Solo v. Together
I started hiking solo because I didn’t have any other choice. I didn’t know anybody who backpacked. I didn’t get the idea from friends or family members—nobody in my life had heard of the Appalachian Trail before I had. When I first read about people walking 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine, I thought, "how is that even possible?" And then I thought, "I’ve got to do that." I read on the hiking forums that there were thousands of people out there every year, that I would make friends, that there was little danger in going out alone. I took that at face value, because what other option did I have?
Since my first trip on the AT, I’ve hiked many hundreds of solo miles and I’ve made dozens of hiking friends. While I enjoy the company of other hikers, people in my life who understand the power of nature, and the joy of getting all up in it, I still feel most at home with a pack on my back and nobody but the birds within earshot. In some ways, I have wrapped myself in the solo female identity and spent a lot of time and energy encouraging others to have the unique experience of aloneness in the mountains or the woods. But I have also come to understand the power of community and of sharing the things we love.
Even in the building of the Rugged Outdoors Women Write community that has worked so hard every month to share their words here, I have found the same balance of doing something--writing--both alone and together. With the support of friends and sometimes the direct help and input.
Solo v. Together
by Christine Reed
When I reach the summit
I can look down at my own two feet
And know that they brought me here
I can pat myself on the back
And know that it has carried everything we need
I can hear my own voice say, “what beauty, what grandeur”
And know that it has made this all possible
We are in this together
We always are
My truest companion has always been myself
Find Christine on Instagram and TikTok @ruggedoutdoorswoman
Read her memoir Alone in Wonderland for a journey on the Wonderland Trail.
by Marty Cowan
I travel and coexist with multiple sides of myself - the voices being much louder while wandering in the woods. Excavating the depths of my psyche while I stride
up, up, up,
trying to go fast,
rushed as if there is a taco truck and keg of beer waiting for me at the summit.
Toxic Marty says to Vulnerable Marty, “You suck! Plenty of others are in waaaaaaaaaaay harder life situations and manage to be stronger and have better endurance than you. Oh, and why isn’t your writing better? Why have you procrastinated so much?”
Positive Marty says to Angry Marty, “You need to chill the fuck out, you are doing great, don’t listen to that garbage.”
Defeatist Marty says to no one in particular, “Just turn around, you obviously aren’t going to make your pathetic goal today anyway.”
Cheerleader Marty says to Frustrated Marty, “Think about how good you are going to feel when you are done, everything is awesome, just enjoy it!”
(cue in the circus music here)
Sage Marty pulls the plug on the noise and suggests thanking her inner critics,
our greatest teachers, and to
Marty Cowan is the author of Table To Trail a collection of plant-based recipes for day hikers. You can find her on Instagram @tabletotrail
by Meaghan Martin
I’ve never been one to keep a bucket list.
When you grow up thinking you’ll die before you’re twenty,
I guess you just don’t see the point.
But somehow my twenties came and went,
and now, as if I must make up for lost time,
or check the boxes before the sand runs out,
I reach for the extraordinary, never satisfied with modest simplicity.
But pushing myself for more and more and more,
means nothing can ever be quite good enough.
I find myself now wanting to know the grandeur of the Tetons,
the wild expanses of Alaska,
the commanding presence of the Giant Sequoia.
I want to watch the northern lights dance above my head,
instead of behind the lens of a camera with a sensor more powerful than my eye.
I want to see the remote, the rugged,
and feel myself become a part of the mountains.
I want to experience the endless beauty found in the vastness,
and be reminded of just how small I am.
With living has come loving, and with loving, yearning. Seeking,
to travel the world with beloveds, who crave adventure as much as I,
To not only see these places, but to not see them alone.
And so now, in the recesses of my mind, lives the unwritten bucket list,
cloaked in the fear not only that I’ll never complete it,
but that we won’t experience these moments, these places,
Meaghan is a backpacker and writer living in Maine with loved ones and pets. You can find her on Instagram and TikTok at @meaghan_adventures
The Duality of Being Solo
by Belinda Arndt
As a kid, I did anything to have friends because I was lonely. I was the only person in my entire family with no siblings. I hated to do things by myself. I thought if I had friends then I would not be lonely, and I would finally belong in this life.
This feeling carried on from high school throughout grad school until I decided to take my first solo trip to Canada. To be honest I wanted someone to join me, but between people not having a passport or not wanting to go on a trip with me, I ended up going alone. I was excited, but also had no idea what hell I was doing.
While driving over the border, I met someone I had never met before for a hot second.
She was even more curious, excited, sensitive, and sure of herself than I was. She was pure and at peace with herself. Things I didn’t know I could be.
She was manifesting feelings I never thought I had or had subconsciously hidden away.
She knew better than me to keep the peace over herself even when we got detained coming back to America. She knew that things would be okay and to just
go with the flow despite my magnetic pull of doing the opposite. Plus, she knew she didn't look well in orange.
I am still in awe of this person every time she comes out and the strength and confidence she has.
That was the start of becoming a solo female traveler a title I am proud to have.
Each time I traveled solo, I start to learn more about myself. The more I sit with myself, the more I begin to like myself and hate myself: my flaws, quirks, and the constant thought of, "What the fuck is wrong with me." Whenever I hate myself, she pops in with her peace and teaches me it would be okay.
I continue to do more solo things like reading at bars, camping, and wandering random streets in America and abroad. I started to hate myself a little less each time because I learned the things, I hated were years of trauma finally surfacing.
I can't fully explain the freedom there is when it's just you on the open road, trail, or streets. It's you finally sitting down and processing. Healing. Even screaming because it's not always sunshine and roses trying to figure out this wild thing we call life.
Solo travel has helped reconcile the notions of who I am with the help of that person I met on my trip to Canada. That’s something I am grateful for each day, even when she doesn’t come out in my daily life.
I am the most centered and sure about myself and life when solo. There is a freedom I get being solo, freedom away from others' thoughts and beliefs, freedom to learn my voice and desires, and freedom to live my real life, even for a week or two.
Every time I travel, I feel like I have a dual life. My life that is and my life that is on holiday, and I much prefer my holiday life. This duality is a common theme for me since I am a Gemini. One aspect of being a Gemini is being a lone wolf who loves adventure and spontaneity. But Geminis want people to be around them.
As much as I am a die-hard solo traveler and would never give this up, I may be leaning into the notion, "I can do things on my own!" a little too much. When I sit on my couch on a Friday night, look over to my left, and there isn't someone there, I feel that loneliness creeping in from my childhood.