Whether you read Wild to pass time on the plane or have been researching through-hiking the John Muir Trail, solo adventures have become mainstream as stories but for most people, the idea of actually spending a night a night or five out on their own remains a fair bit insane.
The truth is that for most people, the mere idea of being out in the woods without the fun or security of company is almost too much to think about. Oh sure, tell someone you’re headed out for a week of hikes and campfires with friends and they’ll likely smile, offer some humerus jealousy and wish you well even if they’re not a camper themselves, it’s just that common of a hobby. However, tell that same person you’ll be gone for just a few days on your own and you’re almost certain to get grilled on why you’d do that, how you’ll survive, and what kept you from getting anyone else to join…. you must be crazy!
What they and indeed most of us fail to see is that camping on your own is an experience all its own and which nothing else can emulate good or bad.
Almost as soon as you leave behind the company of others the world becomes alive and yet quiet. Whatever you’ve observed on the trail with others can be multiplied by 10, maybe 50; the rustling of trees, a four-legged animal leaping into the woods in front of you or the eerie sounds of night, the experience is yours and yours alone to explore. For many, this creates a near spiritual experience. That may manifest as a personal accomplishment, enduring a lone night or completing a long trek. For others it’s an opportunity to truly examine their world while for others, a rare chance to escape the noise of society.
For me there’s a certain thrill to be out and away from it all, to watch the fire dance and crackle with nothing but my own thoughts to occupy the night. There are no relationships to worry about, opinions to weigh, no social rules to follow; it is truly my own time. Yet it can also be isolating and lonely and even staring out at a perfect sunset or a billion stars is not the same on my own. Thus as much as I love venturing out on my own, having the freedom to carve my own path, solo nights have taught me to see more social adventures. I still find a few weekends to get out of my own head but now I take them near other people, giving myself the chance for solitude or new experiences. It’s a discovery not to be so solo by being solo.