If you know me, you know that I do a lot of hiking and general adventures in nature. But my closest friends know that I love being completely alone in the mountains. And my poor partner knows that when my holy bubble of silence gets punctured, the powers of Mordor get unleashed onto whoever ventures too close while I’m in deep reflective thought.
Lucky for me, my parents love nature too, and they missioned all across South Africa to camp, 4x4, and walk through spectacular landscapes whilst I was growing up. However, I only got into solo hiking in my final year of university. The very morning after I wrote my final exam, I woke up to a question within a big void – what the hell am I supposed to do now?? So I packed some snacks and headed up Stellenbosch mountain by myself.
It took me 8 hours, and my legs had been reduced to jelly when I got back down, but it felt amazing having achieved such a mammoth task on my own! And my mind had all the space in the world to chew on everything and anything it needed to. By the time I got back to my hostel room (I had to really convince my roommate to believe me), I was relaxed, satisfied, motivated, and tired.
For the past 12 years, I’ve explored hundreds of trails on my own, finding the safer and more solo-friendly areas through trial and error. I’ve had some scary animal encounters (baboons, dogs, cows, horses), and have gotten stuck in rainstorms and wind so strong I had to grab onto fynbos to stay upright. Even though I still actively pursue solitude in nature, I’ve begun to appreciate the sense of security I get from hiking with my friends. Luckily, they all know that when I put a good 50m between myself and them, it’s not because I don’t like their company.
This blog post is not an argument for more people to spend time reflecting (which I strongly believe, but that’s just my opinion), but rather a result of years of my own “research”. Hiking alone, hiking with friends, hiking with people I don’t know, and finding a sweet spot where all the boxes get ticked: socializing, a sense of shared adventure, and reflective time.
If you’re a fellow solo hiker, I tap my imaginary cap to you. Enjoy the expanse and the endless space, and thank you for giving yourself that time to reflect, so that you may be a better human in the long run.