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Imagine choosing not to speak for a day.
Imagine choosing to walk everywhere, without taking any form of motorized transportation.
Imagine if you continued both those things for 17 years.
John Francis did this. He decided to try a day and found the experience so valuable that he carried on for a week, and then a year, thinking that he would talk on the anniversary. That didn’t happen. He continued his silence for 17 years while earning a BA, MA and Ph.d–even while teaching college students he didn't speak.
Why did he do this? Because one learns more by listening and observing than by speaking.
Watching this video (which I hope you will do as it has more to offer than just thoughts on silence) got me thinking about solo travel because traveling solo imposes silence, at least some of the time.
If You're Not Talking, You Can Listen
John Francis says that on the first day that he stopped talking, he began listening. His participation in a conversation actually limited communication. It limited learning.
I think that solo travel, more than any other form of travel, provides a similar opportunity to listen and learn.
When we travel solo, we naturally spend more time with our thoughts, listening to ourselves, because we don't have someone else with whom to speak. When we are alone, we spend more time observing, taking in the local culture and customs, the environment, fashion, people working, playing, and living their lives. This experience of listening and observing is amplified if one doesn't speak the local language. When speaking is not really possible, we spend even more time listening, observing, and learning.
Traveling alone and not speaking the local language may present its challenges from a practical point of view but a naturally imposed silence that causes one to pause, listen, observe, and learn has overriding benefits.
I would like to suggest that taking the time to travel solo in silence, at least some of the time, will do even more to help us see, learn about, and appreciate destinations and cultures around the world.
You can hear the whole story from the man himself in this TED Talk.
Do you sometimes travel solo in silence? Please share your thoughts below.