delivered much-needed silence.
United Kingdom – In 2009, six months after starting Solo Traveler, I went to the Lake District of England and took a Digital Detox. I had been online almost all the time since starting the blog and I needed a break. I found it walking in silence by day. In the evenings I popped down to the pub for a bit of socializing. Read Falling in Love in The Lake District.
France – Walking on a self-guided tour is a great option for silence and solo travel. The planning and booking was all done for me. All I had to do was follow the walking instructions. At the end of the trip I found my mind more relaxed and my body held a newfound sense of physical confidence. Read True Relaxation Found Walking Through Vineyards.
Canada – Taking a road trip through New Brunswick gave me plenty of time away from my devices to enjoy the landscape as it flew by, the beaches, fishing ports, and the attractions along the way. And of course, there was a lot of time spent in silence providing time to think. Read The Great Acadian Road Trip: Itinerary, Tips and Lots of Pics.
United States – This was another road trip, this time through the American southwest in an RV. Traveling with my own home gave me a different kind of silence. There was not only silence as I drove hundreds of miles through a landscape totally new to me, but there was also silence in the evening as I was not in a hotel. I spent my evenings cooking, planning routes for the next day, and reading. Oh, how I read on that trip! Read The Meaning of Landscape: Road Trip through the American Southwest.
Myanmar – In busy Yangon I took the circular train around the city. It was certainly not quiet but I was silent with my thoughts as I watched people in the train and communities outside. It was an amazing window into the life of people from the very poor to the rich and provided much fodder for thought. Read Solo Travel to Yangon: A Warm Welcome and the Circular Train.
Japan – My absolute favorite cultural experience in Japan was the onsen. It was also the one I was most hesitant to try. The Japanese often go to socialize but, given the language barrier, I was simply there to relax. I was in my own silence bubble and have never felt more present in my mind and body. And yet, I was also naked, with a lot of people around. Read How to Onsen: The Naked Truth About Japan’s Best Cultural Experience.
Practice Life and Travel with Intention
17th century philosopher, Blaise Pascal, wrote that “distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.” His point: distractions offer fleeting benefits but deepen damages for we don't get to know our personal truths when diverted from our personal reality.
21st century distraction comes electronically and, consequently, quickly. Mid-20th century philosopher, Marshall McLuhan, proposed that “when things come at you very fast, naturally you lose touch with yourself.”
As human beings – being is the word that I want to emphasize here – the ability to be does not come easily in these noisy, distracting times. Yet it is still an existential necessity.
John Francis spend 17 years in silence. Hear him tell his story here.
Please share your thoughts on how you have experienced solo travel and silence in the comments section below.