I’ve ventured off by myself a few times the past years. Apart from big hikes like the Camino de Santiago and the West Highland Way, I regularly fetch my backpack for a microadventure in the Netherlands.
When sharing my enthusiasm for solo adventures with others, I often get lots of questions or confused faces. Isn’t that scary? How can that be fun?
I totally understand
First, let me say this – I totally understand this reaction. Going places without the company of others; the thought might indeed be frightening at first. No one to entertain you when the journey’s getting boring, no social shield when things get complicated…
…just you, rocking an adventure all by yourself!
I admit, sometimes it’s freaking scary (when you get attacked by a dog) and yes, some of the moments spent by myself are close to horrible (remember my tour through Northern France).
So why still go?
With that in mind, why do I still want to go? It’s something rather straightforward. Every single time upon return, my solo adventure has taught me something new about myself or the world around me. I always return with a new insights, a different perspective, an exciting idea or a lesson learned… curious to hear what they are?
Here are the 7 meaningful things hiking alone taught me:
The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.Henry David Thoreau
1. you’re stronger than you could’ve ever imagined
Wind, rain, hailstorms, -5 nights, getting lost, blistered and bleeding heels, dog attacks, mental breakdowns… and a few more ridiculous things you wouldn’t even think possible happening to you. Yes. I’ve encountered it all and it all turned out fine in the end.
Your body and mind can take so much more than you think. It’ll survive, push through and thrive! It’s pretty amazing and, above all, it has a miraculous effect when faced with a similar, yet less severe situation upon return. It rains. Oh that drizzle ain’t nothing!
2. strangers care about your well-being
Although I did encounter some pricks that clearly cannot be subdued in this category, the majority of strangers do care about your well-being when venturing off solo! I’ve been invited for coffee whilst it was pounding down, someone took me for a beer when waiting for my train to Arles, I’ve been gifted a miraculous medal by some French nuns, a woman walked me past a big farm dog that was barking at me in the middle of the road…
I could give countless examples of strangers that’ve helped, guided or supported me during my hikes and other trips. In every situation, listen to your gut – it’ll tell you all you need to know.
3. there’s a solution for every single problem
Crazy as it sounds. There is a solution for every single problem, no matter how big or small. And I’m sorry to break it to you, but accepting that you’re fcked is one of them.
4. you’re never really alone
You’ll always meet people when hiking alone. Some stick around, some are just there for a moment. Many of the encounters I’ve had, hold a special place in my heart. I think these people appeared during my trip to show me something, to teach me something. I’ll carry their wisdom, energy or inspiration still with me right up to this moment. Totally random perhaps, but hereby a big thank you to all those souls who have featured in my adventures the past years!
5. nature heals
Feet through the dirt. Rain on your face. Trees all around. Mountains to climb. There’s something about being in nature that heals. It connects you with all that is. It strips you from all the distractions. It’s soothing to the soul. Heading out with a body and mind carrying all the stories you’ve told yourself and the stress you’ve accumulated. Returning unburdened. All that remains is space for new things and you. It’s fascinating, what a bit of nature can do.
6. you’re enough
But travelling and hiking on your own seems so boring! Hearing people say that made me wonder: Am I not enough? Isn’t it possible to fully enjoy and have fun exploring without the company of others. I think it is! If you’re not used to hiking by yourself it can be a little awkward at first, but once you get the hang of it you realise it’s pretty cool hanging out with yourself. I can entertain myself, tell myself stories, laugh about myself and comfort myself. So yeah, no crowd needed!
7. embrace the magic of the everyday
If I could name one thing my solo adventures have taught me, it would be this one: embrace the magic of the everyday. There are no ordinary days! When you live moment to moment, you will see that everything the day presents to you is extraordinary. Even the most profane things, like eating a sandwich or a walk in the park, can turn into something enchanting… you just have to embrace the magic of the everyday!
Do you rock your adventures solo?
Whatever I encounter, it makes me grow as a person and be more aware of all the beautiful things I see and experience. For me personally, that which I get in return is more important than the discomfort and occasional suffering that comes along with it. That’s why I often rock my adventures solo!
How about you? Ever ventured off on your own? Where did you go and what did you learn? Tell me all about it!