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   Group Forum: Solo Tripping
      Self Observations While Soloing     

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veggykurt
member (50)member
 
09/17/2016 10:38PM   (Thread Older Than 3 Years)
One of the most striking things I become aware of a couple of days into a solo trip is how reliant I am psychologically on all of the things back "in the world" that make me feel safe. At home, I know I can call 911, I can talk to a friend, I can ask a neighbor for help. There are all sorts of societal elements that exist in the back of my mind that I automatically rely on for a sense of security--physical and emotional. All that is out the window on the solo trip! I become aware at first just how vulnerable and alone I really am, what it means to take responsibility for yourself. And this gives birth to a greatly heightened sense of care and attention to everything I do and how I do it. In other words I feel more alive and present. I believe the difference mentally between a canoe trip with one other person and a solo is, rather arbitrarily, 90%. When there is someone else there you know you have SOMEONE who can bear the difficulties of a situation with you. When it's just you, there IS no one else to lean on mentally or physically, for that matter. NO ONE. But after a few days, my mind is forced to adapt to this rare and powerful situation and the result, for me, is a form of inner growth and a more accurate sense of "what I am really made of". Strengths and weaknesses are revealed in all of their starkness. I have soloed only twice, but they remain among the most powerful experiences of my life. Anyone else care to share on this?
 
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09/18/2016 10:48AM  
Sure, Kurt, I'll take a shot at sharing some. And, btw, if you have extra time sometime, there are various similar threads in this forum that deal with various aspects of the "mental" component of soloing from different perspectives.

But first a little background. I just returned from my 8th BW solo and have done several other solo adventures, but they were not as long nor as remote as some of the BW ones. Nonetheless, those shorter ones eased me into the longer, more remote ones.

I know the feeling you speak of, but it is not as strong as it was in the beginning. To a certain extent the feeling of help not being immediately available is present even when there with others. Help may be many hours or days away rather than mere minutes. Being alone heightens that feeling since there's no one there until help arrives.

I don't feel it as strongly as the first few times, especially when I'm near entry points and busy areas where I see a lot of people, but the feeling increases as I leave the crowd behind and don't see anyone for a couple of days. I am more careful and more aware of each step, each move, etc.

Another, although more mundane aspect of being alone and totally self-reliant, is simply that you must do everything yourself - paddling, landing, loading, unloading, portaging, navigation, camp chores, gear repair, decision making, first aid.

One final aspect of the solo experience I have increasingly become of aware of as I do more of them and certain of the mundane things become more routine is this:

The uninterrupted "flow of experience". No worrying about what others are or are not doing, no stopping or even pausing to speak or answer, no waiting on others or hurrying to catch up. The experience is not interrupted by anyone else outside of me. I do what I want, when I want, whether its paddling, eating, sleeping, resting, observing, or just thinking. This is a very rare things these days.

I hope you enjoy more happy solos, Kurt.



 
mastertangler
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09/18/2016 11:32AM  
The more you go solo the more natural and ordinary it will seem. Some 30 years ago I ran a trapline for some 6 or 7 consecutive years. From October to January I was in the woods alone most of daylight hours. I loved it so much I would quit decent paying jobs to be out on the line. it became so ingrained in me that now it just seems perfectly ordinary to be solo, I don't think twice about it.

But yes, you do have to have a heightened sense of awareness. Fatigue is an enemy as well as wanting to "rush".

And i'm with Boonie........no one to make happy but yourself. But It can be a tough call sometimes. With my chums I know there will be lots of laughter......but then you miss out on the quiet soul enriching experiences that going solo has to offer.

And of course if your a Jesus person your never really alone ("I will never leave you nor forsake you").........so I always have someone to talk to ;-)
 
09/18/2016 11:37AM  
Good observations Veggykurt,
I have soloed probably 3/4 of my trips in my lifetime backpacking or canoeing and I never have given it much thought before. I will now, after reading your post. (It was enlightening.)
My last eight trips have been solos, and I do know I feel much more vulnerable when I am on my own.
It is a little unnerving camping and living alone without a dog in the heaviest Grizzly/Brown Bear concentrations in Alaska.
Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak Island.
 
