"Oooh, you're so brave!" - Yep, one of the regular comments when I tell someone I spend a large chunk of my time running alone in the mountains or, heaven forbid, solo wildcamping! While more experienced, intrepid 'outdoorsee's' might slightly roll their eyes hearing this reaction it's fair to say that it depends on your perspective - though many fears may be irrational, there are things to be prepared for when hareing off into remote environments though I can honestly say crazed axe-murderers is not one of them! Twisting an ankle by tripping over a rabbit that darts into the path of your fast downhill run, however, might be. Honest - it's happened to me!
Fears mostly arise from the unfamiliar. Sounds in the night during a woodland wildcamp may evoke irrational fears of that randomly wandering axe-murderer the first time or two but as our familiarity grows we learn that scuffling outside the tent is no more than the pesky rabbit again, probably after the secret chocolate stash under your camping pillow! Solo adventures are wonderful, immersive and concentrated experiences of the outdoors and should never be avoided simply because of a fear of the unfamiliar. Talking about chocolate, studies have shown that dark chocolate reduces levels of our natural stress hormone, cortisol, plus it contains an amino acid that can increase levels of serotonin giving a calming effect, reducing anxiety and delivering a lovely feel-good warmth. A perfect accompaniment to solo outdoors adventures! But what are we afraid of that inhibits us from heading out alone in the first place? Personally, getting lost, adversely affected by weather or injured are my only real fears and I think the only ones we should justifiably have about venturing out solo. These outcomes can equally affect us alone or with a group but being with others offers reassurance and the ability to help or go for help if necessary. Adventuring solo requires us to be more independent, skilled and responsible for looking after ourselves but on the plus side this is incredibly empowering and confidence building as we discover hidden inner strengths and character. There are plenty of courses and resources available to learn the essentials of solo safety - map reading and compass work, planning solo trips and essentials to carry are good starting points.
Being prepared will give you the confidence to get out and then use the time outdoors to practice and build experience as you wander a little further off-piste. I find it helps to push those comfort zone boundaries little by little on each adventure, enough to enable you to learn and grow but not so much that you scare yourself witless and never leave your back garden again! The thing about comfort zone boundaries is that they are very pliable and each time you push them out a bit further your skills and experience grow to fill the gap. It's a wonderful feeling to return to something that once gave you a good dose of the heebie jeebies whether solo camping, hiking across a fogbound moor or scrambling over mountain ridges and be able to take it in your stride with confidence, understanding and strength.
Fear is natural and important as it keeps us safe. Managing fear, not allowing it to stop us getting the most out of life and being the best we can be, is one of the most valuable skills we can learn and is both relevant and vital not only to being in the great outdoors, or in undertaking any solo sporting challenge but to our whole lives in general...a bit like chocolate really. Well prepared solo adventures are a wonderful experience and time to really connect with your environment. The outdoors provides us stunning moments of joy, contemplation and challenge. Feeling confident with the skills to get out safely on your own will lead you to some fantastic wild places. Heading into scenes like this might fill you with fear or trepidation but with the knowledge to cope with adverse conditions wild weather can definitely fill your adventure with some of that type2 fun! Learning and practising navigation techniques will get you safely to that remote spot in the fog! A perfect moment to enjoy that chocolate 'warm blanket' feeling.
Join Tina as she goes on her epic journey of completing 1000 Mountains Of the British Isles in 365 Days and watch, as she goes through her many amazing challenges. Tina is one to watch! https://www.facebook.com/adventurehobo/