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Finding room for reflection in the Australian Outback

written by The School of Life June 18, 2017
Endless skies in the Australian desert

Article provided by The School of Life

At its deepest level, travel can assist us with our growth and development as human beings. It can – when approached the right way – play a critical role in helping us to grow into better versions of our normal selves. Without anything mystical being meant by it, all of us are involved in one way or another on what could be termed ‘an inner journey’: that is, we’re trying to develop in particular ways. We might be searching for how to be calmer or how to find a way to rethink our goals; we might long for a greater sense of confidence or to be better at meeting and talking to new people.

Where we choose to go can shape that personal development; the outer journey, you might say, can assist us with the inner one. And if there’s anywhere suited to a little self-reflection and recalibration, it’s the Australian Outback.

Feeling small in the Australian Outback

Uluru in Outback Australia


The Australian desert is a unique landscape: vast, arid and uncompromising. Yet somehow it makes us feel philosophical, and can help bring perspective back into our otherwise chaotic lives. Sometimes our colleagues and peers will try to make us feel small, which is never a pleasant experience, but in the Outback we feel diminished in a different way, a good way. In the vast regions of the Australian center, there is relief in contemplating rocks created four hundred million years ago; and the erosion of millennia marked on the walls of steep canyons. We feel small in an incredibly big place.

Why might we seek out this feeling of smallness? Because we naturally exaggerate our own importance. The incidents of our own lives loom very large in our view of the world. Yet, as the Australian desert teaches us, we are minute and dispensable in the greater scheme of things. The world will go on much the same without us, which, if we let it, can be a source of relief rather than distress.

Looking up and looking inward

The sky at night from the desert is lit up with the sparkle of a million stars. Gazing up, none of our troubles, disappointments or hopes seem to have much relevance; for a little while, at least, our own lives can seem blissfully unimportant. The same applies to everyone: it is levelling, humbling and a deep relief.

Australian desert silhouettes

The big skies of the Outback.

In this space, where some greater perspective is re-gained and we can quiet the mind, we can then turn our attention to a deeper reflection on our life, our relationships, our work, our hopes and our plans for the future. We can ask ourselves bigger questions, and just as our view extends into the far off horizon, so does our mental landscape. Our thoughts spread out, stretch into the new space we’ve created, and find a new expression when they eventually contract as we return to our urban landscapes. The desert can help us to stretch our imagination, re-gain perspective and get in touch with a deeper part of ourselves.

Intrepid have teamed up with organisation The School of Life to create a special, reflective itinerary in Australia’s Red Centre. Check it out here, or read more about our Outback tours here.

Feature image c/o Shirley Smith. 

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Pamela Engelander July 16, 2017 - 3:19 pm

Great to know that your type of travel embraced by the principles of The School of Life is just what I feel travel is all about. This sounds just wonderful.

Anonymous July 3, 2017 - 2:13 am

Sounds wonderful! Often when you’re travelling, it’s difficult to find time to reflect and really emerge yourself in the experience as well as the impact of the travel and expe

Sanena June 26, 2017 - 9:19 pm

Good news for me Thanks you all


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