Alex on holiday alone in Canada
are you going with?”
was perhaps the most frequent question before heading on a solo road trip
across the Canadian Rockies this summer. Societally, there’s something about
spending time alone that still strikes fear into many and receives concerned
looks as you walk into a restaurant asking for a table for one.
solo adventures have long been totally normal and the most comfortable option.
I’ve been fortunate to go on several solo holidays like Norway, Thailand and
even trekking in the Himalayas – with just me, myself and I. Maybe I’m just
rubbish company! Whether you’re a weekend hiker with friends, a Sunday club
cyclist or half-term wild camper with the family, there’s undeniably a huge
amount of benefit to our mental wellbeing when sharing our outdoor adventures
with other people and building a community.
Solo wild camping
there may be occasions when this holds us back, such as if we can’t find others
with the same objectives, desire, or availability to meet our plans. Maybe a
lack of confidence or fear about the planning, getting lost, or bumping into
bears (a real possibility) can stop us venturing out alone. Even the most
social adventurer can benefit from going solo now and again, here are some of
the positives that you’ll get out of it.
Become a problem solver
We don’t realise what we’re capable of until there’s nobody else to call on. This itself may seem daunting when we’re used to relying on others, but our problems are very unlikely to be life or death. Overcoming them instils a level of self-confidence in our ability and independence that makes our daily lives much less stressful too. Any drama we create is created by ourselves. When you’ve negotiated a pot noodle in a rural Tibetan teahouse with zero English, been chased by wild dogs in Thailand and improvised cutlery with your toothbrush in a tent in Glen Affric, most things back in the UK feel fairly benign by comparison.
Credit: Richard Ellis
Get to know yourself
adventures bring an extra responsibility and level of ownership. In our hectic modern
lives, conjoined to our devices at birth, getting time alone with our thoughts
can be increasingly rare and almost uncomfortable. But in this time, we
discover our strengths, values and what we enjoy (and don’t enjoy) doing. We
have the chance to ponder the meaning of life and major life events without
interruptions. That also brings a greater sense of achievement and satisfaction
when we complete the adventure, and a boosted confidence in our capabilities. Albeit
my singing skills aren’t particularly promising.
Freedom to be spontaneous
I’m an obsessive planner. When walking down the street in Banff trying to decide
my plans for the day, I passed a water sports centre renting out paddleboards,
something I had never tried before. Less than ten minutes later I found myself
trying to stay upright on the beautiful turquoise river and having a brilliant time
and being unapologetically selfish. If I had someone else with me, maybe I wouldn’t
have done that.
Alex finding peace in the mountains
Meet new people
may sound counter intuitive but being alone isn’t as lonely as you think.
People tend to be more curious to speak to you and you will look more
approachable to fellow solo travellers. Even a smile and ‘hello’ from a passing
walker was a big mood-booster in the remotest parts of Scotland, where I could
cycle for hours without seeing anyone. If people ask you to take a photo at a
certain landmark, make sure you ask for one in return! This is such a simple
icebreaker to conversations.
Be in the moment
fondly remember sitting in a cosy restaurant in Northern Norway, reading a book
and gazing out the window into a snowy street, whilst the couples around me
were mostly silent and buried in their mobile phones. Whilst bouncing ideas off
other people can inspire creativity, being able to choose our own perspectives
without pleasing others is refreshing, and you’ll take in sounds and sights you
might have never noticed.
Alex on a solo trip to Canada
Set your own budget
In Canada I’d heard rave reviews of the Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. It wasn’t cheap, but the experience was firmly on the growing bucket-list. My dusty hiking clothing probably caused offence to the smartly-attired couples sat in the elegant dining room, but I could indulge myself without having to worry about others.
If this has led you to consider your own solo adventure, you may be wondering where to start.
Here’s a few key lessons I’ve taken away from solo adventures to help you have your own.
adventures don’t have to be epic multi-day outings in the greater ranges.
Realistically, some people might only manage a day or a few hours to themselves
in the evening because of work, health or family commitments. The book
‘Microadventures’ by Al Humphreys has lots of practical inspiration for
thinking closer to home. If you’re planning a weekend away, consider going
somewhere you’re already familiar with or not far away. It’s better to start
small and increase confidence rather than having a negative experience that
might deter future solo escapades.
Find short and simple microadventure ideas.
own bucket-list. Write down the things you’ve always dreamt of doing. This is
bound to get the imagination flowing and some ideas that have seemed beyond reach
could give you a goal to work towards. Perhaps you could backpack in your
nearest National Park, tick off some of the UK cycle classics, or climb the highest point of your own county.
out Ordnance Survey’s ultimate outdoor bucket list.
Focus on your strengths
don’t have to be Bear Grylls to go on a multi-day hike and snare wild rabbits
for dinner. If you’re not great at navigation, start with a popular or
waymarked trail such as the Offas Dyke path or the West Highland Way,
where there are already an abundance of resources, blogs and guides to learn
from. Skills courses at outdoor centres are a good way to upskill and build
Freesom of the hills alone
Pack some home comforts
podcast or audiobook can be a great relief if the sound of silence gets too
much. If you’re having a rough day other people are generally very quick to
help. Talking to sheep can also be extremely therapeutic. And restaurants can
almost always squeeze one person in.
there’s legibly no greater chance of something going wrong – personally, I tend
to trip over more often when too busy chatting to others – there are
potentially more consequences if something does go wrong when out alone. Always share your planned routes with friends
and family and check in at regular intervals so that people can raise the alarm
in the worst-case scenario. If you’re going off-grid, bringing a tracking
device such as Open Tracking or let family know that you might be out of
contact for a few days to reduce any false callouts!
this has inspired you to take your first solo adventure and discover incredible
places all for yourself. Nobody else might take your word for it – and maybe
that’s all of the fun!