In the past few weeks, the weather in my neighborhood has been generally pleasant. This has allowed me to pore over Angeli’s book of hiking trails and pick and choose which one to explore. I’ve organized one with friends to tag along, but both the risk of coronavirus and bad weather forecast prompted the cancellation of the activity.
Since I needed to go out of the house to get a break from the work from home arrangements, as well as enjoy the outdoors, I’ve decided to mostly go for a solo adventure. So far, it’s been lonely but rewarding at the same time. And during these treks, some of which was totally on my own, and others with packed crowds, I’ve discovered several benefits of going for a hike on my own.
You can pick the trail you wish to go to
No, polls to participate in, no spending a lot of time selecting based on mates’ physical ability or lack thereof, distance from their place, and so on.⠀The book’s decent list of hiking trails is categorized according to location, distance, trek conditions, and highlight attractions. As long as it’s easily accessible by public transport from my place, and fits within my allocated time, that hike is a good candidate.⠀
You eliminate the tentativeness of people
Should I go because of pandemic risk or weather patterns? Is this hike suitable for my lifestyle or Instagram profile? It’s not saying I always go with my choice but I just don’t hesitate.⠀I understand there are various factors people join in a hike: physical fitness, enjoy the scenery and take photos, socialize, and so on. Sometimes, these factors drive people to reconsider an earlier commitment, thus the last minute back out.
Thankfully, hiking isn’t like reserving a hotel room that sometimes comes with a ‘use it or lose it’ booking. But one less participant can significantly reduce the fun, and even influence others to follow suit.⠀
You learn more about yourself
With no one else to ask except Google, if needed, you become more empowered to make decisions. Should I stop here for a break? Should I continue further or stick with the plan? As you meet crossroads literally on hikes and figuratively in life, a solo trip will test your decision-making skills.⠀
A couple of weeks ago, I planned to explore the Hermitage Foreshore Walk in Vaucluse. From my place, it will take three segments of public transport to bring me to the starting point. Unfortunately, the interval between the second and third leg was too short and there was not enough time to catch the final bus. I don’t want to wait 30 minutes for the next bus, so I decided to take another path to avoid ruining the day’s plan and brought me to Manly instead. Sometimes, the best plan is no plan at all.
You feel a sense of accomplishment
Our office has been organizing a club on Strava to encourage everyone to get moving as we work from home and reward those who spent the longest moving time, farthest distance traveled, and most activities recorded. I only recently started to go for runs, and continue to struggle building consistency, but the club has added one more layer of motivation for me to actively go out.
I may not set a new record or conquered a summit, but as I share photos and record my time at that Strava club at the end of every trail, I feel a sense of accomplishment looking after my well-being, and rising in the leaderboard. If I see myself falling in the ranks, it’s a reminder that I need to get going and plan the next trail to discover and tick off the bucket list.
You train to conquer your fears
When I tried Two Creeks Track in Lindfield, there was a section that was accessible only through a dark portion under a bridge, slippery and hazardous to flash flood. With nobody to ask for advice and no one to be responsible for but myself, I waded through the ankle-deep stream to get through the other end. It went as planned, and the initial concern was simply overblown. But it was also possible I retraced my steps and look for an alternative passage to bail myself out of trouble.
I imagined the first time I took the jeepney ride from Mintal to Claveria, my first transcontinental flight from Asia to America, or my first snorkeling try in Palawan. I have my fair share of fears, but being alone, ironically, emboldened me to pursue it.
If there was one or more with me, we could argue on what best to do. But being alone enables you to summon your inner instinct and take decisive action — hoping it’s the right one.
You follow your own pace
I’d like to go for adventure and prefer to get it done at the prescribed time, allowing short breaks for water or photograph. Other companions may prefer a more relaxed pace, focusing on the enjoyment of the experience rather than achieve notable performance. Doing the walk alone allows you to maintain your pace without worrying if you’re too fast for novice trekkers, or too slow for advanced expeditionists.
I have a habit of starting to jog in the middle or towards the end of the trail as I build up momentum to finish it. Probably, it won’t happen if I have company.
You engage in deeper thought
If not listening to back episodes of Lore podcast, I’d likely engage my brain at the same level as I would during the shower. In this slice of isolation, I’ll have the space for my thoughts and feelings whose benefit may be similar to that of meditation. It can be a surreal experience as I process that feeling of joy, gratitude, and being loved people who had near-death experiences.
It can be hard to tame the brain as it has the tendency to wander around. But being alone walking in this remote patch of wilderness helps establish mental focus even as occasional disruptions along the way pop up.
Better enjoy what mother nature has to offer
I seldom do a selfie or spend extra time trying to capture the best photographic shot from the top of the mountain. Even as our tired legs clamor ‘are we there yet?’, it’s the journey we enjoy more than the fulfillment of reaching the destination. The rock formations, the flora and fauna, and even the historical landscape and the First Nations peoples who have settled in this place thousands of years ago.
The blue sky and cool, fresh air have always been a big draw for me to go hiking. So a cool, clear morning is an auspicious moment to begin a day of solo exploration and discovery.
I still prefer to explore the great outdoors with friends. But when I am in solitude, I’ll be sure to find some silver lining.