If you are a woman and decide to go on a solo adventure in the wilderness you will most certainly experience a certain level of pushback from your family and friends. I certainly did when I decided to leave my job and my husband behind for 4 months to run across New Zealand. But in retrospect I am so glad I did not let other people’s opinion stop me from committing to a trip of a lifetime. Because I now realise that the arguments were all based on misconceptions regarding solo female adventure travelling.
Three myths about going on a solo adventure trip as a woman
Myth number 1: It’s too dangerous. You may even get raped.
This argument is often brought up by people who have never been out in the wild by themselves. Obviously bad stuff happens and it can happen anywhere. But as shown by a study conducted in the US, the risk of a woman being a victim of violent crime in a national park is significantly lower than in the country as a whole. In addition, many women travelling alone find that they very rarely feel unsafe whilst doing so. As ultra-endurance cyclist Juliana Buhring puts it: “People are more likely to help you out as a woman traveling alone on a bike, for the very reason that they see you as vulnerable and want to protect and help you. It brings out the chivalry in people in a way I have not seen in any other situation.”
Myth number 2: Going on a solo adventure is selfish.
As Della Parsons – a two time circumnavigator with the Clipper Race – explains, women tend to find it harder than men to justify spending time and money on themselves. They tend to feel like deciding to go on an adventure is too self-indulgent, especially if they have kids. But what they don’t realise is that the huge positive impact that this investment will have on their life will actually end up benefitting their friends and family in the long run.
Myth number 3: You are going to be so lonely.
“Do you not get lonely travelling by yourself?” – this is probably the question I got asked the most during my journey on foot across New Zealand. Of course there were many times when I missed my husband, my family and my friends but I have never felt less lonely than during my time on the Te Araroa trail. During those four months in New Zealand I met so many incredible people from all around the world and I was constantly impressed by the hospitality and kindness of kiwi people inviting me into their homes and offering their help before I could even ask.
Tips from awesome women who decided to go for it
Just in case you still don’t feel 100% confident about setting off by yourself, I asked three amazing women about their experience hitting the trail alone. Here are their best tips for novice female solo adventurers:
Erin ‘Wired’ Saver, long distance hiker
“1. Don’t be afraid to go solo! With many thru-hikes, you’re only alone if you want to be. There are so many people out there doing the same thing, and being solo will open you up to that much more interaction if you’re looking for that.
2. Take a year to work up to thru-hiking and practice with your gear. You won’t know until you’re out there how you’ll like it and what gear you prefer. A thru-hike is a major commitment. If you’re going to take the time and money to do it, take it seriously and go in prepared so you can enjoy it that much more.
3. Don’t have any ‘what ifs’. Instead of sitting on the fence, just get out there and go for it. Whatever it is, be it a thru-hike or other wonder. It’s better to try something than to always look back and wonder ‘what if’…”
Juliana Buhring, ultra-endurance cyclist and writer
“I always say, just go do it. Sometimes the only way to confront a fear is to face it head on. Perhaps the easiest way for a woman to approach the idea of going on a big adventure is to dip their toes in the water and do a mini adventure first. Strap a bag to the bike and go out for a weekend, ride as far as you can get, stop for the night, come back a different route the next day. It gets addicting; heading out on the open road, not knowing where you’ll end up, or where you’ll sleep that night. Make no plans, just enjoy the ride, stop when you want to stop, eat when you want to eat, have fun. You’ll quickly catch the adventure bug and want to ride further and see more places by bike. Your horizons will quickly expand.”
Viviane Roode, Te Araroa thru-hiker
“1. Do not ignore your fears, but use them to identify risks and take measures to mitigate the risk. The level of risk you are willing to take is a very personal thing and this is something you should always decide for yourself. But be sure to recognise real risks from perceived risk (that might also be projected by others), and be aware that also real risks can be greatly reduced by the right preparation.
2. Be realistic about your capabilities. It is alright (and a lot of fun!) to explore the boundaries of your comfort zone, but this is most fun if your choose your challenges well. For instance, if you never hiked alone, choose your first solo adventure such that the physical hike itsself is not at the max of your abilities. The larger your comfort zone gets, the more you can experiment with this.
3. Trust your intuition, but be aware that your intuition is influenced by the circumstances. I find this a difficult one – because there is a very big “survivor bias” here. But what is something to be aware of is that it is may be easy to follow your intuition in normal life and say no/or go away when a situation doesn’t feel good or you do not trust a person. It will however be more difficult (to recognise the intuition warning, and to act on it) when you are tired/hungry/have been by yourself for a while.”
To sum it up…
- Don’t let other people’s fears and opinion stop you from embarking on your big adventure.
- Increase your confidence by starting small and progressively building towards your goal.
- Recognise your fears and limitations and develop a plan to overcome them.
- Trust your gut feeling!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
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