When I packed my bags and drove North to spent 62 days in a cabin by a lake it was not just for fun nor was it some kind of long lazy holiday but an experiment to see how I would react on being alone, nobody to talk to, nobody to save the boring nights or to smile away the time. I wanted to reach out to my limits and go even further. I wanted to act instead of just dreaming.
Influenced by the storytelling of Jack Kerouac and Thoreau, I thought to recognize a specific kind of energy below the surface that resonated with me but only making that statement would be way too easy. I needed to find out for myself. Therefore I took off.
For this journey I tried to be prepared for being bored, for being lonely as I imagined those things would be my biggest challenges. It turned out differently. Although my biggest challenge was returning to (my) city life, there are some unexpected lessons I learned from my travel north:
1. Being alone isn’t being lonely
Arriving at the cottage with nobody there and looking out over the lake while the sun was shining made me truly realizing that this was the place I would be for the next couple of weeks. Strangely this thought didn’t scare me and neither did the many dark nights spent on my own. On the contrary: trying different paths every day for hikes and the quietness with only the sounds of the wind playing with the trees made my heart sing. I found a new excitement in walking to the mailbox and finding lovely letters from friends which I read with my feet in the water and my head almost in the clouds. With so little distractions demanding my attention I found space and clarity between my thoughts that normally rush around like ants before a storm.
Loneliness doesn’t come from the lack of people around you but rather from wanting, needing or expecting something from another person and not getting it.
It is easy to be scared and coaxed to live a life by fears. It’s easy to be influenced by the media and not trust anyone, not even yourself. We seem to learn that trust is a bad thing on many levels and I guess it’s good for the economy and those who need power over others to feel enough. We need to doubt our body image to buy more, we need to doubt our thoughts so that we can be influenced and shaped, we need to doubt each other so there is no us nor we but many.
Trust in myself is what I needed to undertake this adventure. Trust is what made my dreams into reality. Trust is also what made me open the door and let someone in or what made me make the right decisions on important moments.
Trust is what opens your eyes and your mind to give the world a chance to come in and fill you with beauty and miracles.
3. It’s OK to do nothing at all.
When I got the tip from my literature professor to take the time to do noting at all I made a note but doubted if I could do it. A very dominant uncomfortable feeling told me to be useful, to not waste any time. It was looking for external stimuli to get things done. Nothing but silence was howling back from the shadows in the woods.
We’ve gone too far with thinking, acting, being productive. For whom anyway? Who really cares about our instagram feeds or facebook updates? (Well, if you do, feel free to follow me, I’ll feed you, I promise.) I can tell you, even when you leave the online world for a few months, the world doesn’t end. And when you come back everything is still the same- and maybe that’s the most scary thing. Everyone who has been busy doing whatever is just the same. Same routine, same comments, same everything. So if from the one million reasons to do noting at all you just need one, it’s this: it doesn’t matter. It’s your life, your limited time, your energy.
4. Listening to my inner voice (even more).
Life had changed a lot the past years and day by day I learned that the loudest critics of my lifestyle and choices are scared as a deer in headlights. Changes come with drawbacks and discomfort there is no shortcut. There is no reason to just accept the status quo, be bored, dull and drab. While being aware and taking care of my own needs like my need for silence, I keep my eyes and ears wide open for the sounds from the world.
5. Taking responsibility.
This is one of the reasons I think that every person should spent some time alone and learning to takes responsibilities. And I’m not talking about getting that fulltime contract to pay the bills or to buy a suit to get the right look, but being aware and taking responsibilities about our own feelings and internal life. It is not because we feel lonely that someone has to be there for us. It’s not because we’re upset that somebody else should wipe our tears and kiss our sorrows away. It’s not because we have stress that we should go out and drown our thoughts.
Being there on my own by the lake made me aware of the power of thoughts to understand emotions and to do something constructive about it. If I felt restless I put on my boots and ran through the woods. If my thought would be covered in clouds I would analyze them lightly or make a painting, read a book, write a story,…
If there is no one around, you learn to be enough and take care of yourself instead of waiting to be saved like a hopeless Disney princess.
6. Facing fears.
Even if I would be a superhuman, my busy nights flying over the city would be top secret of course.
In a long but not forgotten past I was a very shy kid. I would panic if I had to go into another class and ask for a crayon. I would sit on the toilet for an hour, hoping I could skip reading out loud. Eventually I found out that it is like swimming: some people step in the cold water with a toe first and while shivering trying to think of reasons why or why not dive in. Others jump in like wild dogs and start swimming. The wild dogs have more fun, waste less time overthinking and just go for it. This mindset just works better. Overcoming fears by facing them- and surviving- makes you stronger and more confident you can handle a situation the next time. Challenge your beliefs, most barriers only live in your imagination.
7. Living with less.
I found it comfortable to have almost nothing in my fridge and see all I had at a glance. Same goes for a limited amounts of clothes and shoes. I often thought about what I missed and except some of my art supplies and desktop computer (spoiled and very critical photographer on that one) there wasn’t much that I missed having. Once home I gave away lots of things that I no longer needed.
In short: I found this experience both challenging and liberating and I’m curious what you would add if you traveled for a longer period of time or if you’re a solo traveler?