Camping, for most, is a temporary foray into the outdoors. It’s an act of staying up late around sequestered campfires with s’mores and ghost stories on the menu. Time spent catching lightning bugs while setting up a temporary home in a numbered and assigned slot. It’s safe.
When we go solo camping, there is more at stake. We go solo camping for reasons more than just to have a quaint memory for the scrapbook. The experience serves as a reckoning. A call-to-arms. An escape and a savior from the mundane.
Solo camping is about more than just a respite from the norm. Solo camping is a reason for us to dig deep into our souls. When we sit alone at a beach after midnight, with our backs to the darkness, there is a vulnerability that we use to climb into the recesses of our minds. The waves churn in front of us, the steady hand of physics a known outcome atop the chasm of the deep ocean. This lulls us into almost a trance that shuts out the everyday noise in place of something more powerful. If we are lucky, there are clear skies above us that we can get lost in. Staring deep, adjusting our eyes to the dark, and marveling at the stars that were dead before we even knew they were alive. We question our place in the Universe. Hopefully, we get the answers.
Countless men have escaped to the wilds to find their inner selves. Most of us come back without the real answers, but it doesn’t stop us from trying again. The men who do succeed are known for what they are able to express to the rest of us. Writers, creators, madmen. All seem to return with an answer they went searching for, and we are left to admire them for their success.
If we use solo camping as an escape while already having the ins and outs of our souls mapped out, then we are doing it for another reason. We are there to test ourselves, perhaps. Can we stay there alone? Can we resist the urge to retreat to the comfort of companionship and safety that awaits us at the local campground? Or, will we push on with the understanding that our time is fleeting and the real treasures of this world are when we test ourselves to survive and overcome, and then prove ourselves right?
Today’s life is one of comfort for most of us in the Western world. Yet, oddly, most of us in the Western world are least at ease with being exposed to the elements and dangers that exist beyond the shadows of the electric lights and glow of hand-held devices. Perhaps testing ourselves by going to the mountains alone isn’t the same as the proving ritual of the young warriors of Sparta in ancient Greece. That’s not really the point though. We live in a different time with different realities and we cannot compare ourselves to those young men. For us, solo camping is the adventure we use to push ourselves beyond what we felt was safe yesterday. When we successfully do so, we will return to the challenge again so we can find out when we might flinch. When we are unsuccessful, and we flinch too early, we must challenge ourselves to try again and prove that first flinch is a falsehood.
There is a third reason that we might go solo camping, and that reason is to find solace in the absence of man-made sound. There are not many places in the world that exist where quiet is the sole purpose of our travel there. In an age of constant connectivity, quiet is almost the extreme of today’s culture. Some of our generations miss that silence which has proven difficult to find. Some of our generations will never know the positive effect that silence can have on a man’s well-being. Today’s escapes are man-made binaural beats synced to a video of nothingness as a YouTube video, used to lull the listener into a deep and relaxing sleep. But does it bring the release of the natural workings of the world?
While the outdoors may not be without sound, it is without the sound of artificial means. It is the sounds of wildlife. Of wild life. The steady refrains from the crickets that lull us into a peaceful bliss. The resonant croaks of a bullfrog which is much deeper and louder than anyone could expect from such a small amphibian. The goose-pimpling hoot of an owl too close for comfort. These are the sounds that our internal clocks yearn for.
These are also the sounds that cause us to awaken in a state of readiness when the noise ceases, unexpectedly, and the silence takes its place with a deafening refrain. The silence that can cause us to sit up in the dark, fresh from a deep slumber, and employ all five of our senses to the best of our ability in order to avoid an unseen attack. This is the throwback to what our ancestors recognized as a warning. That may not seem restful to most, but for us, it is an assurance that we are alive. We are capable. We are aware.
Solo camping is not the usual weekend escape method chosen by most. We don’t get a sticker at check-in or Wi-Fi from the front desk when we set up camp. What we get is something much more rewarding. We get the assurance that we are still dangerous beings. That we are still a force to be reckoned with should the need arise.
With solo camping, we get to know that when faced with the unknown, we can keep moving forward. And we’ll happily bring our sleeping bags with us.Solo camping isn't just about getting away and taking time for yourself. It's about experiencing things you simply can't in the company of others.