Wanting to loosen those shackles? Free yourself from day to day worries? From trekking in Nepal to frozen river trails, trekkers find solace and space for reflection. Trips like these can change your life. Here I summarise what you might cherish as one of the best trips to find yourself…
Best trips to find yourself
What does it mean to find yourself? I’ve heard it described as “reaching the soul”. For me, it’s self-wilding.
The best journeys are retreats from the day-to-day happenings in modern society that gift your mind, body and soul an unquestionable amount of self-care. Retreats like these are one of the many suggestions I list in my article on nature-inspired gifts.
Read on for the full stories from global adventurers who have experienced these places to know more.
1. Trekking in Nepal
Earlier this year a friend of mine (who is over 60) went on an inward and outward adventure trekking in Nepal. She opted to do this after friends had described their own journey on a similar trek in Nepal as a trip for “reaching the soul”.
For my friend, this was to follow her Buddhist retreat in meditation at Nepal. She would continue on as a solo female traveller in Nepal, but with the help of a trekking guide and a porter to carry luggage. The two friendly and much-appreciated companions were part of the tour package, organised by Adventure Geo Treks.
My friend’s 6-day Siklis trek in Nepal took her to places that challenged her physically and mentally. She trekked to Gurung villages and along trails used by Gurung villagers to the Himalayan foothills, staying overnight in village accommodation.
She found a completely different lifestyle and people living closer to the land and physically stronger than herself.
This trip was rated as an easy grade. Nevertheless, she found herself wishing she had better prepped yourself physically. Her advice to others is to prepare for the endurance you’ll need for the day after day trekking – see my article about hiking for beginners.
I didn’t want to stop with just providing you with this one story. There is a plethora of opportunities out there to discover yourself (apart from meditating on a comfy cushion) that involve a journey or trek to some far-off or not-so-far-off place.
Each of us resonates with a place differently (this will differ with where we are in life etc.). So, I reached out to others in this space to get a diverse selection of ideas for you across the planet. You’ll find a snapshot of their recommendations in the video above.
Read on for their stories and why they chose them in this collation of the best trips to find yourself…
2. Volunteering in an ashram near Santa Marta, Colombia
Deb Pati from The Visa Project
There were too many things going on in life at the same time, and I wanted to be in a place where I could rejuvenate my spirit and perhaps reconnect with myself. This place turned out to be exactly that.
Situated close to the Santa Marta montane forests, the whole place was pretty remote, calm, and peaceful. I was totally cut off from technology. My day would start with an hour of yoga and meditation.
The yoga classes were great and very relaxing. It was followed by breakfast. After which I would work with fellow volunteers in the ashram on different projects that the ashram had.
A lot of projects were about sustainable construction and gardening and involved hard physical labor. They also had workshops about learning the ways of the indigenous people and their connection to Pachamama, mother nature.
3. Life-changing Kailash Mansarovar Yatra in Tibet
Abhinav from A Soul Window
I had embarked upon the Kailash Mansarovar lake yatra without knowing its significance. I agreed to this once in a lifetime journey on the invitation of a company I work with. Journey! Yes, that’s what yatra is called in English. Little did I realise that the journey would not only transform me and help me look inwards but also it would leave me with new epiphanies.
The two-day long Hindu pilgrimage happens every year for few months in Tibet. The sacred Kailash Parbat is revered not only by Hindu but also by Buddhists and those who follow Bon religion.
It takes 2-3 days of high altitude trekking to complete. Though a challenging journey, the rewards outweigh all trials and tribulations.
As I meditated in front of Kailash Parbat, suddenly I felt a surge of emotions in me. It is believed by Hindus, a religion I was born into, that Kailash Parbat is the abode of Shiv Bhagwan, the most supreme of Hindu deities.
Soon, tears escaped my eyes, as my inner demons started to crowd my brain. It was cathartic, to say the least. The psychological relief I received at that moment was what I needed, though not during what I thought was just a trek.
I still do not know why that happened. Some say it is the sheer energy of the place. The Hindus also believe that doing a parikrama aka kora or circumambulation of Kailash Parbat benefits the luck of the pilgrim.
4. The Camino de Santiago
Alya from Stingy Nomads
The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage route that starts in different cities across Europe and finishes in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The walk can be as long as one wants from a couple of days to one or two months.
I walked the Camino Frances, a 750-kilometre route in Spain, alone and indeed had a lot of time for self-reflection. It took me just over a month to complete it.
