As a woman I’m often asked if I’m afraid to hike alone and why I like to solo hike, the answer is both simple and complex. I hike alone for the serenity and quiet of the journey, and being afraid doesn’t come into play because I’m a woman. Being out in nature allows me the time to contemplate my next move. When I hike with others, I’m too focused on being in the conversation and keeping up with the group, and it doesn’t allow me the time to slow down and focus on my thoughts.
Nature offers something that being indoors simply can’t. It is motivating to walk among the trees and tramp along the trails, focusing on nothing more than the path ahead. You notice the shape of broken tree branches, how a blade of grass reacts to the wind flowing through it, and how clouds form into shapes and images. You hear the various bird chirps and identify them by their distinct sounds. It is magical to be out in nature alone, noticing everything you miss when you’re in a group.
Solo hikes allow me the time to stop and jot down my thoughts and set priorities for the week ahead, but it is also my time to exhale from all the phone calls, planning, and complexities of the world around me. No other space offers me what being out in nature does. It’s my reward for not losing my way and giving in to the constant badgering of a world that expects you to conform to its expectations. Nature doesn’t take notice of your gender, your race, your abilities, or your faults. The only thing that matters is that you leave the space as you find it.
I often refer to wild spaces as my cathedral–not in a religious way, but in a spiritual sense–my place to lay my burdens down. Being in nature provides me with a way to connect to something greater than myself, nonjudgmental and welcoming to all.
Have you ever walked the valley floor of Yosemite, or stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon, alone? I invite you to try it. It’s amazing how you can feel so small in these spaces, so insignificant compared to the beauty and grandness that surrounds you. There is something invigorating about feeling the oneness in the wild spaces that surround you and encompass you completely. There you stand, completely vulnerable to the elements around you, yet you feel at peace in the serenity of it all.
Nature is a bridge between the hustle and bustle of our daily lives and the world we long for when we are caught up in a whirlwind of appointments and commitments. It provides the flip side of confusion, a space where we can be still and in tune with ourselves, almost a tunnel vision.
For me, solo hikes are one of life’s necessities, sustenance for the soul, an energizing moment to get away from all the electronic gadgets and the demands on my time. Solo hikes are more than just time away from the congestion of the city; they are my time, how I choose to live my life, how I choose to break away from all the confinements that a 9 to 5 life requires.
I am unapologetic for my love of solo hikes. Some may see it as being an introvert or anti-social, but it is actually empowering to be so strong willed as to embrace the beauty and wonder in being off on your own, in spaces that you may be in for the first time, learning your way as you go, being unafraid to travel a new path or to experience life in the wilderness. I encourage you to find that path, that outdoor space that brings you to the brink of tears, as you gaze out at its beauty. The wonderment of nature is there for all to see; just remember, it’s ok to travel it alone.