Why Solitude Is Now The Most Coveted Commodity In Travel

Photo by Vianca Soleil. Vogue Philippines Maiden Issue.

Feel the urge to get away from it all? You’re not alone.

It’s just before sunrise in Zapotengo, and I’m climbing a set of stone steps to reach the rooftop of Casa del Sapo. I arrive at the concrete perch to see three of my dearest friends already preparing to bask in the glow. From where I stand, I have a clear view of the horizon. To my left is a palm-studded lagoon full of crocodiles resting behind an old, seemingly abandoned chapel. To my right is an undeveloped swath of golden-sand beach that spills into a jumble of silvery boulders.

There’s no one along the shoreline, save for one man: Chucho. I watch as he casts his fishing line into the ocean. He and his partner Felicita, who live together in the home behind our weekend rental, are our only neighbors. On nearly every day of our trip, we’ve eaten Chucho’s fresh catch, which Felicita prepares into some delicacy like white-fish ceviche or buttery prawns. For breakfast, we’ve walked a dirt path to the organic garden out back: habanero peppers, tomatoes, Swiss chard, and cilantro are plentiful, as are fresh eggs direct from the coop.

The home—a remote, two-bedroom abode by the sea located about 45 minutes outside of Santa María Huatulco in Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca—is sequestered along one of the most unspoiled beaches I’ve ever been to in Mexico. It’s for this reason, and for the quality of solitude it offers, that I chose Casa del Sapo as the setting to ring in my 33rd birthday.

According to a study by the Journal for The Theory of Social Behavior, the search for solitude is on the rise. In contrast to loneliness, solitude is typically a positive state—one to be sought rather than avoided. The study lists the benefits of solitude: increased freedom, creativity, intimacy, and spirituality. Just like me, travelers past and present have long sought solitude through remote environmental settings—namely, in isolated, wide-open, natural landscapes that lend themselves to introspection. It’s destinations like these that tend to call forth a sense of freedom, where we feel small within the grandeur of nature and are free of noise that cityscapes often produce, fostering a liberating effect and awe and deeper presence.

It’s this desire for solitude, coupled with the last few years of disrupted travel plans, health concerns, and a staggering increase in connectivity, that could be leading to a desire for travelers to venture to more remote places than ever before. Nearly 97 percent of Americans own a cellphone of some kind, according to the Pew Research Center, with 85 percent of them owning a smartphone device like an iPhone. It’s no wonder we may feel the urge to get away from it all when it seems as if we never truly can. 

While statistics make an obvious case for the need for solitude, our increased interest in finding more peace could also be rooted in ancient wisdom, too. Katie Silcox, the New York Times best-selling author and founder of the Shakti School for Ayurveda, explains the urge for more stillness through the form of ancient Indian medicine in which she specializes. According to Ayurvedic principles, each human is made up of a combination of three doshas, or archetypes, of which each comprises of two main elements: Kapha, earth and water; Pitta, fire and water; and Vata, air and ether (you can find your main dosha here). She explains this rise in our need to disconnect because humanity has an excess of Vata energy due to almost everything we use to stay virtually connected—the internet, computers, cell phones—as being Vata. The behavioral side effects of excess Vata in an individual include restlessness, anxiety, nervousness, as well as feelings of being ungrounded and an urge to run away. 

“The desire to travel, especially to areas one may deem to be more wild, natural, or authentic, is a very reasonable impulse to counterbalance our culture’s lack of true connection,” says Silcox. “While we are hyper-connected through our intellects, our physicality and soul may feel less connected than ever. We can balance this sense of excess Vata by spending time outdoors, cooking our own food, or grounding activities like gardening.”

According to the world’s preeminent travel providers, experiences similar to what Silcox suggests are being increasingly requested. Not only are travelers looking to disconnect from technology, but they’re also increasingly interested in connecting with cultures in a more thoughtful way, especially in isolated locations that provoke a natural sense of solitude. 

Given that Jordan’s landscapes and rich cultural heritage offer a haven for both, the country has become a top destination for those searching for a true escape. This holds true for Ayman Abd-AlKareem, the co-founder of Experience Jordan Adventures. “I’ve noticed a surge in inquiries for tailor-made tours that offer off-the-beaten-path activities,” says Abd-AlKareem. “Travelers are looking for unique experiences that allow them to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, to find peace of mind in the serenity of nature.”

Similarly, at the four-bedroom luxury homestead Flockhill Lodge in New Zealand, the landscape is so vast, it feels as if you’re consumed by the scale and majesty of its boundlessness. Manager Andrew Cullen views this as one of the lodge’s greatest assets, which shaves his view on connection. When organizing adventures, he lets the rugged wilds of the lodge’s surrounding 36,000 acres in the country’s sparsely populated South Island lead experiences. “While going to a remote destination is typically seen as disconnecting, I view it as you’re actually connecting,” says Cullen. “When the wild nature of your environment dictates what your experience on any given day, you learn how to be patient and let a journey take you to places or realizations you may not have expected.” 

For the hotel group Awasi—which offers luxury lodges in locations such as Chile’s remote Atacama Desert and near the Iguazu Falls rainforest in Argentina—experiences are built around offering each guest booking a private guide and vehicle to explore untouched natural landscapes in solitude. The chance to explore one of the most rugged landscapes on Earth in private, explains Matías de Cristóbal, general director of Awasi, is what keeps guests of the hotels coming back for multiple visits. “This type of travel exposes us to new cultures, landscapes, and realities, often forging lifelong memories that shape the way we think,” says Matías de Cristóbal, general director of Awasi. “Particularly, in the most pristine places, it can be a humbling experience to realize that we, as human beings, are a part of nature and do not just coexist alongside it. It’s when we connect more deeply with nature that we may also discover a missing part of ourselves.”

On my final evening in Zapotengo, I do what I know best—I write. In bed, beneath a sheer netted canopy, I reflect on the gratitude I feel for being able to spend my birthday in such a remote paradise, how appreciative I am that a place like this exists. So many friends I know have left cities like New York, Los Angeles, London, and Mexico City behind in the search for something different. Some have built seaside homes, others have created organic gardens and farms in the countryside. It makes me question if there’s something innate in us that yearns to feel connected to the land, in places that stir this sense of solitude and introspection. At a time when the world felt chaotic and our futures were completely out of our control, this is what we reverted to—literal grounding by becoming more enmeshed with the land. Perhaps, in the end, that’s where we should have been all along.

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