When You Travel, You Find Yourself Alone


Greetings from St. John’s, Newfoundland—the “east east” coast of North America, and the first stop of my book tour to every province in Canada.

I’ll be on the road for the next two weeks. Articles will continue to be posted as always, but email and the rest of my work may be delayed as I explore the frozen north. For my trip eastward and your life wherever you are, here’s something from John O’Donohue that I especially liked.


Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

– John O’Donohue


Image: Inezzy

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  • Candice says:

    Welcome to Newfoundland, my windy, rainy island! I could spend a lifetime telling you about life on the island, but alas, you’ll have to return for a longer trip! Cheers.

  • Tom Meitner says:

    Good luck on the tour, Chris! And I’m dumping this poem into my Evernote, because it is beautiful!

  • Sam Davidson says:

    Having traveled more than ever last year, I agree. The road is exciting. And, it’s lonely. Finding new experiences and people along the way help this.

  • rob white says:

    That’s a wonderful poem to ponder. Indeed, when we travel we carry our self and our self-talk with us. No matter where we travel we have what we need already… our infinitely unique nature is with us always.

  • Steve Drodge says:

    Welcome to the Rock — sorry about the weather!

  • Harrison says:

    Great poem. Definitely brings out what a traveler feels.

  • Maia says:

    Beautiful poem, and really timely as I’m about to leave tomorrow for a month-long sojourn in Chiang Mai, Thailand (which includes time in an elephant caretaker training camp!). Every trip can be a pilgrimage, if we enter it that way, and this poem really captures that.

    Enjoy your own travels through Canada, Chris!

  • Kim says:

    This post touched me so much. Newfoundland is the only province I have not yet been to and John O’Donohue is one of my favorite writers of all time. This is an insightful pairing since I would imagine that the rocky west coast of Ireland where O’Donohue is from has similarities to Newfoundland (except not quite as cold). Enjoy!

  • Lucie Campeau says:

    Thank you Chris for sharing this beautiful text from Donohue. Cheers to discovery, mysteries of elsewhere and longings of the heart. The return home will be attuned to the realities we have chosen to address.

  • Ashley says:

    Beautiful Chris. This rings true for me. Thank you!

  • Omid says:

    Hi! What a nice point is made out in this poem. I am travelling in south asia now. Adventurous! Now I understand it in this moment.

  • Barb Chipperfield says:

    Welcome to Canada. May you not be ALONE here. Looking forward to seeing you in Vancouver

  • Travelin Jones says:

    Thanks for sharing inspiring words on travel; perfect timing as I’m flying this afternoon from the southeast to the snowy Midwest, not looking forward to flight delays.

  • Wade says:

    Chris, thought you might like to know: Borders has included you on an email promotional for e-books.

    The subject line reads “eRead Your Way to Your Best Year and SAVE!”, and at the bottom they have links to six e-books under the category “Living Well”. The e-book for your AONC book is among them! Maybe that’ll generate some traffic!

  • Yvette says:

    Lovely thoughts! You’ve got me itchin’ for a new adventure!

  • Heidi says:

    Thanks so much for this Chris! I love John O’Donohue and was just thinking about him yesterday – here is my favorite blessing of his –

    May the nourishment of the earth be yours,

    May the clarity of light be yours,

    May the fluency of the ocean be yours,

    May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

    And, so may a slow

    Wind work these words

    Of love around you,

    An invisible cloak

    To mind your life.

    I hope to see you tomorrow night at your stop in Halifax 😉 EXCITING!

  • Contrarian says:

    Traveling or not, by definition, being a non-conformist and contrarian means you will be alone often.

    “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself”. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

    Those who are incapable of being alone will never know what it is to be free.

  • Linda says:

    Thank you for this beautiful poem urging the traveler inside “to free your heart of ballast.”

    That is so eloquent.

    Happy Canadian travels Chris!

  • Nissy Nevil says:

    🙂 Thank you Chris for sharing this wonderful poem, I am preparing for a very important travel right now, that was when i happened to read this poem. I loved it. Have a great time at St. John’s and wish you lots of memorable moments with the rest of your book tour! 🙂

  • Terry Krysak says:

    Welcome to Canada
    What a great poem, food for thought for sure
    Look forward to meeting you in Vancouver

  • Lynne says:

    Having traveled extensively across all Canadian provinces and territories, I can easily say Newfies (and Maritimers) are some of the friendliest people around. Warmhearted, gracious, and wonderful.

    Enjoy your visit.

  • Cindy says:

    Beautifully said, and very true. It’s a reminder that becoming your own best companion and trustworthy friend is essential to both surving and embracing new places and people. Not to mention the places and people we already think we know.

  • Lisa MacIsaac says:

    Welcome to Canada Chris – The Rock will treat you well for sure and when you are done your epic visit to every country in the world, Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada will call you back. Can’t wait to meet you in Calgary when you get here.

    And thanks for sharing such a beautiful poem with us.

