By Katherine Teeple from Eastonofthewild - July 13, 2019
Into The Wild Alone We Go
It’s a terrifying feeling for most - being alone while camping or adventuring. You feel insecure, vulnerable, and kind of weak because you don’t know what to do with yourself. These feelings sound familiar? Well this is exactly what I felt when I decided to go camping on my own with E for the first time.
I was never one to like being alone. Company with good people and good conversation was always my thing. I like to talk, socialize, and laugh with other people. But this time, I was on my own - for 5 days. It was like nothing I’d ever done before - honestly, never thought I would ever do. I guess I wasn’t going to be alone though - I would have E. All the feelings of incompetence, insecurity, and loneliness began the minute I started driving towards Algonquin without my husband. I felt like I had made the worst choice ever…
Let’s start at why I decided to do this. It’s simple really - I want to grow as a person.
And what better way to grow than to feel uncomfortable and learn from yourself. I didn’t grow up camping. I really didn’t start camping until I met my husband. For some reason, I knew how to start a fire, and figured out how to set up a tent before him but thats about it- I knew nothing.
Throughout the years, I’ve taught myself to read trail maps, trail markers, and learn things about the outdoors because I wanted to spend more time outdoors. I wanted to appreciate what the world had to offer - pesky bugs and all.
After 4 years of camping and backpacking experience - I felt like the last thing to do was to venture out on my own without any help. Experience something that has always frightened me and made me uncomfortable. And I couldn’t be happier with the decision I made. (Side note: I feel like this is something that practicing yoga has taught me as well - being ok with being uncomfortable.)
I learned to think for more for myself - I mean actually think about what made sense to me when I was by myself. I used to always listen to someone else because they knew more (not to say that I didn’t learn from what their choices were and what they did). This experience gave me the opportunity to take everything I knew and had learned and put it to good use. We decided on car camping since having a car is a luxury when it comes to camping (being able to put your stuff in it and all). Yes we were in bear country and I feel like this is where most people feel uncomfortable being on their own. So here’s what I have to say about that…
There are others around you.
Others that are willing to help if something happens. Camping alone doesn’t mean solitude (although to some, it does). Camping alone means having ‘me time’ - at least that’s what it means to me. I was able to be on my own schedule - do what I want, when I want. And what an empowering feeling that is - to have complete control of everything you do.
It forces you to think critically in certain situations. Taking responsibility when things don’t go your way and learning from those choices and mistakes. There were times where I could hear myself think and kind of have conversations with myself (seems weird but it’s true). There were times where I couldn’t stop laughing - times where I couldn’t stop crying. All good emotions to feel - allowing myself to work through them.
I am by no means a different person from when I started - I am just more of who I am; who I want to be. When I told many of you about this trip, some people thought I was crazy - others thought I was brave - and most of you wanted to know how it went in the end. I, personally, wouldn’t say that it was brave to do what I did (mainly because I think that people do it all the time - even though it doesn’t seem like the norm) - but to each their own [opinion]. I just thought that for me to grow, I needed to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Main Differences about Solo Camping
Camping alone and camping with people (with a dog) does have its differences. There’s a few things you have to keep in mind.
You can’t leave your pet unattended at the campsite.
Bear safety - all food needs to be put away (and other items as well such as bug repellent, sun screen, and deodorant)
Fire safety - fires should not be happening when you are not there to tend to it
I would say that those are the main things that can be different when you are with friends and by yourself. Every time I had to go to the bathroom, Easton had to come with me.
This meant that I had to leave my campsite unattended. So it became a little problem when I had just eaten and had to go to the bathroom.
I had to clean everything up and put it all in my car before going. It sounds like an easy task but it is harder by yourself.Why? Because when other people are around (in the same campsite as you), you don’t have to clean EVERYTHING up before you leave the site. Someone can stay at the campsite and with the dog while you run to the bathroom. As weird as this sounds, it was an adjustment for me.
After about a day I just left everything in my car until I really needed it. This was to avoid constantly running to and from my car. When it came to the fire - I may have cheated a bit. Sometimes the fire is going and you don’t want to put it out just so you can go take your pup for a walk or go get water to do dishes.
So what I did was just spread the fire out a bit to prevent high intensity burning and also moved items away from the fire just in case. This seemed to be a good compromise since the fire would fizzle out a little but not lose all of its heat while you went to do whatever you needed to do. And when you got back, it was easy to build it up again.
So those are some of the things you have to think about while camping on your own.
My favourite part of the trip? Having Easton sleep with me (duh!).
Easton doesn’t usually sleep with us in the tent. He thinks its too hot in the tent and therefore sleeps in the vestibule leashed to the tent so he can go in and out. The reason he slept with me this time was because he bugs were pretty bad and he did not have a ‘bug suit’ to keep him from getting eaten alive all night - plus there was space because its a 2 person tent and only one person sleeping in it.
This usually leads to the question (or comment): ‘Aren’t you scared of bears when E is sleeping outside?’ or something along those lines, and the answer is no. We have a bear bell on him so that when he moves, he makes a noise.
Bears don’t want to be around people or anything else. So the bell helps them know that there is something there and gives them a chance to go away instead of being startled and becoming defensive (aka attack). Having a bell on E does wake us every now and then (especially at 5am when the sun is up and he wakes up and scratches his neck (talk about a natural alarm clock) but that is our way of keeping him safer and not have him be uncomfortable cooped up in a warm tent with us.
So, would I do it again?
I feel like it was a great reset for me. No schedule, no expectations. I even started to journal my trips (since I am not a reader - I fall asleep after reading 3 pages of any book haha). Its funny how being in nature restores your state of mind and mental health. It’s very meditative when you have no one to talk to: no gossip, no negativity - just you and your own thoughts. (Well, I talked to Easton but I don’t really count that since it’s more baby talk and he can’t respond haha).
After this trip, I feel like I am able to be a better friend, a better dog mom, a better wife, a better teacher - a better (insert role here). I can not tell you how good it feels to feel confident in your own abilities as a human being. To feel like you can make a difference in protecting the only earth we have. I am by no means an activist but I like to think that I do my part to keep the world clean and safe.
Anyways, this trip brought on a bunch of emotions that I didn’t know I had. It allowed me to really connect with nature in the best way possible. So what’s next? maybe solo back packing…maybe a longer solo car camping trip, who knows. All I know is that I can do it - and it’s a good feeling.
Stay Golden friends.