The first week of walking was more of a physical challenge. I needed some time to get accustomed to walking 20-25km a day with a backpack. By the second week I got used to it, the physical part became less important and I started thinking about my life and the changes I wanted to make.
Most days I walked 5-6 hours alone but from time to time I met other pilgrims. Walking is the main activity on the Camino and meant I had a lot of time alone for thinking.
For me, it was amazing how after a couple of weeks of self-reflection some things that’d seemed complicated turned out to be simple and easy to resolve. I wouldn’t say I was a completely different person after the walk, but I definitely made some important decisions on the Camino.
In my opinion, walking the Camino is a perfect opportunity to get some time with yourself. Despite its pilgrimage status, many people walk the Camino for different non-religious reasons, such as self-reflection and finding themselves.
5. Solo female travellers – Sri Lanka
Steffi S from Beach Bum Adventure
When I first started researching Sri Lanka, I was overwhelmed by how many people said I couldn’t go there alone. There was a lot of scaremongering and ridiculous statements even in Lonely Planet, I read “women shouldn’t travel alone on night trains”.
When I looked, the 3 authors of Lonely Planet were all men. This made me even more determined to visit this amazing country and the fact I was a solo female traveller wouldn’t stop me! It was the first place I ever travelled alone and I had the most incredible time.
People were incredibly helpful, friendly and I just can’t get enough of how much history, nature and kindness one small island holds! Highlights were being the only person in a jeep and seeing 50 wild elephants, seeing a whale shark and dolphins at sunrise and finding the confidence to go and chat to fellow travellers and locals on trains, buses, hostels and on top of giant rocks! (The Sigiriya).
While there were a couple of points where I felt on edge during my trip, I am so glad I took the plunge to explore Sri Lanka solo and I now feel I have the confidence to explore by myself, never needing to wait for a friend or man to join me!
Since that trip, I have visited Sri Lanka twice solo, India solo twice and my sister even went to work in Sri Lanka by herself!
6. Cape to Cape Track, Western Australia
Jo Castro from Lifestyle Fifty
Putting on my walking boots and getting out for a hike in a remote spot with fresh air and beautiful views is about as close to nirvana as I can get. The meditative process of putting one foot in front of the other, along with the smell of fresh, salty air gives me the time and space I love to reflect on life.
We are blessed with remote spots and large empty spaces in Western Australia, but one of my favourite hikes that allows me to get back to nature and connect with myself is The Cape to Cape track.
You can do it in sections, or all at once. It offers 360 km of pristine walking tracks with fantastic coastal views and forest scenery in South West Australia. Still not overrun with tourists the trail runs along the coastal ridges, beaches and forests from Cape Naturaliste in the north to Cape Leeuwin in the south.
It’s a reasonably tough hike to do all at once, but perfectly do-able if you have the right camping gear. You’ll find designated camp spots along the way and the trail varies from coast to beach to forest to meadows.
7. The Andes of Peru
Ariana from World of Travels With Kids
There are many reasons that I love trekking in the Andes of Peru: beautiful landscapes, plus the physical challenges, and improving fitness day by day. However, the most important aspect of long-distance trekking is the feeling of being free, empowered, and powerful all wrapped in one – all elements of self-wilding.
I started trekking over 25 years ago, long before the internet even existed and people would have looked at you askance if you mentioned digital detox.
I find that the first couple days of a long-distance trek (by long-distance trek I mean more than 5 days) are filled with thoughts and trappings of this material world. The first few days are also difficult physically as your body becomes accustomed to hiking for hours on end and sleeping in a tent.
By the end of day 4 this adjustment has passed and hiking becomes more meditative, walking one foot after another, breathing in the pure air of the mountains, and being out in the sunshine (or rain!) It’s liberating.
I’ve never hiked alone – the routes I take are often through remote mountain ranges and it would be dangerous. However, even when with others, once I hit the trail, hiking is solitary and beneficial for the soul.
8. Wild camping in Kenya
Nadine from The Expat Mummy
We all know that being in nature is good for the soul, but is that still true when you’re surrounded by natures most fierce predators? I think so. Wild camping in Kenya is the ultimate chance to connect with the world on a deeper level.
In Kenya, wild camping is as simple as getting in your car and heading out to the bush. Pitch your tent and open yourself up to the call of the wild. Whilst you will find most of safari’s Big 5 within specific reserves, in Kenya wild animals are everywhere.
In Kenya’s deep south, where the border touches Tanzania, lies the River Ewaso. The river runs nearly the length of Kenya and is filled with crocodiles and hippos. The area is desert-like except for the huge acacia trees that border the river.