  • s.b.Lyngo says:

    True. All of it! I’ve found journeying and art to be surefire ways to truly know self. Thanks and guidance and light on your way. Blessings to you in all you do…

  • Krys C says:

    Wow, wish I was back in my hometown now so I could shake your hand. Instead I’ll have to wait until you make plans for a European tour that includes Cologne, Germany 😉
    If you only have time to do one thing while in St. John’s, check out the downtown area – The view from Signal hill, a drink on George Street and fish and chips from Ches’s. If you get your timing right, check out the ‘haunted hike’ as well.

    Hope you enjoy our island. Cheers, – Krys

  • Steffan Antonas says:

    The title for this blog post could just as easily have been….when you travel alone, you find yourself. 😉

  • Krys C says:

    Also, passed on word of your Chapters appearance to peeps back home via Facebook. Hopefully a couple of them will be able to make it.

  • Trisha Carter says:

    Thanks for the introduction to an inspiring poet!
    Excellent thoughts

  • Kerry says:

    what a wondrous poem – and just think that one day very soon, just about every country you visit, you would have visited before. I think that makes you even more unique than you already are if unique comes in different intensities…

  • Bonnie says:

    Very nice, thank you very much.
    To quote William Carlos Williams:
    “It is difficult
    to get the news from poems
    yet men die miserably every day
    for lack
    of what is found there.”
    Enjoy your trip!

  • David says:

    Thanks Chris, beautiful poem which really strikes a chord.
    Didn’t know the work of John O’Donohgue but am about to find out more.
    Have a great 2011

  • Darlene Chrissley says:

    Thank you for the gift of this poem and the pleasure of your virtual company, wherever you may roam.

  • Britta Wein says:

    This is so beautiful Chris. Enjoy your trip. May you find great souls and beautiful spirits to welcome and accompany you. Take care!

  • Melani W says:

    Simply echoing the other comments here in thanking you for introducing me to John O’Donohue. He enunciated perfectly why I love to travel alone. It’s not just to find out more about the place I’m visiting, it’s to find out more about myself.

    Also, I’m very glad I signed up for your emails last week! When I read your emails I feel thrilled to be starting 2011 on such a positive note.

  • Maggie says:

    Wonderful poem — tonight has definitely left me wanting to travel more…
    Hope you enjoy your brief stint in Newfoundland, you’ll have to come back for a proper visit one day. There’s lots to love about this rock. 🙂

  • Michael says:

    Chris, I hope your time in Newfoundland was fun. Look forward to the meet up in Halifax tomorrow night. Cheers!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Beatiful poem and thank you for introducing me to this writer. There are no coincidences…today I was contemplating the idea of traveling alone for the 1st time ever…this inspirational poem is in my inbox. I think it’s time! The only thing holding me back is fear of the unknown but who knows what wonderful things I will discover along the way. Enjoy your travels in Newfoundland. Can’t wait toniest all about it

  • Carrie McKeegan says:

    Great quote Chris. Really inspiring for all us expats out there with the travel bug! We’ve lived in many countries (currently in Bali) and it is amazing how each new place still makes your heart beat just a little faster. This poem definitely captures that.

  • Andrea says:

    Having just divorced, I find this poem both poignant and pertinent. I’ve been struggling to know/feel just how to move forward in attitude. You’ve reminded me this is just one more adventure I’ve embarked on. I’ll keep my eyes and ears (and heart) open. Thank you.

  • tree says:

    so true to life and travelling…truly hit home for me!

  • Mary Darling says:

    perfect words for my journey to Vietnam tomorrow 🙂 thanks Chris for always having just the right post… enjoy your journey! and stay warm!

  • Roxanne says:

    Hope you enjoyed your time in Newfoundland, Chris – and as other fellow Newfoundlanders have said, you will definitely have to return to see more of the province. Enjoy Halifax and the rest of the Maritimes – I also lived there for 8 years and went to university there – it’s one of my favourite places.

  • connie b says:

    Thanks for this beautiful poem; it says some things I have felt but could not put into words. Through years of traveling alone, I have found more of my hidden life and the urgencies that deserve to claim me. However, I may not return “home” as the idea of where I belong keeps changing.

  • Marianna says:

    Having spent 2 weeks last summer all over NL, I can say Gods Frozen people, AKA newfies are very open and warm hearted. Can’t wait to go back. Watch out for moose!

  • Anna says:

    It’s amazing how alone you can fill in an airport filled with people… Just wrote a post about what to do when you miss home.

  • Kipp says:

    Staying true to yourself and the values of non-conformity…who else would have booked a book tour through Canada in January? Nice.

  • Stephanie says:

    Thanks for this poem! I have started a new travel-influenced blog and will be reposting this poem there to share it with my readers (with due credit of course). I very much appreciate the inspiration!

  • Mary says:

    Thanks for sharing. This poem is a great preparation to a journey.

  • Masha Tkacheva says:

    Great poem.

  • Audrey A. Metz says:

    This poem became a favorite when I first read it prior to a trip to Ireland last year. I was preparing to take a Celtic pilgrimage to the west coast of Ireland and found this poem to be especially apt at that time. Thank you for reminding me of the poem and the rich, meaningful time I now associate with it.

  • Justin Hamlin says:

    Hope to visit Newfoundland soon! Wife and I are moving from CA to NY here in the next 10 days. Already looking forward to the planning of these adventures on the east coast!

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