Sometimes You Need to Go Walkabout
By Jolene Baney
WALKABOUT: (Australian aborigine in origin.) A period of wandering, of variable length, undertaken as a sporadic interruption of routine life (for spiritual cleansing).
If you saw the movie Australia, you remember the little Aboriginal boy, Nullah. He needed to go on a walkabout to become a man. We too sometimes need time away to experience defining moments and to enter into the next phase of our lives – in a sense, to lose ourselves in order to discover what matters most. This is especially true when reframing our lives after we’ve started on our recovery journey.
Let’s be clear, I’m talking about more than a vacation – I’m talking about a vision quest of sorts. The willingness to remove yourself from your routine in order to face a challenge, find an answer, consider a new path. To journal, meditate, and look for clues that have previously eluded you; to rebalance and refresh. In this season of New Year’s resolutions, perhaps what’s needed most is to pause and truly reflect upon what matters most before committing ourselves to a new idea or a new project.
So, what is a vision quest?
To be effective, you’ll need a few days. Enough time to shake off the day-to-day routines and worries that have kept you stuck in the first place, time to get past your preconceived expectations and let your higher power take over as your guide. Spending large chunks of time alone can be excruciating at first, and then, if you stick with it, becomes strangely freeing.
It helps to go to a place that inspires you – the ocean, the mountains, to a far-away or unfamiliar culture. But you also can do this closer to home, if you have enough discipline to stay out of the temptation to quit and go back to the safety of home. It’s a challenge, but worth it.
It’s often helpful to place yourself in an environment where you’re “out of your box”. Now, a true Vision Quest is sitting alone, in nature. No phone, no emails, not even music or a pen and paper. Just water to drink and your bare-naked thoughts to confront. You don’t necessarily need to go to those extremes to get results. But leaving one’s comfort zone is instrumental to awaken something emotional – an intuition – another way to be. It shakes us loose from what we think has to “be” to feel safe and secure.
Some of my most magical moments have been staying for several days in a hut on a beach in the Caribbean, hanging out at a backpacker accommodation in the middle of the Outback in Australia, finding an abandoned tent in the freezing cold while lost and injured on a wilderness hike. Mind you, I enjoy luxury, and welcome being pampered whenever I can, but the experiences where I’ve stripped away the outer trappings have been my most cherished moments and reaped the greatest personal rewards.
I once faced a difficult choice: whether to remain living in Sydney, which I adored, or move back to Arizona, where my family and home was. It was a bittersweet choice – what to do? So, I embarked on a solo journey into the Outback – my own personal walkabout.
As I flew into an outpost and then drove hours upon hours into the most desolate land, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. My rental contract forbade me to drive after dark because of the danger of kangaroos darting across the road, and dusk was settling in. And then, I saw a sign pointing me to the campgrounds and simultaneously, a full moon appeared over the horizon in the soft desert light, welcoming me into several days of a mystical experience. It was then I realized that the calling of the desert of the Outback was my calling to come back to the desert of Arizona – my own full-circle message showing me my next steps.
I continued to receive powerful signs during the entire trip, hiking hours upon hours alone on a rocky and sometimes dangerous trail up and around the second highest peak in Australia, confronting my fears and allowing the time to be with my thoughts as nature provided inspiration. The next day, an amazing hike through the Sacred Canyon, where 40,000 year old Aboriginal carvings suddenly appeared in several concentric circles. The purpose of my full-circle journey was being revealed: I had come to Australia two years ago to heal, and my healing was complete. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, it was my time to go home.
The time away was critical to bring clarity and purpose to my next steps. I did a lot of journaling in the days that followed, much intention-setting. Making friends with questions yet to be answered. One thing was certain – I could trust my intuition to guide me through the next steps. There was something big for me to do back in Arizona, and taking myself away from my comfortable surroundings and the well-intentioned voices of my family and friends helped me to find my own voice, my own path forward. I look back in wonderment now, ten years later, to find myself working in the treatment field, helping people find their own full circle of life. I realize how important it is to take the time to create your own unique journey and trust the intuition that is always there.
Go on your own walkabout and have the courage to ask your own questions. The answers are there, just waiting for you to be still and listen. Take the time to nourish the inner magic that moves your life forward with powerful intentions.