The Loneliest Places We’ve Been To

People and motion are the only two constants in a city. Everyone has to reach somewhere and everyone is in a hurry to get there. The fight to be the first is a rough one and rush hour does a brutal job of weeding out the weakest link. And where there’s motion — there’s noise. It’s hard to escape that dull background noise in a city. It could be the honk of a car or music on the radio or loud chatter. Sometimes it could be your thoughts struggling to be heard over it all. Yet, we’ve always lived in a city. The only true escape that we’ve ever had — is through our travels.

“It is better to lie quiet in the mud than to be disturbed on good bedding.”
― Rudyard Kipling

I’ve realised that silence is hard to find in our world today. You have to learn to become an escape artist of sorts and not be afraid of being alone in the middle of nowhere. It feels like a legend until you’ve discovered it. You can find it in a quiet corner tucked in a national park or high up in the mountains. But the route to get there is often treacherous or lined with isolation. Loneliness can be terrifying. But it’s a small price to pay to experience silence.

Over the past decade, we’ve tried to find places that are off the tourist grid. The vast emptiness of the Himalayan belt in Northern India, the Ring Road in Iceland, and the national parks of Central Mongolia are the loneliest places that we’ve visited so far. The inhospitable climate makes these places desolate and largely unoccupied. Tourists or travellers are the only people you’d see — when the weather is on your side.

Surprisingly, even tourist belts can have spots of isolation even if it’s for a brief instant in time. Sometimes you have to wait for the crowds to disappear (Nara) or climb further (The Great Wall) or head deep into a deserted forest (Pyeongchang). The rewards for that extra effort are always sweet.

It’s been hard to select few from the many wonderful places we visited. Here’s a walk down memory lane…

1. Chang La Mountain Pass  – 17,590ft (5,360m)

India – June 2011

“Silence is a source of Great Strength.”
― Lao Tzu

2. Monk’s Quarters in Nubra Valley

India – June 2011

“Silence is better than unmeaning words.”
― Pythagoras

3. Yellow Tree in Nara Park

Japan – November 2012

“In Silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves.”
― Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi

4. Kyoto in Autumn

Japan – November 2012

“Whosoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast or a god.”
― Aristotle

5. Kirkjubaejarklaustur Campsite

Iceland – June 2013

“Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer.”
― Muhammad Ali

6. Somewhere along the Ring Road

Iceland – June 2013

“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre

7. Along the Li River

China – April 2015

“I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.”
― Albert Einstein

8. Further Along the Great Wall

China – April 2015

“Sometimes it’s in the quiet that we hear the loudest things.”
― Anonymous

9. Hidden Forest Trail in Pyeongchang

South Korea – December 2016

“There was a brief silence. I think I heard snow falling.”
― Erich Segal

1o. Khogno Khan National Park

Mongolia – August 2017

‘In a gentle way, you can shake the world.’

-Mahatma Gandhi

46 responses to “The Loneliest Places We’ve Been To

  1. This is such a lovely travel post from you! Agree silence can be hard to find these days. Maybe we avoid it because we are afraid of it, and some of us just don’t like being alone. I am an introvert and love my silence, and solo travel and traveling to remote places don’t scare me. So long as I have a plan to get back and forth and also an emergency backup plan, I am eager to go. These are quite a few quiet places you and Basil visited over the years. Amazing shots framing how vast these landscapes can be, making one feel insignificant. I gues that’s the beauty of being quite and far out somewhere – you learn that in the grander scheme of things, you aren’t always the most important person and there is always something or someone to look out to, watch and reflect upon 🙂

    • Hi Mabel! 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed reading it. I got nostalgic looking at all those pictures and remembering the trips. I’ve begun travelling solo more recently. It has its own advantages. With a travel partner, you need the right rhythm. Someone who understands when to keep quiet. 🙂 Over the years, Basil’s changed multiple cameras and continuously evolved as a photographer. And I’ve taken to photography too. We’ve grown as travellers together! Thank you for your wonderful comment. And I could have said the last line any better! Have wonderful week my friend! 🙂

  2. What a beautiful post Cheryl. You have an amazing ability to transport me through your quotes, reflections and of course Basil’s stunning photography. Some of our best hikes have been in the quietest and remote of places. Nothing quite beats that feeling of being at one with nature. Thanks for taking us along for the ride and another inspiring piece. Hugs xo

  3. You’ve given us so many beautiful options for silent reflection. I have only been to Nara Park and Kyoto so I have many more places to travel. The Einstein quote especially resonated with me.

