long before i was a harp & vocal girl (yes, i was a harp and vocal girl) and my teacher christened me walkabout, i had a reputation for wandering both in the literal and figurative sense. at my littlest, my meandering would lead to places as unique as my grandmother’s cupboard or as ordinary as behind my mother’s couch. i would clear out whatever was housed in such places and twist my own body into whatever shape necessary to gain comfort and solace.
the older i got the more mobile i became…a girl walking through the bounds of her neighborhood collecting small tokens from the forest of my neighbors’ yards…a preteen bike riding for what seemed like miles or at least until the road ended and i was well winded…then as a teenager on buses, for $1.00 i could ride all day long and discover locales strange to me like royal oak or farmington hills.
when my body was not able to leave i would drift off in my mind. before i’d even known yoga had a name, i would sit cross eagle with stiff posture, close my eyes and shut out the world. or my very favorite was to stand on my head with my back against the wall and ‘rest myself’ (as i told the adults passing by). with a pillow i could remain in that position for quite a while.
it wasn’t until i met mrs. patricia terry-ross that i had a name for my need to get out and wander. i thought it was merely a consequence of my mother naming me, wanda (though i’ve know wanda’s who do not wander). mrs. ross caught me one day while we were rehearsing drifting while standing in place. my drift was more than a mere daydream she said. it was like i had actually left the building though my body remained. it took moments of her and my h&v sister standing beside me poking and calling my name for my attention to come back to the here and then. from thenceforth i was known as walkabout wanda.
mrs. ross explained to me that walkabout is an australian rite of passage. teens take their leave in aboriginal culture there and go wander in the wilderness to ‘find themselves’ and learn about their culture and spiritual heritage. it made sense to me and i embraced the nickname, walkabout, with affection and appreciation. walkabout is what i do. it’s what i’ve always done. it clears my mind and helps me make space for the next steps in my life.
when i trace back over the sojourns of my life, i recognize that the need to get away no matter how far or how long has always been a part of my process for healing, for growth, for preparation. my journeys are both spiritual and corporeal in very nature and like my aboriginal cousins help me connect with my roots as an American, as an African American, as a woman, as a Christian, as me. they as a critical component to my mental health and social well being. i cannot imagine who or what i would be were i unable for any reason to walkabout.
perhaps you wander yet feel lost. or maybe you feel like you’re suffocating in open spaces. or like your mind has clouded over and the cabin pressure in your cranium is only enough to last till morning. if so you may very well need to go walkabout. if so here’s the least you should know:
- it is not a planned escape. it is not a vacation. it is a journey both physical or spiritual. you have to respect that process and trust your instinct to lead you were you need to go. when the urge arises to walkabout, go. as an adult with responsibilities you should make sure your boss is aware that you’ll be absent a few days. you should also water your plants and either pack up your pets and kids to go with you or find a safe place for them to be.
- aboriginal teens go on walkabout for 6 months, but there is no set time frame to walkabout. you could go for a weekend, an afternoon, or 2 hours. just as its not a destination, it’s also not an agenda. there is not specific time and there is no specific where. you go when you go and you stay as long as you stay. my walkabouts have lead me to drive for days only to sit by an ocean for an hour and have caused me to walk for an hour only to circle back home in time to fix dinner. don’t place a time constraint or quite your job and divorce your spouse using walkabout as the reason. your spiritual and physical wellness plan may require those things but walkabout does not.
- use as few of your resources as necessary. walkabout is not about luxury. you’re not suppose to spend your life saving to take a journey inward. if you’re headed to a 5 star resort in the Caribbean, you’re going on vacation not walkabout. the bare minimum is all you need anything else is a distraction and will keep you away from your true purpose on walkabout…to get back to the truth of you. much to my mother’s chagrin i once traveled to the four corners sans cell phone. so for her mental health i do now carry my cell phone and a gps (it helps her sleep and entertains my kiddo) otherwise i go off grid and i stay on budget. you shouldn’t come back from walkabout broken in any sense of the word, if you do, you weren’t ready to go.
- surrender. walkabout is all about going with the flow. if you are a control freak this will freak you out. given my control freakish nature i understand. i can penny pinch till the whole day through and have no trouble with unplanned plans but surrender, this is the thing that sends me over the edge. however, if you are to walkabout, if you are truly learn recoup or gain a stronger sense of purpose and resolve you have to release your need to control what happens and how. i would not suggest that you pick up hitchhikers or go wandering in known deadly spaces. risking life and limb is not the stuff of walkabout but trusting that within you is all you need to make it, is. when you surrender to the process and give up the illusion that you are the one in control you have achieved walkabout success and can return to your village, place of business, backyard garden or couch with a renewed sense of self and vigor for life.
walkabout. its a thing. try it out.
i also recommend you visit fellow walkabout advocate, Karen Shanley’s piece: How to Go On a Walkabout