It's a New Year--new you. Our social media accounts are full of resolutions, many we'll keep for a few weeks and then fall off the wagon.
But what if, instead, we focused on true self-change all year round. Showing up for yourself is international health and wellness coach Erin Doppelt's motto. Solo travel can help empower you. But the spiritual guru recommends embarking on a solo travel for the right reasons and not just to escape your troubles.
"There's a big myth out there, I think, when you see people solo traveling, they're happy all the time--you're alone, you're alone with people, who you really only met a couple days or hours before. You, for sure, end up creating a family for yourself as you're traveling that you might be with for a couple days or a couple weeks, but there's this big element of loneliness."
"So if you're are listening to this, and you're thinking all your problems are going to be solved, once you start traveling--it's not true. Wherever you got, there you are, it's still you. It's still your baggage, it's still your trauma, it's still your stress, it might feel a lot different when you're sitting on a beach in Tel Aviv versus when you're in your corporate office in the states, but wherever you go, you're still moving through similar struggles, and I think that's something that always has to be said.
In that same breadth, you do your deep work when you're traveling alone, you're sitting with your thoughts and a lot of great healing occurs."
But it's never been easier to go see a different part of the world far from the one we known. As Scott Keyes of Scott's Cheap Flights tells us, we're in the golden age of travel.
"Air fare is the most affordable it's ever, ever been recorded in history. So you can find these insanely affordable flights, or because of the whole credit card movement, you use your points traveling everywhere for low cost."
For those on their first solo expedition, it may be easier to travel to a country where everybody speaks English, and while getting out of your comfort zone is harder, it can be more rewarding to experience new cultures. Doppelt recommends:
"It's always good to just learn the language--maybe just the greetings, 'hi, bye, how are you? Left, right, and straight ... is something very important to learn in many different languages."
When it comes to solo female travel, she recommends always go with your gut.
"If it doesn't feel good, if it feels sketchy, you're probably right...if you walk into a situation that doesn't feel comfortable. Oftentimes when you land in a foreign country...you can choose to take a car from the airport to your hotel or destination, and it's typically more expensive, or you can walk on the street, and a local cab driver will probably try to bargain with you to have you come with you in their car...I highly recommend, especially, to my solo female travelers, always take the car from the airport--it is a little bit more expensive--oftentimes-- much safer because they record where the car is going."
She takes a tip from her dad--always travel with a little bit of cash in case an ATM isn't accessible or credit cards aren't accepted. And carry these items in your checked luggage only:
"Always travel with pepper spray, always travel with one of those very high-pitched whistles," she recommended.
She also recommends get a local SIM card for your phone so you can stay connected.
"Many of us have unlocked phones, and you can just eject the SIM Card that you have and put in a local SIM card--you will have a local number, you will have local WiFi or internet connection, and with this connection, people can always locate you...this is something very important if you want internet all the time."
When it comes to keeping track of your Passport, she says one former fashion faux pas is making a comeback.
"Fanny packs are super sexy and trendy, and the fanny pack is amazing, and it's unisex, so I highly recommend [it], I'm very loyal to the fanny pack life. I use it as my purse."
She recommends keeping your passport with you or locked away in a hotel safe.
"Split up your cash, put a little bit of cash with your passport, in your fanny pack, put a little bit of your cash in a random sock, or a random part of your backpack, or your carry-on, or your duffel."
Doppelt's first solo travel, aside from college study abroad in Italy, came after she left her well-paying marketing job in corporate America and moved to Israel. She lived there for six months, backpacking around the country on a mission to find her true self.
From there, she traveled to India. Taking her own advice...to travel there with a group. Then she joined a fellowship, volunteering in the slums of Mumbai.
But she remembers the day travel--and helping others do it in a way that's both sustainable for one's mind and the destination--became her life's work.
"If I could spend the rest of my life helping people connect to the highest or most authentic version of themselves, what a nourishing life would that be? So I had that thought at 17, forgot for a very, very long time....always reading my journal coming back to that really pure thought that occurred in a space of genuine interest and now that's what I do full-time, and also helping other people build a life like this, which is so nourishing...it's so healing."
