If the Banff Mountain Film Festival this year left you with the urge to hike up, run along or boogie-board your way somewhere on your own adventure, then maybe an Adventure Queen philosophical chat is in order…
Going on a solo adventure can feel pretty scary, but there’s a whole lot to gain from giving it a go. The joy of whatever you decide is your adventure is just that – it’s yours, shaped around your idea of an outdoor party-for-one, and your ability. It’s about giving that inkling for me-time amongst the trees a nod by trying something, however small, on your own. It could do wonders for your confidence and help find things you never knew you’d enjoy, or definitely will never do again.
In her Festival film, Pedal, Hera van Willick tells us how she decided conventional 9 to 5 life wasn’t for her. She now lives and travels solo around the world with her trusted two-wheel steed. “I’ve never felt lonelier than when I’m in the city”; as Hera so aptly puts it, you rarely feel very alone out there in nature. It can be new, different, challenging and unsettling to learn to sit with just yourself. But there’s also no expectation on you from the mountains, or the water. Those pressures of society seem far, far away from the simplicity of cycling through ever changing environments.
She also touches on something that most people who’ve gone on a solo adventure encounter. By making her own way, she’s been open to the kindest and most welcoming of moments with the people. From beers with fellow travellers, or roadside help from a friendly stranger, going it alone opens up heaps of opportunities to connect with the generosity of human nature.
I felt inspired by Hera because her initial cycle adventure became her new way of life. It sounds like an extra cheesy ploughman’s lunch but going on a solo adventure will shape you. You’ll realise stuff about yourself that you didn’t before. You’ll learn new skills and find your resilience threshold. I’ve always been quite content at coming home to comfort after dabbling in some mini adventures, so I really admired Hera for knowing that sense of the unknown is what she wanted longer term.
Unlike Hera, I eased into the solo spirit. For my first trip, I booked on a group tour of the Canadian Rockies. I was happy that I didn’t have to plan much. Then we spent some back-country time in basic huts, my first truly wilderness experience. It made me realise I wanted more of that off-piste, rustic goodness. And if I was on my own I’d get to choose where next each day. Confidence built, I then travelled solo for a couple of years, finding mountains to roam and often relishing that feeling of not having to answer to anyone but myself. I changed my route when I met similar minded people and stayed an extra night or two if somewhere really inspired me. For that freedom, the price I paid was the burden of decision making – that responsibility can’t be shared. It gets draining, and some days you would do anything to have someone tell you whether left or right at a trail fork was best. But if I’d had that support, I don’t think I’d have learnt to eventually trust my own instinct. Nor would I now understand why I prefer to explore solo – it breeds spontaneity.
The biggest challenge is often being brave enough to give something a go. If you’ve got the itch to try going solo, scratch it. A wave of ladies with an adventurous spirit are heading out on their own to experience what life has to offer when you take time to discover all the shades of you. Whether it’s a trek that’ll take you several months or simply a weekend away trail running the South West Coast Path with your tarp and stove, take a chance to see what it feels like.
Deciding to go it alone can take you to the edge of reason, but equally the precipice of what it means to make an adventure yours.