What is a Walkabout and How Can It Transform Your Life For The Better?
I was inspired to write this post as I find myself about 2.5 years into my own walkabout. I'm going to go ahead and insert one of my favorite songs from my teenage years here... it's relevant and a fun way to open up this topic. Go ahead, take a listen if you like (the lyrics are on point), this article isn't going anywhere...(Walkabout)
OK welcome back. I find I really enjoy connecting through music. I was a musician since some of my earliest years and have found music to be a pillar for me getting through this life and for making the most of this life. I'm sure many can relate as music is a massive part of the human experience. (Don't worry, this relates to my walkabout.) When I graduated high school a was an accomplished jazz musician and playing music was a massive part of my life. When it came to college, most of the societal and family messaging was that I needed to pick a career that I could make money in (the assumption was that musicians are starving artists). Well, that led to a lot of indecision, confusion, and jumping of schools. In hindsight, I really wanted to be a musician, I loved being a part of creating this magical thing called music. Instead, I got into engineering, then psychology, and then I started pursuing medicine. All of these things came from a place of trying to figure myself out. I can look back now and see where I diverged from my passion and stopped pursuing what made my heart feel good...
7 years after being a practicing clinician something finally snapped. Was I helping people immensely and doing so called "fulfilling work?" Yes. Did I check all the boxes that society lays out for us for creating a "happy life?" Yes. Was I happy and enjoying life? Well no, I was actually immensely disconnected.
I'm not going to get into all of that. Practicing medicine has been a mix of extreme beauty, hope, and joy; as well as pain, struggle, and having the life sucked out of me. Yeah that's a whole other story. Suffice it to say, I needed to make a change. I wasn't living life authentically. After so many years of trying to find myself through science, career, thinking, etc, I realized I needed a new approach.
My favorite dictionary definition of a walkabout is as follows: "A temporary return to traditional Aboriginal life, taken especially between periods of work or residence in modern society and usually involving a period of travel through the bush." We might add to that, "for the purposes of making a transition (traditionally into adulthood)." It was a term used for when young men would go out into the wild to find themselves and become a man (though this concept could of course be applied to women). So yeah, that's basically what I've been doing the past 2.5 years, and the transformation that has ensued is (in my eyes) miraculous.
I took to the road, I became a nomad, I traveled the US, Mexico, Costa Rica, I left behind many modern conveniences and comforts, I took life one day at a time, I lived in the moment, I removed myself from the society I knew (mostly, I still worked remotely a bit for AntiCancer360 and maintained some select clients), I worked to let go of my given identities/roles/expectations, I reconnected to music by working/volunteering/attending dozens of festivals, I partook in traditional entheogenic ceremonies of healing, I reconnected with friends and family around the country, I made dozens of new friends, I found a shamanic teacher and took the path of a spiritual warrior, I became a reiki practitioner, I took on yoga and meditation, I lived in the jungle off grid for a month, I met God this one time not too long ago.... Well I could go on. The point of this rambling is to illustrate that I took a walkabout. I let go of contemporary life and found my way through the "bush" in order to find myself.
And what's the result? I discovered unconditional love, I healed my relationship to my father, I opened my heart to the world, I reconnected to my greatest passion (music), I met some of the most interesting and loving people, I have experienced the full gambit of love, I have revisited and let go of deep depths of pain and suffering, I have developed deep gratitude for all experiences in this life (even the difficult/challenging/painful ones), I have found a new and deeper way to help others heal (I call it integrative somatic release), I have deeply healed myself on many levels (still a few more to go!), I have manifested my dream life... I bring all of this up because I never thought any of this was possible. My walkabout ended up being my greatest healing adventure.
This is one nugget that has come out of my experiences: I believe many of the spiritual folks out there often preach the end result as if it is the path. For example, when you hear people preach about how forgiveness is the way... It sort of is, but not really. Forgiveness is the result. You know you have healed an abuse when you can look back on it with total forgiveness. That's how you know when you're there. Forgiveness is an internal state of being. It's for you. It has nothing to do with allowing or justifying someone's behavior. It's a new way of seeing the world that happens as you let go of your stories, expectations, and disappointments about how things should be. When we heal from the pains and traumas inflicted on us, forgiveness is inevitable. It's our signpost that we have done the work with great success, that we no longer identify with our victim stories as they no longer hold power over us.
Much of my trauma healing came from entheogenic ceremonies where I met powerful deities who gifted me my greatest releases. In every piece of trauma that needed to be healed, it was stuck somewhere in my body and was holding onto a mindset, emotion, and a physical symptom. These spiritual guides helped release these scars and cleared the way for different possibilities in how I experience life. Truly transformative and healing on a level I didn't know was possible. I've been so impressed by such changes that I have further embraced the path of the shaman and am growing to be able to offer such experiences for others :)
A walkabout contains within it another added benefit. When we wake up in the same place every day, the same room with the same lamp shade, the same pictures, the same kitchen, house, yard, same work place, etc - we experience the same cues to mentally re-create ourselves as we were the days before today. Should we wake up in a new environment, these cues to recreate ourselves are not there, and we are afforded a psychological opportunity to create ourselves however we see fit. Regularly changing one's environment is a powerful way to come into a new identity, a new story, and to let go of the old stories that are currently creating our experience. The healing power of this cannot be overstated. The travel involved in a walkabout provides us with this opportunity again and again.
My walkabout has transformed (and will continue to transform) me in untold ways. It has been the ultimate spiritual pursuit and that's what I believe a walkabout is truly all about. Self-Realization. And who isn't looking for that? My next phase includes me working for dozens of music festivals in 2023, because this is what I love! This is how I connect to others and spread healing and love. And as I venture from one to the next it continues my walkabout, where I constantly learn, grow, and develop myself in ways I never fully conceived. It's a powerful experience, I wouldn't trade it for anything, and I recommend it more than any other healing path in the world (your version of a walkabout of course). Will I ever return to traditional societal structure? I have found a whole new way of being I never realized was possible, I'm getting to live my dream life right now... gosh, I hope not!
So what's holding you back from your walkabout? Too busy? Too much work to do? Too many responsibilities? Are you still living in a limited story of what is possible for your life? Does it sound too scary to let go of what you think you should be doing? Just imagine how you might be able to show up for life and loved ones if you were able to grow into your best self. Imagine what kind of passion filled, soul gratifying work you could be doing. Family responsibilities? (My friend Amanda is a great example of someone who has taken her entire family on a walkabout for years.) As you sit here and think, "yeah that all sounds nice, but..." just stop yourself and ask this simple question, "what else is possible?"
The truth is, there is infinite possibility for how you experience this lifetime. You get to choose what that looks like. Maybe it's time to take a chunk of life and go figure out who you are at your essence. You stand to be forever changed and live a more authentic life. So why not go on a walkabout, find out, what it's all about...
(And if you haven't listened to that song I linked above yet, now's an appropriate time)
Much love :)
~Derrick Schull (Kheya Wanagi)