Hello! Anyone who knows me knows I love being outdoors. I love camping, I love hiking. I'm also getting pretty comfortable with my own company as I get older. I always lust over what adventurers are doing - these long journeys, and amazing achievements. I know that because I run my own business I can't take that much time off work so "big" adventures are off limits to me, and that's fine. When I say BIG adventures, I mean adventures that span large amounts of time. I've decided that the adventure doesn't have to take a long time to be big. I often travel down to Cornwall and Devon with my pals and have had some little day adventures on the moors - both Bodmin and Dartmoor. In fact, my first UK wild camping experience was on Dartmoor a few years ago with one of my friends (ignoring the fact that most of the camping I did in Canada was "wild"). For me, it's the big place in my heart these memories hold that makes them BIG. The joy they've brought me. I wondered how I would get to explore more of these places - they seemed so vast. On Thursday afternoon, I hopped in the car with my friends and we headed west. They dropped me off on Dartmoor - I was on my own, with everything I would need for 3 nights camping on my back. I had some new kit I was looking forward to trying out, and a new compass to test my navigation skills. Oh, and a water filter so I could drink from the rivers. Getting enough water in would be extra important since it was a heatwave. Today I want to share Three Things I Realised on my First Ever Solo Multi-day Hike and Wild Camp.
- I'm pretty good company. I've been working on this one for quite some time. Up until recently (the last few years) I don't think I've felt that comfortable with myself. I've come to enjoy my own company and even cherish it. Setting out into the wilderness with only myself and no one else was going to be a challenge. I debated over whether to bring a book with me or not, and I decided against it. Not only to avoid the extra weight in my pack, but because I wanted to spend time thinking and being present. Having an anxiety ridden brain doesn't always mean this is a good idea for me, as I start to think of the worst possible scenarios sometimes. I practiced a lot of mindfulness and enjoyed the quiet of my surroundings. Birdsong and bees, sheep and cows being the soundtrack to my few days on Dartmoor. Oh, and the live firing happening on one of the military ranges not far off, but that was only the one night. The moments of incredible serenity are what I love about the outdoors (not the live firing).
- I can accomplish things I don't think are possible for me. On the journey down, my friend checked in asking me how I was feeling. I was nervous. I was really anxious. Maybe she could sense the vibes I was throwing out. I was questioning whether I was capable of even doing this. What had I gotten myself into? I'd planned a route that would take me to the most remote bit so even if I did change my mind I'd have a few hours to hike before I would even reach a road. Hey, why not? I came across bogs that I didn't expect because I'd used the map to avoid where they were. I came across dried up streams / rivers that I wanted to use to refill my water bottles. I came across heat so intense and no shade anywhere but at the top of a tor, hiding behind a rock. I came across more adders than I could count. I came across birds with the most beautiful songs I'd never heard. I came across a cute little species of bee I'd never seen before. I came across only 5 people in 3 days and nights. I came across a giant black cow standing on top of Devil's Tor staring into the eyes of a crow. I came across a tiny little fluffy pony baby that I wanted to just cuddle forever but stayed well away so as not to upset its parents. At one moment in the middle of a bog where I looked to my left, right, forward and backward all I could see was bog and I wanted to just cry. I kept going, keeping my eyes on the target - the tor ahead of me. I was going to get up there and would be granted some sweet sweet shade. Even if I had to crawl under a rock to get it. Sure enough, it paid off and it was worth its weight in gold. That was my best sleep outdoors I've ever had. My best camp spot by far (save only for one glorious spot in Canada on a lake with a waterfall next to it... with the lake surrounded by a perfect circle of trees so when you floated on your back you looked up to a ring of trees around you). There were so many times I wanted to give up. I had promised both my friends and my parents I would check in morning and night, so they would know I was ok. This was the only time my phone would come off airplane mode. Each time I knew I had an out if I needed it. I decided to keep on. It was the small things - the beautiful sunrises, the solitude, the moments sat in shade listening to the wilderness around me and nothing else. That is why I love the outdoors. It was hard work, but I'm glad I did it.
I love solitude, not isolation. I remember when I read Walden and Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau - this passage stuck with me:
"I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude."
I also remember a quote about seeking solitude not isolation which I can't find so if you know it please let me know. There is a difference. I like time on my own, but I now feel after being quite isolated for a few days I am happier to take my moments of isolation in smaller, more bite sized quantities. I don't need to work so hard to get it. I get small tastes of it when I'm in the sea. I get to enjoy it when I run in the morning. I find it when I'm hidden deep in a book. Or out for a walk. It was interesting to spend that much time alone. It was also a little bit scary at times. I enjoyed my company, but I was very excited to see my friends when they came to collect me. I guess this is where the idea of microadventures really appeals to me. I can fit them in, I can get that feeling of being recharged, and then I can get back to the real world. As I waited to be collected in a tiny little town on Dartmoor, cars sped passed me. They seemed LOUD. I couldn't believe how much I had adjusted to the quiet after not hearing cars for just a few days.
This was quite an achievement for me. I knew at any point I had an out, but the only time I wanted an out was when I wasn't accessible (stood in the middle of a big bog struggling to get across it, miles from a road with the sun blazing down on me). I am glad I did it, but I'm not in a rush to do it again. I've already got some other smaller adventures planned, nothing quite like this, but they will be lots of fun. It felt quite big. I feel proud of having achieved it, but my goodness was my bed nice to come home to. Not to mention the sea! I miss it so much when I'm away from it.
Have you wild camped? Do you like being outdoors? What tips would you give me if I were going to do this again?