On July 8, 2012, when I jumped into the saddle to ride horseback from Canada to Brazil, I had no idea the journey of solitude I was about to undertake. There were times during the 803 days I spent on the road when family and friends met me, but for the majority of the trip, it was just my horses and me. Some nights I met generous people who kindly hosted me in their homes, while other nights were spent camping in the wilderness. But every day, while I rode, I spent eight to ten hours alone. Without saying a word. Or hearing one.
Some days my voice hardly came out in the afternoon. And on some stretches I went days without seeing or conversing with another human being.
Being left alone with your thoughts for such long periods of time, away from your family and loved ones, is not easy. In fact I wonder what it will do to me in the long run. In total, I have spent two years and ten months living life as a saddle tramp. That’s 974 days. 23,376 hours. 1,402,560 minutes. When you are travelling at 4 kilometres per hour, 30 kilometres a day, a minute can seem like a lifetime.
Although there is a melancholy aspect to being alone for such long periods of time it also offers a unique opportunity to get to know oneself better. I have never been able to meditate or sit in yoga class because my mind would never stop racing. Being alone for days in the saddle has given me, for the first time in my life, the opportunity to have an internal conversation with myself. As much as it is hard at times to be in such intense solitude, it is a tremendous chance to be honest with myself and learn exactly what I am made of and why. It’s a cathartic experience. Therapy on horseback.
In the age of Pokémon Go and Instagram, being able to disconnect from the modern world—to cut out the noise and focus on a simpler way of life—is a luxury. It is something I have always strived for. But my time alone has also reminded me how much I love being around people and making new friends.
If anything, Long Riding has showed me again and again that life is meant to be shared!
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