The river and its trees are the lifeblood of this region. Here is where the Maasai come to shelter from the heat and water their cattle. In the trees lie leopards, eagles and fat hyrax, and in the bushes snuffle zebra, buffalo and giraffe.
Pitch a tent anywhere along the river and spend the night listening to the sounds of Africa – the haunting call of the bushbabies, the cackle of hyena and possibly even the mating call of a lion. Nothing will stir your soul more than a night in the wilds of Africa.
9. O Circuit in Torres Del Paine National Park
Steph from Worldly Adventure
There aren’t many places in the world quite like Patagonia. And, if you’re searching for a place to lose and then re-find yourself, then the O Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park is the way to do it.
This nine-day trek is the longest I’ve ever hiked and the mental preparation for carrying my entire home – tent, food and everything else – on my back for the 85-mile trail was the most taxing.
Because, from the moment you step onto that path, you’re surrounded by the perfection of nature. The act of hiking, of carrying heavy equipment, is suddenly a secondary concern.
Patagonia has captured the imagination of explorers and travellers for centuries. Here, you find pristine wilderness, where guanaco graze on sun-scorched grasslands and glaciers calve into crystalline lakes that feed into roaring, raging rivers.
Everything about Torres del Paine National Park, as you climb through rugged, mountainous scenery, welcomes self-reflection and re-connection with the natural world.
10. Exploring the Great Ocean Road
Vicki from Great Ocean Road Guide
Exploring the Great Ocean Road – one of Australia’s most well-known tourist attractions – is the equivalent of self-wilding for beginners. Despite the busy tourist hub towns dotted along the road, between them, and making up most of the coast, is an abundance of diverse natural areas to get lost in.
There are the empty beaches to the cascading waterfalls, the rainforest hiking trails to secluded, peaceful accommodation – be it camping or not.
For those that want some time alone, to disconnect (but not be so far disconnected they are totally off-grid) and to surround themselves with nature without having to commit to a multi-day hike or a yoga retreat, the Great Ocean Road region offers so many different ways to help you connect with nature. (And if you did want to hike for 8-10 days, camping along the coast – you can still do that too!)
11. Tuscany and Florence, Italy
Matt from mattadams.com
As a sufferer of work-related stress from age 24 when I was managing two real estate offices and a subsequent work-related anxiety panic attack at age 27, self-care, finding-the-self and ‘knowing-thyself’ have been crucial to my mental (and physical) survival.
The severe panic attack that I suffered altered the course of my life for worse (and for better). It took 10 months of self-rehab to get to a stage where I felt I could work again full-time in my chosen profession.
In those 10 months, one of the most effective things was spending time-in-nature. Whether it’s ‘earthing‘ or just hiking in the forest or national park, nature is my life-saver.
The energy from the trees and from the ground itself can heal. And it can also prevent health issues, mental, physical and emotional, from occurring in the first place. And now that I’m writing my book about my journey with work-related stress and anxiety, nature is helping me to write.
Now living in Tuscany, Italy, I’m regularly hiking in the region, and locally in Florence, I’m ‘earthing’ in order to stay healthy, stay centred and write my book which could potentially help millions of people around the world suffering from work-related stress and anxiety.
Make trips into nature, wilderness, beaches and rivers part of your life… to not only prevent potential health issues but also to help you achieve optimum health and maintain it for the rest of your life.
12. Kumano Kodo, Japan
Wendy Werneth from The Nomadic Vegan
My husband and I have a tradition of walking a different route of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail every year. And despite my aching feet, I always feel rejuvenated and more focused after the experience.
So when we were planning our trip around Japan, it was a given that we would walk the Kumano Kodo. Also a religious pilgrimage trail with its origins in Japan’s native Shinto religion, the Kumano Kodo has been paired with the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that, as ‘dual pilgrims’ who had walked both trails, we were given a special certificate and various other gifts and were invited to a traditional drumming ceremony.
But of course, we didn’t do the walk for the certificate. We did it to experience the beautiful nature of Japan up close, rather than through the window of a bullet train. And what better way to connect with nature than by walking a pilgrimage that honors the kami — the Shinto deities?
Kami are hard to define, and there are millions of them, but many are animistic spirits who reside in the mountains, streams, wind and other natural elements. After walking in their presence for two days, I felt that I understood the kami — and myself — a little bit better.
