A vow of silence is a strange goal for a pair of married travelers who like to talk. This post is about our (many) attempts – and ultimate failure – to keep our yappers closed for 6 days. Even in failure we gathered relationship lessons that can help any couple on the road.
“A vow of silence is for monks or the celibate. And I’m nether.” ~Tim
We Decided to Try a Vow of Silence
I had ‘vow of silence’ as an item on my bucket list. Most travelers want to see the pyramids (and so do I), but ever since researching my post, We Need the Benefit of Silence to Discovery our Emotions, I knew that I wanted to try a vow of silence. The opportunity to be silent came during our first house sit.
We were looking after a remote beach villa in Mexico. The beach villa was so remote (off-grid actually) that we rarely saw any other people except a grocery truck driver and the occasional fisherman.
Find out more about our house sit: First Time House Sitting: It’s Like You’ve Won.
My wife Heather is (usually) supportive of my crazy ideas and agreed to try the vow of silence with me. Woot. There’s not all that much to do in the middle of beach jungle anyways, so why not try being silent?
Our 5 Rules about Silence
All good experiments need some rules to break. Before committing to the task of silence we came up with these rules:
- We would be silent for 6 days. The property had a day laborer who worked once a week, so we’d started our vow of silence the day after he left.
- We could speak the dog’s names. We looked after two fun-loving dogs and it seemed cruel to cut them off. So we decided it was okay to say their names while playing with them.
- We could talk to food truck or any unexpected guests. Having a local grocery truck drive 16 km’s of jungle road to sell to us was a privilege. We weren’t going to freak out our only food source by not talking with him.
- We would not e-communicate to each other. No emails. No Facebook. No texting.
- We would still work online. That meant using email & social media to connect with others, but not between ourselves.
The (many) Failed Vows of Silence
Failed 1st Attempt
Our first time vow of silence lasted from 6:00 AM till 1:00 PM. That’s only seven hours. Here’s how we failed:
- The grocery truck came at 1:00 PM (as we hoped knew it would)
- We chatted with the driver and bought what we needed
- Once we started talking, the urge to keep talking was too strong
- We talked to each other about the vow of silence and all the unique experiences we were having
- Failures, we decided to try again tomorrow
Failed 2nd attempt
Our second vow of silence only lasted five hours:
- Guests of our nearest neighbor (a Bed & Breakfast) walked 2 km up the beach and found us doing chores outside
- We talked with them
- Excited to have visitors, after they left we talked about them
- Failures, again, we decided to try tomorrow
Failed 3rd attempt
Our third (and final) vow of silence was a farce:
- We needed to get work done and spent the morning online
- Between each other we mumbled and pointed to avoid talking
- This was a mockery of our vow of silence, and we knew it
- We called it quits at coffee time around 10:00 AM
- Then we accepted that 6 days of silence is a hard thing to do
What I Learned
My attempt at not speaking for a week was a failure, and it also taught me something. The hours of silence (spent together) was outside my comfort zone. To be together and not talk usually means we’re angry, yet here we were, happy, silent, and being together. Here’s what I learned:
- Silence lets you feel acts of kindness. When you can’t express appreciation you absorb it. Your gratitude stays inside your body and it feels nice, because you can tell just how appreciative you are. I felt like this when Heather served me breakfast. I couldn’t speak, so instead of expelling a dismissive ‘thank you’, I developed an inner gratitude for her.
- You don’t need to share everything. When I see something and Heather doesn’t, it’s okay not to tell her about it. And I’m sure she doesn’t want to hear every thought/idea that crosses my mind. Keeping unrefined thoughts/observations to yourself seems easy, but it’s hard to do.
- It’s surreal waking up together without speaking. Charlie Pride sang “you have to kiss an angle good morning”, and he was right. When you can’t speak that’s all you can do.
- Silence helps you live the moment. The most vivid memory I have of house sitting in Mexico is from our first day of silence. We were sitting on the dock, drinking coffee with coconut cream, hearing the wind of a storm swish the coconut palms.
- Your words say more than you intend. At one point Heather turned on music. I didn’t think we should allow music during a vow of silence and I wanted her to turn it off. But I couldn’t speak. Do I just turn it off? Should I wag my finger at her? Hell no, I solved the problem by leaving the room. If I could have spoken, would I have chosen to discuss the music instead of leaving the room? Probably, and no matter the words, essentially it would have been me wagging my finger at her verbally. Yikes.
Take one day to be silent. Be within yourself for a day (if you can) and you’ll discover just how busy your mind is. Avoid cheating: no mumbling / gesturing to get your point across, and no e-communication. Silence lets you discover how your words affect your life. If you’re traveling with a friend or partner let them know what you’re doing beforehand, elsewise they may think you’re mad at them. Good luck.
This post on High Existence inspired me to try a vow of silence: My Vow of Silence (and why you should try a silent vacation).
A vow of silence is not easy in the modern world. With social media and email only a cellphone away, you’ll even need to define what ‘silence’ is, before you can try a vow of silence. But give silence a try and you’ll discover things about yourself; even if it’s just that you like to talk.
Update: Silence my nemesis, I will defeat you! I’ve signed up a 10 day silent-meditation retreat in Montebello, Quebec. Look at this Vipassana update to see how that went. Would you ever consider a silent vacation?