I’ve always considered myself an independent person.
Throughout my teens and early adulthood I had no problem spending a few hours alone in a coffee shop; reading by myself in my room; moving across the country to attend grad school in a city where I knew no one; or (against my mother’s best wishes) solo travelling through New Zealand for 6 weeks at the age of 19.
In the past, despite stable relationships, great friends, and a supportive family, there were many times when I was pretty content choosing to spend the day (or 6 weeks) doing my own thing. Time alone gave me freedom, it gave me new experiences, and it gave me independence.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, amongst some major life transitions and a less than healthy relationship, my independence slowly dissipated. I became oblivious to the fact that I was often seeking validation, reassurance, and approval – constantly needing to be in the presence of another human being. At the time (in hindsight of course), there were a number of aspects of my life making me unhappy, and being alone meant ample opportunity for my ‘anxiety prone, analyze the shit out of everything’ brain to go wild. Being on my own in any capacity was a terrifying notion, and so I became dependent on others for my happiness.
Thankfully (although shitty at the time), following graduation from grad school, the end of a relationship, moving to a new neighbourhood, and starting a new job (among other things) I was left with no choice but to rediscover my independence.
Initially, and for quite a while after, I made every attempt to pack my schedule with friends, and sports, and parties, and dinners. Fortunately, as time progressed (and I realized 5 Tinder dates a week was not a sustainable lifestyle) I started to adjust and even look forward to my time alone.
I can confidently say that I have regained much of my independence in the passing months; however I’ve recently come to realize that my reliance on others was still holding me back.
There were so many places I wanted to see, so many things I wanted to do, and so many adventures to be had.
Molitude (mountain + solitude)
Last summer I was supposed to go on a back country hiking trip in the Rockies. Needless to say, that plan didn’t pan out and instead I spent the majority of my summer in a deep dark hole of depression. It’s been almost a year now since I pulled myself out of that rut, and (while I still have bad days) I have never been more determined to make this summer the best one yet.
Motivated as ever, I immediately went searching for someone, anyone to come with me on my ‘2017 Rockies Adventure’.
Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, most of my friends (love you guys!) don’t share my outdoor enthusiasm, and the few people who did show interest couldn’t get the time off work, didn’t have the appropriate gear, or weren’t experienced enough to come on the type of trip I was planning.
With a limited budget, without a car, and factoring in the very real possibility of getting eaten by a grizzly bear (just kidding mom!…kind of), I assumed that if I had no one to join me I couldn’t go at all.
I was feeling discouraged – another disappointing summer lingering on the horizon.
I reconsidered my options.
I took time to reflect.
…God forbid I go alone.
But GUESS WHAT?
Come July (for the majority of my trip) it’ll be just me, my (insanely expensive) tent, and the open road.*
The dates are set, the car is booked, and the mountains are waiting.
Now or Never
For a while I lost my independence.
I convinced myself that I couldn’t be happy without someone by my side; I forgot what it felt like to actually enjoy spending time on my own; and I let the fear of being alone hold me back from doing the things I so desperately wanted to do.
But then, buried beneath my emotional scars and insecurity, I found it again.
Although I was initially hesitant to travel solo (and was still holding out hope for a travel companion to appear out of thin air) I’m now genuinely excited to have the opportunity to spend time by myself doing what I love. Besides the benefits of freedom, building confidence, and challenging myself both mentally and physically, I also don’t have to worry about being stuck in the wilderness with someone who might make me want to feed them to a grizzly bear (seriously mom, don’t worry, there really aren’t that many bears).
At the end of the day, it’s exceptionally easy to find excuses not to do something – especially if doing it means doing it alone.
What I’m learning though, is that if you aren’t willing to do things on your own, then you’re probably going to miss out on a hell of a lot of awesomeness.
It’s now or never. Go on that adventure.
And if you can’t find someone to join you?
Embrace your independence and go solo.
* This is probably common sense, but PLEASE don’t go into the back country solo (or at all) unless you are experienced and prepared for the worst (e.g. bear spray, signal device, etc.). The risks are real, yo.