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
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.
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.
Feature image c/o Shirley Smith.