Thoughts and feelings that crossed my mind while hiking alone on the Făgăraş Mountains in Romania.
1) At times you get really lonely.
This is probably the most obvious reason why people tend to not hike or camp solo. When you are alone, you have no one to share your thoughts with. No one to appreciate the beautiful scenery with. No one to share the memories you make and experiences you have while hiking.
2) It can be terrifying at times.
When you are hiking or sleeping alone in the mountains, you hear things that can easily spook you. You have no one with you to help decipher what you heard and make a logical explanation for the mysterious sound. There are many fears you face while trekking solo that I later discuss: wildlife, getting lost, being injured, etc.
3) Lions, Tigers, and Bears, oh my!
The only thing scarier than running into a bear in the back country is being alone and encountering a bear. No matter where you go hiking/camping you are always entering someone else’s territory. To an animal, you are an intruder in their home and sometimes they will defend themselves and their family. Wherever you go hiking, you need to be well aware of what type of wildlife will be in the area and respect their territories. Research and learn the warning signs and proper procedures if you do happen to cross paths with an animal in the back country (it may very well save your life one day).
4) If you get lost, you have to figure things out yourself.
It is just you, your map, and a compass. If the map you have is old and outdated, things can get pretty rough out there. If the trail itself is not clearly marked (or not even marked at all!), you have to rely on your ability to read the map.
5) Help! I’ve fallen and can’t get up!
This is probably one of the biggest reasons why you should never hike/camp alone. If you get hurt or injured, no one is there to help you or get help for you. You never know what mother nature will throw at you. Picture this: It’s a long easy hike, you just made it to the peak, you are halfway through the hike, you are distracted by the beautiful landscape around you and suddenly you step on a loose rock and twist your ankle… Now what do you do?
6) “What do you mean the battery is dead??”
If your head lamp dies and you are out of batteries, good luck when the sun goes down. Being alone in the dark in the middle of nowhere is never fun.
7) You are unable to disperse the camping gear amongst your fellow travelers.
Not only do you have to carry your sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and other personal belongings, but now you also have to carry everything else: water, food, cooking gear, tent, etc., which all adds up and can become fairly heavy!
8) If something amazing happens, no one else is there to witness it.
A beautiful sunrise/sunset. A gorgeous overview of a valley. A stunning picturesque view from the top of the mountain. A startling UFO encounter. No one is there to believe the things you may or may not have seen.
9) “Man plans and God laughs.”
No matter how much you “plan ahead and prepare”, the unexpected always tends to happen. I made a plan to stay and camp at the different refugee huts along the trail. However, on the fourth night, the hut I planned to stay in was completely destroyed and in pieces… Therefore I had to literally jog and hustle an extra 3-4 kilometers over to the next hut. I barely made it to the next one as the sun was setting.
13 reasons why you should absolutely hike solo from time to time:
1) It is one of the most liberating feelings to hike alone.
“Liberate: verb. to release (someone) from a state or situation that limits freedom of thought or behavior” ~ Oxford American Dictionary. Hiking solo liberates you from all the distractions in life. No friends, no family, no phone calls, no emails, no text messages, no co-workers, no social media, no advertisements, the list goes on and on and on. When hiking solo (in preferably a non-busy/touristy location), it is just you and the open trail. You are free to live your life however you please.
2) You are on your own time.
Trekking solo allows for you to make up your own schedule. It is nice to be able to wake up and go to sleep whenever you feel like it. You don’t have to rush to cook breakfast and start hiking. Wake up before sunrise to hike up to the closest peak and enjoy the light show or sleep in until noon.
3) Hike as much or as little as you want.
Wake up early and hike for 8-10 hours to put in some mileage or decide to snooze and make it a layover day. You can always wake up early and hike for a few hours to get to the next campsite by lunch time or you can choose to go until sunset. You hike at your own pace and do not have to meet any time constraints.
4) Stop, picture time!
You are able to stop at any moment for that perfect facebook panoramic picture, the ideal instagram landscape shot with a prime caption, or even the ultimate snapchat selfie onto of the mountain. Being solo means no one will be bothered or annoyed if you want to stop every 30 minutes to turn around and take a picture of how far you have hiked that day.
5) Conquer your fears!
Hiking solo gives you numerous opportunities to conquer any fears you may have: hiking alone, being independent, being alone at night, etc.
6) You are independent and in charge of yourself.
No one is there to help you find a water source or cook you food or set up your campsite or read the map if you get lost. You are left alone to fend for yourself in every aspect and there is nothing quite like it.
7) You have to rely on the skills you have learned.
Being solo allows for you to test yourself on what you have learned and experienced. What clothes to pack according to the weather. How much food to bring. What type of gear you will need. How to read a map if you lose the trail. Where to look for a clean water source. What to do if you encounter a bear. How to set up your tent properly to withstand any wind storm. Sometimes you even make mistakes and learn new skills on the spot in order to survive. Nature is the ultimate teacher with an endless amount of wisdom to share. All you have to do is listen and feel.
8) You gain confidence in yourself.
After hiking for several days up, down and around the mountains, you are able to look back and see all that you have accomplished in such a short time. You gain a sense of courage that you can do anything and that all you need to do is start with one step and keep moving forward.
9) It is one of the most rewarding accomplishments you will achieve.
Reaching the highest point on your trek is one of the greatest feelings and in my opinion, it is even more exceptional being by yourself. You will feel proud, grateful, happy, autonomous, and excited that you made it this far all on your own with no help from anyone. There’s no guide telling you where to go if the trail becomes questionable. No friend to cheer you on if you are feeling down or tired or hungry. It is something that you are able to say you did by yourself, for yourself.
10) No one will judge you for what you choose to eat at any given time.
Leftover cold pasta for breakfast? Why not. Pancakes and nutella for dinner and a candy bar for dessert? Yes please.
11) You don’t have to share your nutella.
Building off of the previous reason… You get the whole jar of nutella/peanut butter to yourself. This might be the best reason for being solo.
12) There’s plenty of time for self-reflection.
Being alone forces you to entertain yourself and or be lost in your own thoughts. You are able to reflect on a myriad of people, places, things, or ideas. It allows for you to look back on the accomplishments, failures, or mistakes you have made in the past and how to better yourself to improve in the future. People nowadays struggle with being alone and hardly ever spend time completely off the grid. Everyone is always plugged in via their computer, tablet, television, video games, cell phone, etc. Self-reflection is a critical form of meditation that helps an individual develop and mature in their own way.
13) Unbelievable star gazing.
Hands down one of my favorite parts about trekking solo is being able to gaze up at the stars and reflect on how small and insignificant we are compared to the vast universe. Nothing compares to looking up at the night sky with minimal to no light pollution. The sight of witnessing stars shooting across the sky while inspecting the nebula clouds hugging the milky way cannot be expressed in a simple photograph.