13. Chadar Trek – Walking on the frozen river Zanskar
Arnav Mathur from Eat | Travel | Live | Repeat
Before I start, let me just say this first – Chadar Trek 2020 has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life so far. And it will remain forever etched in the memory for it taught me a lot of lessons.
The Chadar Trek is a seasonal one. It basically involves walking on the frozen river Zanskar. You actually walk on a thick blanket of ice and snow, formed over the river, and hence the name Chadar. It’s a 5-day trek, spanning 65 km of walking on ice, snow, and at times along the river on slippery rocks.
It’s 5 days of walking in freezing cold temperatures, sleeping in sub-zero temperatures, withstanding the cold and surviving on the mere basics. It goes without saying that it takes a toll on your body, which then affects the mind.
The Chadar Trek is considered one of the toughest treks in the Himalayas, as it requires both physical and mental stamina. The Chadar Trek experience made me acknowledge the extent of capabilities of my body, appreciate the little joys of life and to always look at the silver linings when faced with unexpected situations.
Imagine waking up at 5 in the morning, even before the first rays of the sun are out. It’s literally freezing! However, the porters have already prepared a hot cup of lemon tea for you. Having that with biscuits, while overlooking the Zanskar river as it flows by silently in front of the campsite, is an experience, that one could never have expected to have.
14. A trek to the Valley of Flowers, India
Reshma from The Solo Globetrotter
The Valley of Flowers Trek in Uttarakhand in the Himalayas is one of the most beautiful treks in India. I had been a solo traveller for years, but I had never hiked alone, so I gave this a try thanks to the clear trails and route map available.
It took about a week, where I hitchhiked, stayed in monasteries for the first time. This trek gave me the time to reflect as I faced one challenge after the other, including not getting a place to stay at a remote village.
I faced mountain sickness as I reached higher altitudes. The views got magnificent as I hiked further, but I had to stop and fight the altitude’s effect on my body. It was at these moments that I felt like reaching my soul, finding answers to questions that I was looking.
I finally made it to the Valley of Flowers National Park alone and was blessed with some of the most beautiful views I had ever witnessed. This trek helped me to become stronger and more confident about solo travelling and in my life in general, where I learnt that anything is possible as long as you don’t give up.
15. Solo trip to Palau
Katie from The Hollapinos
I went on a solo trip to Palau for soul searching. Not so many people know about Palau and I don’t know anyone who has been there so I chose this destination.
The best thing about Palau is that you can go anywhere and find an amazing white sand beach with clear waters even along the roads and for free!
Aside from beaches, I visited museums, parks, and even the prison during my trip to Palau. Visiting these places alone taught me to enjoy my own company while staying guarded to any threats.
I’ve done a few solo travels but it was in Palau that I joined a tour. Being joined in a group of couples made me the favourite of the tour guide because there was no one to talk to me nor to apply the white mud on my back at the Milky Way lagoon.
The highlight of my solo tour in Palau is swimming with the jellyfish. Swimming with these tiny gentle creatures was the ultimate experience of my life. After my trip to Palau, I became independent and prefer to spend more time with myself. I also realized that nature is my luxury.
16. Self-drive in Namibia
Emma from Wanderlust And Wet Wipes
A self-drive safari in Namibia where you drive for hours on end on gruelling gravel roads might not be the first place you would think of when heading off to find yourself but it surprised me.
Namibia is rugged and testing but it has some of the most incredible landscapes you will ever see. The almost complete lack of phone signal forces you to disconnect from the powers of the internet.
But this isn’t what helps you to find yourself (although it helps). It’s sitting in silence in the middle of the night, not daring to breathe as an elephant walks past a rhino to get to a watering hole in the wildlife-rich Etosha National Park.
It’s standing at the top of a towering sand dune, staring down at ant-like people walking around Dead Vlei while chatting to a tour guide about the almost 1,000-year-old petrified trees below.
It’s watching angry purple storm clouds blend with a pink and orange sunset over burnt red sand of the Kalahari Desert as the sun sinks lower in the sky. Finding yourself could be on a wellness retreat or a yoga course. Or it could be in the most unlikely of places.
I want to thank all the contributors, who made this article one hell of an interesting collection of life inspiring journeys and a page for soul searchers to bookmark.
I hope you enjoyed this list of trips to find yourself and that it inspires and motivates you to get out there, explore, reflect and keep on moving on in nature to reap your self-wilding rewards.
Whether you resonate with the wild, the beach or the mountains, I hope these experiences will inspire you to take that life changing journey.
Feel free to comment below.