I started hiking because of my husband (although he was not my husband at the time). Just to clarify – he did not make me go hiking. He liked hiking, and I wanted to see if I did too because… you know, try new things, baby! Turns out, I did like it… A LOT!
From this love of hiking, and generally just being out in the forest, I started going out alone. This caused much concern in some people. I heard things like, “It’s dangerous out there.” “I don’t like you going out on your own.” “You never know what could happen.” “There’s crazy people everywhere.” And the like. Now- these things are all true, and to the people who said this to me: I love you. Thank you. I hear you. Also- This post is for you.
This post is also for those who love the outdoors, but because of these fears do not go out as often or alone. Going out, especially on your own, for anyone can be dangerous. It is important to go prepared. Have the correct footwear. Carry water, and a first-aid kit, specifically one made for you. Have a map, take a look at your route before you go. Tell someone where you’re going, and how long you expect to be out. When you first start going out by yourself, go places you’ve been before, places you are familiar with. And I suppose most people will tell you to carry some kind of protection (pepper spray, knife, or even a gun if that’s allowed in your state – I am not trying to get into a debate about this right now). BUT GO! (if you want to) There is a lot to be said about fear and not allowing it to control your life. I have talked about it before, and I will again. This is a little about that, but it’s more than that too.
Why I Hike Alone:
There is nothing quite so peaceful (that I’ve experienced) as being alone in the woods. It is just you and the natural elements. You are walking and you see all the greens of the trees, the colors of the flowers, blue of the sky and waters. You are away from all the noise of modern life. Because of this..
You notice things more
You hear the wind through the trees. You feel the sun on your face. You hear your own footsteps, your breathing. You notice the animals, and the way they move throughout the forest. It’s as if your senses are more awake than they are normally.
Your mind becomes clearer
You’re not worried about the way you look, what anyone else is thinking of you (the forest doesn’t judge). You are not thinking about the mundane tasks and issues of your everyday life. You’re able to think about the bigger things… your hopes and dreams. Who you want to be. Who you don’t want to be.
You are freer to be whoever you are
I already said it – the forest doesn’t judge. You are you. The trees are the trees. The squirrels are the squirrels. They’re not worried about being this way or that way. They’re just living. They’re continuing to grow and care for their lives. And that helps you just live, and grow, and care.
The forest is the place I feel the safest
I know this goes against all those fears I listed above, but truly I do feel safer in the forest than I do anywhere, except for in my home. To be fair with you, I really do not feel unsafe most places I have been. This is a massive privilege (or naivety), and I am aware of that. The forest does, or can, have dangers, but I don’t feel it. It’s not the primary sensation when you’re out there, even alone. All the people I have ever come across were friendly. The animals… are mostly more afraid of you, and as long as you don’t try to attack them, they will leave you alone.
When you are in the outdoors, and especially when you are alone, you feel an incredible sense of freedom. A sense of peace. Fear can trap you – if you allow it to. But if you push through it, you’ll find on the other side is freedom.
So I will not let my fear (or your fear, for that matter) stop me from feeling free. I will continue to explore the outdoors, both with company and alone. “For going out it seems is really going in.” – John Muir
How do you feel about hiking solo? Have you done it? Were you fearful? What do you do to overcome those fears, or to soften the fears of others? Leave your comment below.