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rini sugianto | 05.28.2017

It's Thursday night and your phone beeps. A text comes in, and all of a sudden your epic weekend plan is in jeopardy because the friend who was supposed to go with you has bailed. You never really plan anything, and you always let your partner do that task. The questions that keep popping up in your mind are, "Now what? Should I keep going? Should I cancel?"

This scenario has probably happened once before, or maybe a few times depending on how reliable your friends are. It is easier to cancel the trip and wait for someone else to take charge, but it is also very rewarding to take the initiative to organize something or even go alone (gulp!).

Most of the fear about going alone into the wilderness comes from the unknown. When we don't know what we are getting into, our mind can start to make up awful and scary scenarios of what might go wrong. Good planning can help; by carefully thinking about and preparing for your trip, you can reduce your nervousness. But what if you are a beginner without much experience in the outdoors? There are couple things you can do to start out. 

  1. Go with a group or guide for the first few times until you gain confidence and skills. Try to prepare yourself to handle a wide variety of scenarios because a lot can happen when you go out on your own. Use group and guided opportunities to gain experience and learn all the necessary skills by watching someone who has more experience than you. Most trips will go pretty smoothly without a hitch, but you have to be ready if things aren't going according to plan. Being mentally and physically prepared and having the right gear can make a lot of difference. 
  2. Make the right decisions. Small mistakes at the beginning of the trip can have big consequences later on. For example: Ignoring a small rock inside your shoes early in the trip can cause a blister that can ruin the trip a few miles later. Another more extreme example: Not turning around at the designated turn around time can have a fatal consequences later in the day. Knowing what decision to make will come with experience and gathering knowledge about the specific trip and area. 
  3. Detailed planning. The idea of going out on a limb can be very appealing, but it comes with certain risk. By planning the trip, we minimize the element of surprise. I personally like to have several plans in place in case one doesn't work out. It does take a lot of patience and attention to detail. Knowing if there are water sources on the trail, for instance, makes it easier for you to know how many liters of water to carry, which can possibly lighten up your pack load. You can carry the right gear by knowing what kind of weather you will encounter. Carry a map or a GPS and know how to use them; alternately, in the era of high-tech, you can even put a route on your wrist or phone as a backup.

Planning a trip or going out alone can be a really fun thing to do. I remember my first solo trip a few years ago. I was nervous and second-guessing everything. Leaving the comfort of the trailhead and heading further into the wilderness was giving me this foreign feeling of excitement and concern. I looked back toward the car multiple times. Then slowly I started looking ahead and embracing what was around me while I kept checking my route. The little arrow on my watch confirmed that I was doing okay. I walked as fast or as slow as I wanted to do. I didn't feel like I was a burden or slowing anyone down. It was very liberating. When I got back to the car later that day, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. And the next solo trip was easier. 

So the next time that text comes to your screen, maybe ask yourself, "Is it the time for me to venture out on my own?" You might find that you are more ready than you think. 

Featured photo by Brandon Riza.



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