I travel alone. A lot. It's super fun. It's never lonely. You're free to do whatever you want without worrying about other people's fears or physical limitations.
People say it must be "empowering" to travel alone as a woman. But, honestly, I've always found it way more empowering to backpack alone with my dog.
I don't know why. I guess there's just something powerfully primal about exploring the wilderness with the only critter I know who loves backpacking more than me.
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The way she acts, the way she looks -- that's exactly how I feel when I explore nature.
Not to mention, having her with me helps eliminate some of the inconveniences faced by people who backpack without a canine friend -- like chipmunks and squirrels trying to get into your bag when you stop for lunch on a well-traveled trail, animals coming into your campsite at night, etc.
Even if she's totally exhausted from a long day of hiking...
She will still be at full attention at the first sign of an intruder.
Which is also nice because....
Yes, I do kind of get scared sometimes while backpacking alone.
Like, not super scared. But a little scared.
Which is funny, right? Because the things people think would/should scare me as a female traveler... they just don't.
With the rarest of exceptions, it doesn't even occur to me that certain things -- walking alone in Mexico City at night; hitchhiking my way through Australia, Costa Rica, Albania, or... wherever; hotels and Airbnbs (I... guess that's a thing that scares some women?); talking to strangers (or, as I call it, making new friends) -- are "scary."
Part of that is understanding just how unlikely it is that something bad would happen. Part of it is being so completely immersed in the experience or culture that I don't even notice if men whistle or stare at me. Part is being confident in my ability and willingness to be assertive, fight back, or make a scene. Who cares if some stranger you'll never see again might maybe think you were "rude"?
So what scares me about backpacking? Why is it any different?
I guess it's partly the total isolation. In Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche Dubois says, "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers." And, in my experience traveling, strangers have been exceedingly kind. Whatever situation -- my credit card stopped working and I'm out of money, my passport got stolen, I'm on a Jeepney and I have no idea where to get off -- I've always found people are exceedingly happy to help.
But in the backcountry, there's no one to help.
Sometimes, if I'm scampering over some slippery rocks or crossing a hairy creek, I'll ask myself, "When was the last time I saw another person? Because that's probably about how long it would be before anyone found me here, if I were to break my leg or something."
Fortunately, there is gear you can use as a solo backpacker that makes situations like this less dangerous. I discussed some, including emergency beacons and other satellite communicators that allow two-way texting, in 5 Pieces of Gear That Will Save Your Life If You Get Lost Backpacking.
So technology is a great way to manage the "what will happen if something happens?" fear...
Though it's fun to imagine Ruby would also prove helpful in some way. Perhaps my broken leg would awaken her inner Lassie?
Another kind of scary thing about backpacking is that, when you sleep -- when you're totally at your most vulnerable -- there is literally nothing but a flap of ripstop nylon between you and whatever weirdo might be out there.
And there are definitely weirdos out there.
I've met them. People who are hard to understand, whose behavior is impossible to predict. I've heard stories -- everything from "mysterious lights just a few feet away from my campsite" to "drunk dudes were harassing me and I had no recourse because I was in the middle of nowhere" to...
OMG this really creepy story about a woman who was backpacking alone, back in the day when people used film cameras.
At the end of her trip, she had her photos developed -- and saw that someone had entered her tent every night and taken a photo of her sleeping.
So creepy. So wrong.
But the good news is, it wouldn't have happened if she had a brave snoofer in her tent with her!
So... maybe that's it? When you backpack alone, you get all the benefits of being alone in the woods (total flexibility and independence)... with the added benefit of having a companion who is just as stoked as (or more stoked than) you, a companion with heightened senses who totally has your back? (Ruby is scared of the hair dryer and the Roomba, but she would fearlessly fight back against a bear, in the extremely unlikely situation where that came up.)
Maybe it's that all of the things that would have scared you... aren't all that scary anymore? And overcoming fears is empowering?
Or maybe it's totally just that weird primal thing -- there really is nothing quite like the feeling of being alone in the woods with your little wolf.
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About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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