I’ve always loved the outdoors, but it wasn’t until last Spring when I fully jumped into my passion for hiking. Restless from the long and gloomy Northeast winter, I set out to incorporate more outdoor activities into my weekly routine.
I thought it would be fun to have some company, so I asked my local friends if they’d want to be part of the adventures too. I was working evenings and weekends at the time, with Wednesdays and Thursdays off. Needless to say, it was a struggle trying to find someone whose schedule matched up with mine. Determined to get outdoors, I opted to start off solo. And I never looked back.
Here are a few reasons to spend some alone time in nature:
Hiking on your own – or doing anything on your own, for that matter – is strangely liberating. If you are new to the experience, you may be hesitant or even a little scared at first, but trust me, the jitters subside over time. Being out on your own, not having to answer to another person or adhere to their schedule, you are free. You can go at your own pace, take that side trip down the trail spur you passed, and (the best part) have all the snacks to yourself! Just be sure to use common sense and be safe!
Along with the freedom of the trail comes a sense of independence. Whether you’re on a few mile afternoon outing or a several day (or week) backpacking excursion, you will return feeling accomplished and able. You have navigated the trails, crossed the rivers, and summited the peaks – All. By. Your. Self. When you get back to the car be sure to give yourself a pat on the back!
Much Needed “Me” Time
Walking through nature alone with yourself and your thoughts can be extremely therapeutic. You have plenty of time to think, sort out any difficulties that have been bothering you, or just zone out and enjoy your surroundings. No one to talk to, no one to distract you – just some healthy silence and sunshine. It’s like a natural reset for the mind.
So hiking has its mental benefits, but it can also do wonders for your physical health! No matter if you’re hiking down a flat riverside path or a steep mountain trail, you are getting in a solid cardio workout. Your heart will thank you! Added points for any inclines or scrambling – it’s a great way to tone your core and legs!
The Art of Exploring
I had been living in Western Connecticut as a New York transplant for about a year, but had not spent much time exploring my new home. Instead, I kept close and comfortable with the familiar landscapes of New York. I wasn’t sure what (if anything) Connecticut had to offer me in the hiking realm. As someone partial to the beauty of the Catskills and the Adirondacks, I wasn’t expecting much. But boy, was I wrong. There were so many great trails to check out, all within a two hour drive or less. A section of the Appalachian Trail even cuts through Western Connecticut! You never know what you will find until you actually get out there.
Meet Fellow Hikers
While it is true that you can also meet people while hiking with friends, I find it to be easier when hiking alone. When you’re alone in the wilderness you have no friend group to shield you, no phone or book to hide behind. You are completely and utterly exposed – and therefore more approachable! Even if you are shy, I guarantee you will end up talking with somebody. I am always surprised about how friendly the other hikers I encounter are. Almost everyone at least says a friendly “hello” as they pass by, and on more than one occasion I have ended up hiking along with other single hikers. You can meet some interesting characters and hear some great stories this way. And if you befriend locals, they are often a great source of knowledge for other nearby and possibly lesser known hiking spots.
Collect Pictures and Memories
Though you may not have a friend to capture those group shots with or take 23435 pictures of you at the summit to get that perfect angle, you can still make sure you document your solo hikes for future reference. You will want to remember your sense of accomplishment and the beautiful scenery you worked so hard to see. In this case, camera timers are your best friend. Even that awful tourist contraption – the selfie stick – can help you out with taking great pictures when you’re alone. You can also feel free to ask other hikers to snap a shot of you – 9 times out of 10 they will be more than accommodating, and might ask you to take one for them as well! Now you have something to share with family and friends when you go home!
So next time you’re debating about heading out for a hike but can’t find a buddy – give a solo hike a try!