Realizing I want to go camping on the beach and finding people who also are free and want to go camping on the beach are two very different things. This was the situation that started me down the (very short) path to my first Solo camping trip. It was not long or particularly strenuous, but it was something just outside of my comfort zone. Now that I am safe at home I have had time to reflect on it and now I know I can do it, so there are very few things stopping me from doing it again. In fact I find myself thinking that I should do just that.
Still, the fact that I did this and it was kind of scary made me think that hey; someone else might like some encouragement to go do this very thing. So I present to you my top five reasons you should totally go solo.
1. The Experience
Solo camping is at once the same and totally different from camping with friends. You are going to do all the same things you would usually do, but without the camaraderie. The good things are only yours, the bad things are likewise. This adventure is yours alone; good or bad. Whether you love it or hate it, you will have learned something about yourself and what you are capable of which makes it an absolutely not wasted trip. Also it kind of makes you a bad-ass in the eyes of your friends. And we all like that.
2. Push your Boundaries
There are things we are comfortable with and there are things we are not. These boundaries keep us safe but they can also limit our growth and keep us doing the same comfortable things we’ve done before. There are practical fears that work in our favour; these are the things that drive our sense of self-preservation. They are practical and understandable fears. There are other fears that work against us; these are illusory and work only to limit us to the safe, familiar ways of our day-to-day lives. Pushing back against these fears and challenging your comfort zones will only serve to make you stronger and more capable.
Fear is one of the things that has really been a problem for me. Learning to accept that I am afraid and understanding why so I can make a plan to deal with that is something I’m still struggling with. I hear it gets easier the more you act consciously but I am still learning and right now it feels pretty impossible sometimes.
How much do you really know? Camping by yourself means you have to rely on yourself. At some point in the planning process you have to trust that you’ve done all you can to prepare for this and understand the risk and how to best manage it. You will find out if you’ve accurately assessed your skills and the risks because there is no one to save you from your own lack of preparation. This, I think, is the hardest thing to accept and the best thing to learn. When you camp with other people there are things you can fudge or even outright ignore without real consequence. On your own you are responsible and accountable for your decisions and actions and planning. A successful trip is an immense confidence booster, and even if it is not a successful trip you should allow yourself to recognize the skills you have, and the skills you can develop so that the next trip will be even better.
This leads me to my next point:
This goes so beautifully hand in hand with confidence. I think each of us struggles with finding our independence while we are growing up. Going camping alone–especially as a woman, in a world where we are taught from such a young age that it is never safe to do things alone–is an act of true independence. You are taking complete responsibility for your actions and your well-being. The moment you take that first solo step you are acting completely free from outside influence. This is such an important thing as we struggle to break free from unhealthy gender roles. You will find yourself facing two kinds of comments; the people who will simply point out why you should maybe reconsider doing this, and the (many fewer) people who will encourage you to. Let yourself consider the reasons they present why you should (or shouldn’t) do this but know that in the end it is your decision that makes this happen or not.
I believe that strength of character and strength of will can be learned. The ability to look at the things that scare you and understand why is something that will only make you stronger in other circumstances as well.
5. Skill Development
Solo trips are probably not the place to try to learn a life-saving skill. That aside; there are things you may have always allowed other people to do because they’re better at it than you. Cooking, fire starting, trail-finding (or following), navigating; these are all skills you should have if you’re going for a solo trip. Basic skills develop with practice, and when you’re by yourself there’s no one else to do them. You can learn a lot by spending two hours trying to start a fire and failing. Likewise, navigating a trail after dark and by headlamp is quite a bit more challenging than doing the same in daylight. There’s a freedom to screw up when you’re by yourself that many of us don’t feel when we are in company. There’s also an added pressure because–as stated above–there’s no one else to do it for you or save you if you screw up. You want a fire? That’s on you. Need dinner? All you. Have to figure out the best way to set up your camp so you don’t get totally soaked? Need to keep yourself entertained? You’re up.
Even with all these reasons, I don’t think solo camping is for everyone. I certainly doubt after-dark approaches on the “Wet” Coast are. I do believe that most people are perfectly capable of going on a solo adventure somewhere. Where would you go if fear wasn’t an issue? Why do you think you can’t do it?
In the end it really all comes down to one question:
What’s holding you back?
What do you think about camping alone and why? Am I crazy for going through with it? Crazier for encouraging other women to do it? (The answer is probably yes, by the way.) Would you do it? If not, why?