    Your reference to ‘always living in cities’ reminded me of a time when I could experience silence in the madness of New York (I grew so accustomed to it living there) and madness in the silence experienced when visiting a quiet suburb nearby (the silence was like a deafening scream I was so unused to it).

  4. Cheryl reading your post always guarantees some mesmerizing pictures. And that includes both urban and desolate places. You are a pro. Your pictures speak for themselves.

  5. I remember when I was a child my parents took me to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. The guide took us deep into the caverns then asked us to turn off our flashlights and be totally silent for a minute. I still remember the feeling of no noise and no light. It’s not something we get very often in this world.

    • Thank you for sharing such a wonderful experience from your childhood. 🙂 It must have been magical. I would have been a little scared of the dark though. 🙂

  6. Stunning silent scenery, Cheryl. Being in the presence of Silence helps us to appreciate our surroundings and compels us to reflect on our spirituality. A lovely post with whispers of silence in the images.

    • Although, I’ve always struggled with faith and spirituality, I agree with you. In the midst of silence, I’m tempted to believe in higher powers or alternate consciousness. 🙂

  7. Pingback: WPC: Silence | Lillie-Put·

    • Thanks, Nandita/Raga! Nubra Valley was such a gem. Khardungla was a little packed though. Many tourists want to just visit it, if not cross over to the other side. I preferred Baralacha Pass (Manali to Leh circuit). It was empty and covered with snow. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  8. Pingback: Tranquility | HANNA'S WALK·

    • It took me more than 3 tries and I knew something was wrong! lol. I had to Google the name and honestly, I don’t even know how to pronounce it! 🙂 I remember finding this hidden campsite on a travel blog (before I started our own blog). It was fantastic to actually go there, search for the site, and pitch a tent opposite a waterfall! By morning we were freezing. 🙂

  9. Beautiful spots, Cheryl. Someday I may have to ask you a bunch of questions about northern India – I have had the Nubra Valley on my list for quite some time!

    • Thanks, Lexie! 🙂 Northern India (Ladakh, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh) is fantastic for treks and exploring the Himalayas. In Northeast India (another favourite) Arunachal Pradesh is a hidden gem. I could have lived in Nubra Valley. Unfortunately, most border states and villages require permits and they turn out to be overnight/day trips. I’d love answer your questions! 🙂

  10. Pingback: Silence – Winter Night – What's (in) the picture?·

  11. How apt! One thing that affects me nowadays is noise..it sometimes triggers my anxiety so I’ve had to learn how to cope with these noise bombarding my senses when I’m sensitive…so what I’ve been taught is that you don’t have to find a remote place to find silence, sometimes you can try to find it within yourself as well…(although I’ve not been quite successful in finding my silence but I’m trying) haha…maybe I should travel to one of these places to find inner peace instead? 🤔😄😆

    • Anxiety is such a bummer! I hope you’re coping well. I think what you might be referring to is ‘inner peace’. It’s one of the goals in meditation and the key to happiness. I’ve found inner peace in the most unlikely places. For example, a walk along the Han, during winter, can be such a rewarding experience. And it’s right in the centre of Seoul City! The loneliest places need not always bring you peace, even if, you might experience silence. Nubra Valley is in a conflict zone and you have pass by numerous army trucks to get there! It’s a bitter twist of sorts. So much beauty and silence with a tension hidden underneath it all. 😦 Have you tried yoga, meditation, or even calming chants? But you need to be in a quiet place. 🙂 All the best!

      • Ahh, yoga and meditation is not really my cup of tea but I do have ways to manage it. It’s just that noise can be a trigger sometimes with my condition so I try to avoid crowds as much as possible…I hope that it will eventually settle, perhaps when my condition has stabilised and I’m off my medication…:)

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