“A Vaccine Against Noise” – why it’s time to seek tranquility in our travels

After a record number of delayed or canceled flights and countless missing bags, the summer of travel chaos has left us exhausted and stressed.

But it’s not just travel. As the world gets busy again, our lives seem to be bombarded by an ever louder, shrill, dissonant symphony of ringing phones, ringing alarms, and the incessant chatter of others around us.

Our brains are in turmoil, and—either consciously or unconsciously—we are battling the anxiety that this constant noise brings.

During my career as a travel journalist, I have always been drawn to the quieter corners of the world. During lockdowns to contain Covid-19 when we were unable to travel I spent time exploring the stillness as if it were a new continent.

Now I have a feeling that many of us long to hit that off button again. “To return to something original, authentic, to find peace and experience a little quiet alternative,” writes Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge.

And yet, the idea of ​​being quiet can often be found boring, uncomfortable, or even frightening.


Met Cloisters in New York. Photo: Emma Thomson

In 1952, composer John Cage debuted a score entitled 4’33. He sat silently at the piano for four minutes and 33 seconds. The only sound was the opening and closing of the lid between each movement and the occasional rustling as he turned the pages of the score.

People were confused, shocked and even outraged. Cage argued that it was perhaps his most important work because it encouraged listeners to tune into the world around them.

“We need not fear this silence, we may love it,” he wrote in his Avant-garde Lecture on Nothing“for we are like an empty glass into which anything can be poured at any time.”

Rest is the great overlooked panacea. Potential benefits include lower blood pressure, lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), relief from insomnia, and improved focus, to name a few.

Some argue that silence is the new luxury; a therapy that only the rich can afford. After all, it’s money that buys houses in less crowded neighborhoods; it is money that buys travel to distant, peaceful destinations.

But while stillness is certainly precious, I wanted to write a book that shows stillness can be found in places near and far to suit a range of budgets. I’ve been to some of the most remote corners of the world, from St. Helena and the Marquesas Islands to the Amazon and Djibouti. Silent Escapes contains 50 of my personal suggestions on where to find it.

I see it as a vaccine against noise.

Tranquility is not just the domain of monks and holy men; it is within everyone’s reach. And the quickest way to access it is to pay attention to the location.

Places often have something to say and often something to teach us. Don’t allow the temptation to share the adventure verbally with a travel companion, or capture it on camera so you miss the subtle messages it can share.

Sometimes a place will sing; on other occasions it whispers. Let’s retrain our ears to hear the sounds they were created to enjoy.


Greenland. Photo from Quiet Escapes by Emma Thomson

Five silent escapes

1. Foula, Shetland Islands, Scotland

The 38 residents who call Britain’s most remote permanently inhabited island home are outnumbered 13,000 to one bird. At the same latitude as Anchorage, Alaska, and only powered since the 1980s, this untamed island is famous for it Lord of the rings-like peaks and breathtaking birdlife. Stay in one of only two Croft Guest Houses and experience life on the edge of the world.

2. Arctic Circle Trail, Greenland

In Greenland, nature is king. Spend days without seeing or hearing another soul on the Arctic Circle Trail, a 100-mile (160 km) inland route from Kangerlussuaq on the edge of the vast inner ice sheet to Sisimiut on the shores of the Labrador Sea. Wild camp, traverse the mossy tundra under towering skies, traverse glacial rivers and look out for amber arctic foxes.

3. Plum Village, France

Buried in the French countryside, an hour and a half drive east of Bordeaux, lies Plum Village – Europe’s largest Buddhist monastery. Founded by Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, its retreats invite guests to stay from a week to a year to immerse themselves in Buddhist practice, embedding mindfulness and periods of stillness into daily activities. You are expected to prepare meals and wash dishes, but participants reported a reduction in anxiety and an ingrained sense of well-being.

4. Met Cloisters, New York, USA

You might think it’s impossible to find even an iota of quiet in one of the noisiest places on earth. But seek out the Met Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park on the north tip of Manhattan. This architectural marvel combines a modern building with parts of original French medieval cloisters and is filled with artworks by John D. Rockefeller. Surrounding the gallery are three cloister gardens that invite reflection.

5. Rio Zabalo, Ecuador

Tucked away in northeastern Ecuador, near the borders of Peru and Colombia, lies Rio Zabalo – designated the world’s first Wilderness Quiet Park by Quiet Parks International. It flows through Cofán Nation territory and they have created a community-based ecotourism project to preserve their ancestral territory and defend their lands from foreign corporations. Guests are invited to live in the community for a week and sleep in thatched huts; fishing with handmade, hand-thrown nets; shared meals; and learn how they live as part of the forest.


“Silent Escapes” by Emma Thomson

Emma Thomson’s ‘Quiet Escapes, 50 Inspiring Destinations to Find Your Zen’ is available from Greenfinch (hardcover £22/€26); quercusbooks.co.uk

https://www.independent.ie/life/travel/a-vaccine-against-noise-why-its-time-to-seek-quiet-on-our-travels-41994239.html “A Vaccine Against Noise” – why it’s time to seek tranquility in our travels

Fry Electronics Team

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