Travel Musings: On Being Unplugged & The Beauty of Silence
We were in Vietnam, not far from the Cu Chi Tunnels.
The rain fell hard, harder than I’d ever heard it fall before. And then it was nothing. Except the hum of the jungle.
Sprawled on top the covers of the hard bed, I fiddled away on my phone with an ancient looking TV on mute in the background.
Then with an ominous click, I simultaneously heard the sound of the air conditioner, TV, ceiling fan and light shut off…as if someone had tripped a cord.
Just like that, blackness surrounded me. There was an almost faint ringing in my ear as the buzz of electronics faded away to nothing. All that remained was the sound of the rain.
Of course my phone still had some battery left, so I turned on the flashlight and carefully walked through the dark to the door, unhinged the lock and opened it.
Monsoon rain had caused instant flooding and the water had nearly made it’s way to top of my door frame. My eyes adjusted. I could see the thick rain drops splash on the light pink, brick path that lead towards my room. Then, thunder cracked so loudly I felt it in my bones. Again and again, the thunder and lightening echoed and ruptured through the sky with no breaks – the storm was overhead.
I closed my door and checked my phone. It was 7:13pm, way too early to sleep.
Fearful of running out battery, I fished through my bag for a tiny flashlight I always travel with. I then grabbed a book and read. I felt like I was 15 again, camped out in my tent and reading.
Back inside the room, I could feel the temperature creeping up and up as my pores began to open to let out a few beads of sweat.
I reach for my phone plugged into the lone socket on the wall – 12% with no hope of a charge. No wifi. The time read 8:01pm.
I began to feel restless. Fidgety. My mind began to race.
I crept to the door to open it again. This time, with the flashlight I’d brought. Water pooled on the faded bricks lit up by a the moonlight that glowed through patches of pale grey clouds overhead.
The adjacent doors of my travel companions were shut. Could they already be asleep?
I closed the door and laid back down. Moments later I heard the rain slow and then eventually stop.
I took a deep breathe. And then another and another. I settled into the blackness.
And before the crickets and hum of the nearby jungle erupted back to life it was, for a period of time of which I will never know, there was complete and utter silence.
And it stands as one the most profound moments of my journey.
Silence forces us to confront ourselves. We don’t like it – we don’t like the emptiness and vulnerability that we can find staring back at us. Through social media, our work, our kids our lovers it is ingrained in us to be heard, to be seen to be something.
We create a constant chatter in our heads and in our lives that can drown out our own inner voice. This chatter, even when traveling, keeps us in a search for something that we already have deep within us – in the here and now.
While sitting or lying down in silence we can see and hear things we otherwise wouldn’t. Our thoughts settle down. Clarity of purpose arises and often worries evaporate – giving way to the inner voice of contentment that allows us to realize we’re already everything we need to be.
True silence; however, can be hard to find in our daily lives.
The life changing experience of travel comes in many forms but I hadn’t often realized that something it was in the little moments of forced silence, forced waiting that are some of the most incredible experiences of travel.
Just like life back home the great moments are often remembers and sought after for their, well, greatness! And it is usually heart racing schedule that keeps us moving from event to event and moment to moment in our daily lives.
That habit is hard to shake but in reality not having to be somewhere, be in the know, be connected is a gift. And sometimes it take a rainstorm to remind us.
So as you plan your next adventure, just remember to be open to the moments, even alone, unplugged that aren’t in the Lonely Planet Guide as the ones that be amazing and impactful in their own right!
So on that note, with the holidays ahead of us, Team Kosan is going to be “Unplugged” for the next few weeks. We’ll still have some posts on Instagram and Facebook, but we won’t be writing on the Journal again until the New Year. We wish you a wonderful holiday and safe travels!