Now and then, we all need a solo adventure. Stepping out alone into the woods is a chance to break out of your comfort zone and, for a while at least, be on nobody’s schedule but your own.
We yearn for the freedom and chance to unplug from our connected lives. Still, heading outside on your own can be terrifying. Many athletes I coach say the prospect of hitting the dirt alone makes them anxious about trail running. But there’s nothing wrong with going alone as long as you’re prepared.
Here are a few tips to help you scratch the solo-adventuring itch.
A solo adventure doesn’t have to be a significant commitment, especially if it’s your first time. You don’t have to spend hundreds on gear or try to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Start smaller, like a day, a day and a half or two. Trust me. That’s all you need to break out of the daily grind and get a dose of nature.
Build on what you’re already doing. If you hike, trek out for a new peak. If you run trails, forge a new path. If you fish, cast your line in a creek you’ve long had your eye on but haven’t yet tried. Comfortably push the limits of your comfort zone. Don’t push yourself so hard that you’ll never return.
Research And Check in With The Pros
What makes solo-adventuring so scary, you ask? The wildlife. But the flora and fauna are far less fear-inducing when you know what to expect. Research what animals are native to the area, the best way to avoid them and what to do in an encounter. For example: If you head into bear country, have a plan for your food. And if it’s grizzly bear territory, it’s not someplace you should navigate alone.
Many parks have rules about wildlife. Visiting a ranger station for info on local critters can be invaluable help. As a bonus, rangers will also be able to give indispensable information about backcountry conditions and weather. If the rangers say conditions are poor, heed his or her advice and find another adventure.
Make (And Share) a Plan
Every time I leave my house for a Cat-venture, I make sure someone knows where I’m going. If I disappear off a mountain top, someone will know where to look for me. And once you have a plan, you need to stick to it. When you deviate, people can’t find you in an emergency.
Before you set out, tell your friends and family members know who to call if you aren’t back by an appointed time. Research the local land manager and figure out what to do if you need help. Is there an email or phone number available? Double-check to make sure it’s the right place to request assistance. If you’re in an emergency, this will lessen how you’re out and exposed to the elements.
Check in Once Or Twice—But Not More
Cell phone reception can be sketchy out in the wild. Find opportunities to send simple messages to home. A simple “All’s well here” before you crawl into your sleeping bag or head back to the trailhead provides instant peace of mind. If you’re going to a place without cell-service, bringing a satellite device with two-way texting capabilities will help you be in touch with loved ones for peace of mind and with rescuers, should you need extra support.
Write it Down
Bring a notebook and a pen to record your adventures. Even if you’re not a writer, keep track of what you did and record what worked—and what didn’t—so you can tweak your approach for next time. Besides, it’s relaxing to hang out in your tent or sit in a coffee shop and reflect on your adventure. Writing it down gives you a chance to reflect and lends your trip gravitas. It’s not easy to get out in the wilderness alone, and a record of your adventures may encourage you to head out alone again.
Don’t Let Guilt Hold You Back
The wild and unknown can be scary. But the guilt that comes with leaving your spouse, family, friends and pets behind can be even more daunting. But if you don’t seize the opportunity to take on these challenging solo-adventures now, you may resent it later. So be confident. You’ll be fine in the backcountry and your kids will be fine at home. The guilt can be crushing but the resentment can be worse.