I want to preface this by saying I´m an avid and experienced solo traveling woman. I love it as much (and sometimes more) than I do traveling with other people.
It´s a rewarding experience in which you will learn a lot about yourself and grow as a person.
So when I see literally hundreds of cries for help on popular travel forums from fellow travelers (usually women), asking the same question: “Where can I go to heal from…(insert problematic life scenario here)”, I find myself more than a little disturbed.
Not that they asked for help , but that so many people seem to think heading out for the horizon will fix whatever went off the rails in their life.
And this is definitely something that is trending.
To be clear, I´m not talking about taking a vacation. I´m talking about escapism.
This has become an increasingly popular way to deal with the not-so-fun aspects of life. We live in an era where everything is magic pill this and ghosting that. Walking away from our struggles under the pretext of embarking on a “healing journey” has become a fashionable new addiction.
And not surprisingly, people are disappointed with the long term results. Once you return home, unpack your bags and settle in, the frustration, depression and grief are exactly where you left it.
It´s what I call the Eat-Pray-Love syndrome. A 2006 novel that inspired millions with its tale of self discovery and redemption through travel, which created a tsunami of wanderers seeking to replicate the experience simply by showing up in some exotic locale with all their baggage in hand. What a lot of people missed, however, is that it wasn´t the traveling that healed the author, but the insights it gave her into what she needed to do to heal herself.
These days, you´ll find an army of “solo lobos” on every continent, looking for a travel cure-all in a sort of sad, desperate scavenger hunt.
This isn´t healing. This is distraction.
So much of this kind of travel falls under the heading of “emotional tourism”, with the same kind of sensationalist junkie undertones you´d find in a drug addict.
And that´s truly the root of the problem: Distraction isn´t the same as healing.
Though solo travel is an amazing experience that I highly recommend, nothing in your life will change if you think jumping on a plane for parts unknown is all you have to do for the big uglies in your world to get better.
Travel is not the duct tape for life.
Now that being said, I do think travel can help facilitate healing and offer insights to our own troubles IF (with a big emphasis on the word IF), we are willing to do the inner work and attack the root of the problem.
Whether that be in the comfort of our own home or on a beach in Bali, the inner work looks the same regardless of the view outside your window.
So now that I´ve crapped all over your idea of running off to somewhere exotic to dip a toe in Ayahuasca, an ashram or some similar quick-life-fix; the question remains…
How can solo travel actually help you?
Well for starters,solo travel takes us outside the comfort zones of our daily life and strips away the illusions we hold about ourselves.
You´ll never be closer to the truth of who you are than when all that defines us is removed and we´re forced to do what most people spend their entire lives trying to avoid…
Look at what´s underneath and be honest with ourselves.
That´s where we find the source of our unhealed trauma and insecurities. Solo travel is an opportunity to take a hard look at why things are the way they are in our lives and the role our own actions play in them.
It´s a chance to see yourself as you truly are, without the armor of your carefully crafted identity pulled tight around you.
From these truthful and often hard looks at ourselves, we find inspiration and insight. We can take the first step toward healing.
Solo travel is really just one step on that journey so many people crave.
So for those who end up depressed after returning home from an epic jaunt that involved little more than getting wasted with strangers, petting elephants or doing drugs in the jungle…
Just know that true healing is possible.
Vacations are wonderful and God knows we all need them, but don´t make the mistake so many do and assume it´ll automatically be some deeply insightful, spiritual journey that changes your life.
Unless you do the work and actually peel back the layers of your problems, nothing will change.
It´s quite simple, but definitely not quick.
But like all things worth having in life, there are no short cuts and spiritual healing is no exception.
Until next time, chin up and keep wandering!