But before her solo travels would inspire her to help others find the same value in such life experiences...she got a little off path, herself.
"I went to undergrad, I went to college, I studied business, I joined a sonority, I did the typical college thing, which involved way too much late-night pizza and beer, and you fall into the protocol that really is the community around you, graduated, got a great job working in corporate marketing in Chicago, and it was exciting, and it was really what the community desired for myself--and even at the time, what I desired for myself as well.
"I think it's really important to go through some of those movements, the truth is if you're moving in this trajectory that kind of everybody else is moving through, and you're feeling a little bit anxious, or you're feeling a little bit sad, or you're feeling disconnected or under-stimulated, then there's an imbalance. You're not showing up for the high purpose that you really want to move toward, you're not doing your true soul's calling."
Now, she has a Master's in clinical psychology from Columbia University and teaches mindfulness and meditation with a goal of remedying the human experience of stress and anxiety that coincide with a lack of work-life balance and an unrealistic expectations set by social media.
The happiness and health that comes as a side effect of a retreat led to me understanding that humans need regular reminders to take a step back and breathe; we must have days that are different from our orderly, regimented schedule.
Doppelt hosts online training sessions as well as retreats in India and in partnership with a sustainable tourism company called Escape To for travelers who want to do deep, spiritual practice, exploring the Chakra system.
"So it's yoga and meditation in the morning--really opening up the body--becoming really receptive to the land and ourselves."
The trip, underway now, includes a digital detox, complete with hiking and a hot air balloon ride as well as visits to local markets for vegan food.
"It is going to be incredible, and really supporting, sustainably, the local Goan culture, and I really love this theme of eastern and western, I built a lot of my business [around] eastern ritual with western psychology."
The focus aside from that deep work is on sustainable travel-- a concept we've talked about a number of times here on JetSet.
"You want to leave a place better than when you first got there--so this is something I'm deeply passionate about. My India retreat is going to be plastic-free; it's also going to be a digital detox, so taking time off your cell phone, off your computer, really diving into yourself and seeing how you feel. But also keeping it light, supporting the local culture, connecting with the community, supporting the work that they're really bringing into the world."
"There's so many incredible organizations in India. My good friend Erin, she launched this program, this non-profit...and they take soap from nicer hotels in Asia and recycle it and give it to the lower-income or the slum communities, so just even bringing soap to these local cultures, is increasing the hygiene in a profound way, which is decreasing illness. So that's the hope--it's whatever you do, you're enriching yourself, and you're supporting the local community."
She's also hosting a trip to Israel in the fall, October 12-19, 2020, which you can still sign up to join.
"That's also going to be the marriage of both, so sustainable tourism, a day in Tel Aviv, a couple days in the desert, and a couple days in Jerusalem, and really diving within self, but also hiking and eating incredible food, and experiencing the local culture."
She wants those who go on her retreats to feel deeply empowered.
"I wish for them that they see the magic that they are. Retreats are so profound when you remove yourself from your everyday rituals--from what you think your life or your day has to look like--and you move into a different culture, that really shifts the paradigm of what you thought your life had to be. You connect to the deepest, most authentic, typically, the kindest and purest version of yourself."
"And maybe those words sound too 'woo woo' or too spiritual...it comes back into psychology. Abraham Maslow, said we are all here to experience 'peak experiences'...which really is self-actualization, and what we would even say--enlightenment. I'd like to convert that into deep moments of meaning or the study of awe, and awe is a feeling that we're all searching for. We want to feel profound awe, and excitement, and connection, and this occurs all day every day on a retreat--at least on my retreats--and the idea is this idea, this feeling of awe changes you. You can't un-know what you learn about yourself on a retreat, so once you see this magic in yourself, once you believe in yourself so deeply and profoundly, you bring what you learn in your everyday life, and you feel better, you have kinder thoughts, and you know how to open up your body in a way that helps you relax."