09/18/2016 01:00PM  
Going solo is forced opportunity to reflect, after all who else is their to talk to other than the animals and our maker. I knew from the first time out help was not available, I had got that idea even when with others, but I didn't really consider the consequences. After a couple close encounters directly attributed to overextending and being tired, I have also taken extra effort to slow down and be aware The task now is to bring that awareness back to the rest of my life and I find I enjoy this life more, too. I find I do not enjoy crowds and high noise/activity situations even feeling less safe under such circumstances. Kids playing seems to be a solid exception. I do enjoy noticing things more and believe solo tripping has enhanced my life in this way.
 
veggykurt
member (50)member
 
09/18/2016 01:09PM  
Thanks for that share. Yes, I agree about no one else being there to affect the flow of the individual experience---there is no mental "static" from all that comes from being in the presence of others. Yes, I will check older threads on this--I knew there would be some, I just wanted to set down fresh observations. Also I plan on a trip report in the coming days. These experiences are probably very common.
 
veggykurt
member (50)member
 
09/18/2016 01:09PM  
Thanks for that share. Yes, I agree about no one else being there to affect the flow of the individual experience---there is no mental "static" from all that comes from being in the presence of others. Yes, I will check older threads on this--I knew there would be some, I just wanted to set down fresh observations. Also I plan on a trip report in the coming days. These experiences are probably very common.
 
veggykurt
member (50)member
 
09/18/2016 01:20PM  
Yes--this is one of the best places to get in touch with Spirituality, whatever that means to you. And, yes, more and more I tend to do adventure vacations on my own. Probably most people never ever find what what it is like to be alone for days and weeks. The prospect may seem terrifying, and it can be that for sure maybe, but if you can break through initial fears, you can get to "undiscovered country".
 
missmolly
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09/18/2016 01:23PM  
A big Y-E-S to this: "I become aware at first just how vulnerable and alone I really am, what it means to take responsibility for yourself. And this gives birth to a greatly heightened sense of care and attention to everything I do and how I do it. In other words I feel more alive and present."

My longest solo paddling trip was three months. I also did a 49-day trip and next June, I'll do a 24-day trip. I always have to acclimate to the first few nights alone. Lots of heeby-jeebies. Every noise at night is louder and seems closer. However, as you note, the big payoff is becoming more alive and present. After a few days, I can feel those barometric shifts and know a storm is coming. If you want to feel more alive and present times two, solo fish for muskies from a canoe!
 
09/18/2016 06:25PM  
I had a friend who was anxious to take his family on a canoe trip after listening to my enthusiastic canoe tripping adventures.

He planned for a year and finally set out with his wife and two of his children. The week long trip lasted four days. His wife worked as a nurse in a hospital and just couldn't ever get comfortable knowing that the ambulance and emergency room were so far away. That was the one and only canoe trip they ever took. I felt sorry for them.

Before this happened, I had never thought much about this issue. Guess I had spent my life being bullet proof. I'm a lot more careful now that I'm an official old geezer, but I don't obsess about it. Living your life without a constant safety net is what makes life rewarding. My buddies wife, the nurse, knows that I go out alone and just shakes her head. I still feel sorry for them.
 
09/18/2016 06:49PM  
"You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself."

~Alan Alda

I came across this quote today and think it fits this thread.

 
veggykurt
member (50)member
 
09/18/2016 09:55PM  
Wow, MissMolly! Those are amazing lengths of time to be alone. Reminds me of what you hear of various "mountain men" of the 19th Century. I also think of Lewis and Clark--gone for 1-2years with almost every possible unknown to deal with.
 
veggykurt
member (50)member
 
09/18/2016 09:59PM  
And I believe, almost ironically, that our perception of overall safety in society is just that--a perception. Lot's and lots of things could kill us out here--namely car accidents for one. When I first felt so vulnerable out there, understandable though it was, I felt how pathetic it is that I have developed this unbalanced emotional reliance on civilization, rather than redress that imbalance--but then again--that is one of the reasons I was out doing a solo! I feel more confident as a person for having done it. I might be putting it a bit too strongly, but maybe you get my drift.
 
veggykurt
member (50)member
 
09/18/2016 10:06PM  
What a great quote. I am gonna write it down, because I really believe it.
 
mastertangler
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09/19/2016 05:42AM  
quote veggykurt: I might be putting it a bit too strongly, but maybe you get my drift."

An experience like none other...........that is soloing in the wilderness.

