This past week, I took a trip to see the Grand Canyon. At the last minute, the other person I was planning to go with had to cancel. Although hotel reservations had been made, no money had officially been spent. So, I still had the opportunity to back out. I talked about this with a close friend in my circle and he brought up how this would be an opportunity for growth. It would be just God, myself and over 1000 miles of road. Oh yeah, I was driving. Here are some of the spiritual takeaways from my solitary five day trip.
Adventure is what YOU make of it
Early on in the trip I started to experience some frustration. I was almost through New Mexico, had been driving all day, and was still several hours away from my destination. Originally the plan had been to stop and get a hotel in Roswell, NM. However, when I arrived there I was making such good time I figured I could get all the way to Flagstaff, AZ. Without realizing, I had turned the adventure into a mission.
“I have to see the Grand Canyon,” had become the purpose of the journey. It was no longer about self discovery. Although the Grand Canyon was the destination, this slight shift in perspective turned it into the sole reason for the trip. Every other aspect of the trip became a peripheral concern. I would only be fulfilled upon achieving my goal.
I started to wonder why I took this trip. I thought to myself, “I’m driving over 1000 miles one way, far from my friends and family to see what? A big hole in the ground?”
I had to reflect on my reasons for going on the trip alone. By going alone, I could adhere entirely to my own schedule. I would have time to be with myself and ponder my experiences. I would be free from external influence and the beauty of the trip would be entirely of my own understanding. Reflecting on my reasons for traveling alone centered me and enabled me to redirect my energy towards the original purpose. Getting to know more about myself.
The following day, after spending the night in Gallup, NM, I did things I wanted to do. I was only three hours away from Flagstaff, so I hiked the Red Rock Trails, saw The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Parks, and talked to several Natives about the Navajo culture and tradition. Looking back, I enjoyed those parts of the trip more than actually seeing the Grand Canyon, which I assure you, is much more than a “hole in the ground”.
Benefits of Prolonged Solitude
Most people do not find spending five days alone very appealing. I definitely didn’t. At least at first. It is one thing to sit in meditation and practice stillness. However, I found the experience to be more like moving to a place where you know no one. Every interaction has to be formed from scratch and there is little emotional security. Of course we all have phones to touch base, but if I spent the whole time talking with friends back home, part of me would know I am avoiding the experience I set out to have.
During the time with myself, I had a lot of conversations with what I choose to call God. After all, God was the only one there to hear my thoughts and I don’t feel the need to talk out loud as much as I used to. As I talked, I became much more aware of my fears. An emotion would rise up in me and the only thing I could do was sit with it. I had no way of ignoring the them. After feeling it for awhile I would ask myself, “what is at the core of this?”
Being on the road for 16 hours kind of forces you to dive deeper. I gained a lot of perspective about my own triggers and emotional habits. I had time to think about why I like and dislike certain things. The specific parts of something which invoke emotion in me. I reflected on my past and the experiences that shaped the way I think and feel.
After an extended period of self discovery, I reached a place of peace and serenity. I found the later moments of the trip were spent largely in marvel at the nature around me and the forces that created the landscapes. It was profoundly spiritual to ponder the nature of creation, as many of the landscapes took millions of years to form and had been there millennia’s before any human witnessed it.
Engaging Your Inner Child
When you spend such a long time with yourself, you get an opportunity to recreate what “fun” means for you. There aren’t other people to give their two cents about which activities you should do. At first it is kind of uncomfortable but it’s a good practice of giving into your heart’s desire.
Towards the end of the trip I was feeling exhausted from doing so much and being from central Texas, the snow was becoming a challenge in and of itself. I realized that growing up, our vacations had never been very relaxing. We would spend all our time sight-seeing and doing things. This way of travel has its own merit, but is not a very relaxing way to spend a vacation. Because of this, I knew my emotions were a call from my inner child to spend vacations how I never got to. Lounging around, playing games and eating.
I had a small internal battle because part of me still thought that was an “improper use of time”. I can do that at home after all. Although, once I recognized it as an opportunity to love my inner child, I knew it was the right thing to do. The other part of me had got its way the first half of the trip, walking through national parks and going on tours, now the child got to be in charge.
I always had difficulty understanding how to heal my inner child before this experience. I had read about it and could make some connections, but this was my first really big opportunity to do so. Once I made the decision to go along with the warm feeling of excitement in my gut and ignore any internal parenting, I found myself having a great deal of fun. It was the most refreshed I felt in a while. I found my energy levels increased. I was no longer restraining myself to activities I felt were “adult” like. I simply did what my heart told me I should do.
Now that I am back from my trip I feel I have gained a lot more awareness about myself. My motivation to work on my goals has been renewed. It’s an experience I have seldom felt from vacations before given the draining nature of constant motion. It is something I plan on doing again down the road and I believe everyone should provide themselves with the opportunity for self exploration.
If you have ever taken a spiritually impactful trip, let me know in the comments below! I would love to hear your takeaways and what you learned about yourself. If you enjoyed the article make sure to check out some of my other posts.
To all my fellows, may your seeking be fruitful and your findings bountiful!