The first time I ever camped alone is something I’ll never forget. I decided to run away from home and at the ripe old age of 11, nobody was going to stop me. Ironically, my mom and dad helped me pack. All I had to do was walk out the back door and I was in the woods — I was free!

And although I came home early the next morning, that long night alone changed me forever. I didn’t have to fight off any monsters or wild animals (even though I made spears and had my Boy Scout knife), and nothing set off all of the booby traps I set up around my campsite. As a matter of fact, I felt much better after the experience — different in some way.

Since then, I’ve spent many nights alone in the wild and although I’ve been freaked out a few times, I continue pushing my limits and continue to be grateful that I do. There’s something that happens to you when it’s just you and nature. I can only explain it as an overwhelming sense that you’re connected to everything and that you’ll be alright. Looking back, I’ve always been alright no matter what. But, first you have to take that leap of faith.

Let’s face it, there’s something in us that makes us fearful of being alone in the dark. Add a big scary forest and a lot of nocturnal critters and even the biggest man gets a chill down his spine. It’s the way we’re programmed. I know some tough men that need to sleep with a gun when they’re in the woods—and the’ve got four other tough men in their camp! The funny thing is that nothing bad ever happens. It’s unreasonable fear and most of us have it.

I know many women who solo camp all the time. A couple of these gals hiked the whole Pacific Crest Trail . . . alone! So why is a burly 220 pound man with a plethora of weapons afraid, when a petite 110 pound lady is completely comfortable (and unafraid) in the wild (and all she has is a multi-tool)! Well, the answer is experience.

The only way to understand how amazing a solo trip is, is to go do it. Sure, take some weapons, make some trip-lines, stay by the fire all night keeping watch. Be scared, be horrified, cry, scream at the wild beasts that are trying to get you, but just do it. When I first started rock climbing, I was terrified of heights (most climbers once were) but I just did it. The fear is gone.

Overcoming our fears seems to unlock ancient memories where “rites of passage” ceremonies were common. All indigenous tribes partook in some sort of rite of passage. We remember at a primal level when we go beyond our edge and that does something to us. What I have learned is that no matter what it actually is, it’s good and it brings me closer to the natural world.

Solo camping is a great way to experience this closeness. When it’s just me and nature, I have no choice but to listen, to trust that I am ok where everything else is ok. Rarely does anyone get attacked by a wild creature and if they do, they probably did something very wrong. The bottom line is that if we let our fears get the best of us, we might as well just stop exploring and learning about our natural world and about ourselves. So just go do it!

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