All my life I've felt the need to occasionally go walkabout. As a kid, I didn't call it that, but the definition fits. The Australian Aborigines, as a rite of passage, would wander off into the wilderness for months at a time. There's usually a spiritual element associated with it.
I've always felt the need to wander off by myself. Of course, as little kid, I always had to be home for supper. Still, I'd be able to wander off into the woods by myself for hours at a time. How many little kids can do that today?
By my teen years, my parents let me wander off on overnight hikes. As I got older, my wandering would take me further afield and I'd be gone longer.
I'd disappear far off the beaten trail, going days without any human contact. That was part of it, the isolation. How many people today get to spend days alone in the wilderness? I know, all the hiking guides recommend against it. Always hike with a partner. Good safety advice, really.
There's more to life than being safe.
For the Aborigine, it was a spiritual experience. That spiritual element is important to me too. I wander off when civilized life becomes too burdensome. I commune with God, nature, and quiet my mind. It's a reflective time. Sometimes after a walkabout, I come back with insight that changes my life. At the very least, it's a recharging experience.
My lovely wife always understood it is part of what I am. She never felt the need to change me. In fact, there have been a few times when she suggested that perhaps it was time for me to go on walkabout for a bit. I'm sure by then it's almost as much for her as it is for me. The guy who comes back is better than the guy who sets out.
Part of the experience involves living at least partly off the land and traveling with minimal gear. I've fished, hunted, and lived on wild plants. There were times in the winter in the mountains when I lived off rock tripe. Sometimes I'd fast for 3 or 4 days, drinking plenty of water, but eating no food. It's good to know how your body responds to that sort of thing.
I did try that once in the winter, but by the third day I was having out of body experiences. During the night as I tried to sleep, it felt like my soul kept floating out of my body. The experience would freak me out and I'd slam back into my body. That went on all night long. Early in the morning, I made some hot coco, ate a bit of breakfast, and hiked out.
After a walkabout, it takes time to readjust to civilized life. Everything is too loud, fast, and jarring. My senses are hyper aware. It's one thing to be aware of the critters of the woods and wind in the trees. That same level of awareness is overwhelmed by the cacophony of our mechanized world.
It's been too long since my last walkabout. Meditation helps, but it's not the same. Winter's been busy for me, but by spring or early summer I'll probably wander off for awhile.
I owe it to my soul.
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