Earlier this month I listened to the one of the recent episodes of the She Explores Podcast. I really enjoy listening to this podcast. It focuses on women exploring the outdoors on their own terms. The episode was called Solo (But not quite alone). The host invited listeners to submit their own stories of going it alone. The why, the how, and what they learn from the experience. Listening to the women share their tales got me thinking about my reasons for taking on adventures all by myself.
As a woman hiking, camping, and backpacking by myself I often get asked “You’re going alone?” This question is usually said in an incredulous voice. Yes, I do. “But aren’t you scared?” No, I’m not afraid. In fact, I’m free.
First of all, if I had absolute control and choice in these scenarios, I probably wouldn’t be backpacking solo. I’d absolutely love to have my husband or a friend with me on these adventures. However my schedule is a lot freer, and some of my plans are more ambitious. I’d be putting my adventure dreams on hold if I waited for somebody to have the time or interest to hike with me. So I go. Solo.
For those who’d suggest I join a hiking group I offer this. You need to be able to trust and know your hiking partners, especially when going on overnight trips. It’s a surprisingly intimate relationship and so I’m cautious about inviting a stranger along with me. Hiking in a group also requires a certain amount of negotiation and lots of communication. By going solo I’m freed from that.
Freedom is an elusive thing in our modern world. So much is regulated, negotiated, expected, or demanded. When I step out on trail I get to set the schedule. I get to decide when to take a break, when to eat, when to sleep. Of course it also means I’m responsible for all the camp chores like fetching water, setting up the tent and cooking meals. However the more I go out alone, the more streamlined my routines become.
On solo adventures I have a stronger sense of self-worth and confidence. I know how to take care of myself and I know when I’ve done a good job. I’m also more aware of my accomplishments. Sometimes they’re smaller, like pushing on one more mile for a nice campground or cooking myself a “gourmet” meal. Sometimes my accomplishments are summiting a peak or being social and extroverted for an evening.
Of course there are drawbacks to going it alone. I miss being able to point something interesting out or share my random thoughts. I fill that mental hole by figuring out what I’ll write for my blog. Occasionally I just want to mute out the background thought-dialogue in my head. Thankfully podcasts and audiobooks are a great distraction. Having someone to motivate me through harder sections of trail would be really nice. For those moments I keep some happy and upbeat music on my phone and I remember that my friends and family are cheering me along from home.
At the end of each day I take time to reflect and offer a bit of gratitude for my mental toughness, my athletic abilities, the kind strangers I meet and the small wonders the trail shares.
It’s nice to feel accomplished. To feel confident. To feel proud of myself. And so I go solo.