I strongly suggest journaling while you are out there to capture thoughts, feelings and actions. This has paid nice dividends for me as I am able to re-live trips and recapture some of the emotional satisfaction that I derived. This is especially important as time goes by........otherwise I would forget the vast majority of a trip and eventually forget I even went. With the digital age it is an easy thing to capture the trip and along with some pics to retain it as a treasured memory.
 
missmolly
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09/19/2016 10:01AM  
quote veggykurt: "Wow, MissMolly! Those are amazing lengths of time to be alone. Reminds me of what you hear of various "mountain men" of the 19th Century. I also think of Lewis and Clark--gone for 1-2years with almost every possible unknown to deal with."

I forgot a five-week trip when I was 15. However, my trips don't impress me since I started writing about the trips others have taken. There's a Norwegian who paddled and skied from the end of the Aleutians to Greenland over three summers. He'd leave his kayak ashore and dig it out of the snow each June and continue east. And I just did a story about a couple guys who were the first to circle Ellesmere Island. They met 90 polar bears and had one stick its head in their tent. Compared to such trips, I've stayed in the Hilton.
 
GraniteCliffs
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09/19/2016 07:59PM  
I have found, for me, that solos are a sort of process that evolves with time. I began being very comfortable in the woods and water after dozens and dozens of canoe trips with others but found myself very focused on being alone and being safe when I started solos as an older adult. While comfortable, much of my thought process was caught up with not getting lost, not dumping, portaging safely, etc.
Within the first days of the first solo and on subsequent solos I still think about these issues but worry about them less. Worrying less allows me more time to slow down, paddle the shorelines looking at the shore, listening for sounds, staring at the bottom of the lake and thinking more about my place in the world. And in all of these activities becoming very absorbed in the pleasurable here and now of the trip and thinking less about safety issues.

 
veggykurt
member (50)member
 
09/20/2016 07:07PM  
I seem to have to breakthrough a membrane of acclimating myself to soloing, to breaking away so suddenly from an involved personal life in "civilization" and all of it's trappings. It takes a few days, then I become more at ease and focused and aware. "The world" seems to cease to exist and my world is green and brown and blue. Pocket rocket stove, zippers zipping, putting camp up, taking it down, doing hard work on portages and paddling without really thinking about it much. I lost 6 lbs on this last trip. Safety-wise my biggest focus by far is every step I take portaging. But at night, with a sudden close sound of a moose or such, I am in the NOW! When I am soloing, my consciousness must have to dust off the compartment that was well used in the hunter-gatherer period of time. Thanks for your share!
 
09/20/2016 08:01PM  
Kurt-

I have a long drive to get there and I don't have to hurry it as much as I used to, which helps me drop more of the thoughts about other things before I enter. It stills takes some time to get into the flow of a different day though, but not as long as it used to - I've done more solos and fine tuned my gear and methods. And I can do longer solos now, which means I'm not on the way out when I get into the flow, so I can enjoy it longer :).
 
09/21/2016 01:25PM  
I'm mid 50's now and it's a world of difference mentally than when I soloed in my 20s. This last trip on my first night in the tent I heard what sounded like a bird call from the Amazon rainforest. Very very bizarre whoops and noises. Could be an owl. But my point is that I was never nervous or afraid. Much different than being 23 and scared shitless at night by myself.
I was merely just curious now.
 
09/21/2016 02:59PM  
Couldn't agree more. The pinacle of that feeling of vulnerability is if you get hurt. Mine was pretty simple, I had 4 out of 6 barbs from a 2-treble hook lure embedded deep in my hand and was 2 portages from anyone. Oh the things that run through your mind in those first few moments!

JD

 
09/21/2016 03:23PM  
quote TomT: "I'm mid 50's now and it's a world of difference mentally than when I soloed in my 20s. This last trip on my first night in the tent I heard what sounded like a bird call from the Amazon rainforest. Very very bizarre whoops and noises. Could be an owl. But my point is that I was never nervous or afraid. Much different than being 23 and scared shitless at night by myself.
I was merely just curious now. "


Good point,
I remember running to our cabin when I was a kid when we heard Wolves howling off in the distance.
Now I stop and listen to them, and have even snuck up on wolves to within 150 feet twice in my life.
 
09/21/2016 07:39PM  
quote jdevries: "Couldn't agree more. The pinacle of that feeling of vulnerability is if you get hurt. Mine was pretty simple, I had 4 out of 6 barbs from a 2-treble hook lure embedded deep in my hand and was 2 portages from anyone. Oh the things that run through your mind in those first few moments!


JD


"


It is awkward getting them out by yourself, especially when they are in your dominant hand.
 
09/21/2016 09:42PM  
I think while soloing I am much more aware of my surroundings than when I go tandem.
 
09/22/2016 06:28AM  
quote Pinetree: "I think while soloing I am much more aware of my surroundings than when I go tandem. "

Yeah no question. There's no conversations to get distracted with. I found myself paddling next to the shore and looking into the trees or up cliffs. Then on those spectacular clear water lakes I loved looking down even 20 feet to see all the downed trees underwater from years ago and huge boulders. If I was tandem I would be in conversation a lot of time while paddling.
 
09/22/2016 06:28AM  
quote Pinetree: "I think while soloing I am much more aware of my surroundings than when I go tandem. "

Yeah no question. There's no conversations to get distracted with. I found myself paddling next to the shore and looking into the trees or up cliffs. Then on those spectacular clear water lakes I loved looking down even 20 feet to see all the downed trees underwater from years ago and huge boulders. If I was tandem I would be in conversation a lot of time while paddling.
 
09/22/2016 08:54AM  
quote boonie: "
The uninterrupted "flow of experience". No worrying about what others are or are not doing, no stopping or even pausing to speak or answer, no waiting on others or hurrying to catch up. The experience is not interrupted by anyone else outside of me. I do what I want, when I want, whether its paddling, eating, sleeping, resting, observing, or just thinking. This is a very rare things these days.
"

Boonie, your whole response was very insightful but I really liked your observation above as it summarizes very succinctly the initial feel of a solo experience.
 
09/22/2016 02:12PM  
I agree. But most people just think we are weird loners.
 
09/22/2016 09:37PM  
Tom - I don't know about you, but I am a weird loner. :) Not as weird as Aaron, though ;).

Thanks, BeaV. I suspect you had a lot of "flow" on your epic adventure :).

I did, however, notice more acutely on this solo than others previously, just how much the pure "flow" of the experience was muted by the logistics of travel - navigation, speed, time - and all the other things that occupy one's mind when traveling. This was less noticeable at the beginning and end when I was traveling familiar country, as well as when day tripping. Something to ponder . . .
 
09/23/2016 06:24AM  
quote boonie: "Tom - I don't know about you, but I am a weird loner. :) Not as weird as Aaron, though ;).
"


That's funny. I like when I meet people on portages and they ask stuff like "So, where are you guys headed?" And I say "It's just me and my dog". Then they perk up and all look at me. "You're here by yourself?" And I can just see their wheels spinning. It gets fun when they become curious and ask questions about what it's like to be solo.



 
09/23/2016 08:07AM  
As Boonie pointed out in his first response, this topic has been covered many times and right now I wish I did have the time to pull all those threads and read them again. For sure as I follow this one I get new things to consider.
And for sure the navigation thing is a distraction from the flow. As discussed in threads on getting lost; I have never been lost, but have been unsure of my location on bigger lakes for longer than I wanted more than once. When I let myself get too caught up in just enjoying the experience I tend to lose my place on the map...so when traveling I will now be working on splitting my attention between navigation and experiencing my surrounds. Overcoming the fear of being lost or trip being seriously impacted by a navigation error will keep navigation primary but I do want to experience more while I travel. Maybe just stop more often and sit on a rock or sit quietly in the canoe back in a bay...
 
veggykurt
member (50)member
 
09/23/2016 09:02AM  
I just want to thank you all for your postings on this topic--very informative, reassuring, and inspiring. Yes, I knew this topic must have been covered many times, and I really appreciate you going down this road yet again. I guess I am amazed at how much of our aggregate experience is alike. Our mistakes, our fears, our increased awareness, "the flow", solitude. All know is, that for me it is a powerful experience that contributes nourishment, strength and depth to an often neglected side of my being - if that makes any sense. My map is always nearby, ready for planning, so I doubt if this will be my last solo. Actually, my son and I have this wild idea--and I am often filled with wild, grandiose ideas that need further thinking through(!)--to start from two different points, meet on a given lake, and continue on together to perhaps a third point. The logistics of that are almost funny to think about, but we think about it. Given things I have read on this message board, I am sure this has been done any number of times.
Another place I have come to enjoy the solo experience is the desert. Next spring, I plan on returning to southern Utah, into the Staircase Escalante National Monument, and backpacking into Coyote Gulch. I have my bucket list.
I still hope to get my trip report done this weekend, complete with pictures. I do have them up on facebook, too. Until Later--Kurt
 
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