Women: 7 Reasons You Should Go Solo

Dead Horse Point- for blog

We’ve all heard the warnings. Any of us women who’ve traveled solo, camped alone, or even hiked by ourselves have probably been told, Be careful. It’s dangerous out there. Why don’t you take a guy with you? Why do you have to go alone?

And, despite what our mothers think, we don’t do these things to give them grey hairs. There’s something irreplaceable about heading into the wild blue yonder with only our own mind, body and heart to guide us. Sometimes it’s challenging. Sometimes it’s scary. But even when it is, it’s rewarding. In her revolutionary 1949 book The Second Sex, Simone De Beauvoir wrote about how young men have long been encouraged to go out into the world to find themselves and learn about life—like the European “grand tours” of the past, while women have often been discouraged from that kind of thing, for a variety of reasons. “Yet such experiences have an inestimable impact: that is how an individual in the headiness of freedom and discovery learns to look at the entire world as his fief.”

A lot has changed since 1949, but her words still hit home. If you need a reason to pack your bags and head out on your own—even just for an afternoon on the trail—here are seven.

It builds our mental confidence. It’s easy when we’re traveling with others to defer to their opinions and not have to take the proverbial sharp end. When we adventure alone, we’re the only one responsible for our actions—nobody else will make the decisions for us. Something shifts in our minds as we step off the plane solo in a foreign country, or take the trail we’ve never been down before. We’re forced to become confident in ourselves.

It makes us better friends/girlfriends/wives/mothers. “Self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, but it is on the side of happiness and can supply the courage to fight for it,” wrote De Beauvoir. When we have the quiet time to replenish our souls, we’re more balanced and happy. And who doesn’t want to be around a happy, centered person? Plus, doing exciting things on our own gives us awesome stories to tell afterward.

It shows us what we’re capable of, physically. An adventure doesn’t have to include climbing Everest or hiking the Appalachian Trail to help open our eyes to what we can accomplish. With nobody else around to encourage us, even a long run or a big hike feels like a personal victory—and lives on in our memories as an example of the strength we possess. Pushing through pain or exhaustion by ourselves distills the experience and helps us build toughness.

It pushes us to search our souls and refreshes our dreams. Our lives are full of expectations from others—families, employers, etc. Sometimes it takes a solo journey to get out of earshot of all those voices, and tune into the tiny but important voice inside, guiding us. Our dreams often get lost in the shuffle of everyday life, and unless we take the quiet time away by ourselves, we risk losing them for good.

It gives us a career edge and makes us better employees. The confidence, strength and clarity of vision we earn when we’re pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones and tuning in to our passions and gifts translate directly into our abilities on the job. The skills we hone in the crucible of solo traveling make us better leaders, and help us learn to think critically and solve problems independently.

It attunes us to our instincts. When we have no one else to rely on, we have to pay close attention to both our gut and the voice of reason. Deciding where to camp, whether to head to the summit in iffy weather, or whether we’re in a risky situation, and all the other little choices we’re forced to make on our own helps hone those instincts. And the more time we spend tuning into our surroundings without the protection or filter of a group, the more we learn to parse out situations and make smart decisions. Instincts only work if you learn to listen to and heed them.

It opens us up to new experiences and friendships. When we travel or adventure with partners, we’re often less likely to find ourselves in the random conversations and experiences that come from looking outward from ourselves. When we’re constantly in conversation as we walk down a trail, we often miss the small details that might speak volumes to us—like the hawk circling in the sky that we somehow overlooked. And if we never open ourselves to others around us, we’ll miss those special connections along the way, that might just be a single shared magical moment, but could also be the friend of a lifetime.

14 Responses to Women: 7 Reasons You Should Go Solo

  1. Taryn says:

    Thanks so much for this article! Hiking alone is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, and coincidentally, I wrote a post about it for my blog last week: https://happiestoutdoors.ca/hikingalone/ In my post I talked about hiking alone out of necessity (there isn’t always someone to go with me) but your post is great in that it talks about the benefits of going alone, especially for women. Thanks!

    • Hilary says:

      Thanks for the comment, Taryn. Your post brings up some good points. It’s interesting to explore why these things are challenging for us—and how those challenges can be really good for us!

  2. Jay Long says:

    Very interesting read. These days, many individuals are hooked on social media and the need to feel connected, thus “going it alone” could serve as a powerful, liberating device–as the article mentions. After reading this, I am already plotting my next solo excursion; thanks for the motivation.

  3. Nancy Barnes says:

    Excellent-thoughtful and so true! Thank you.

  4. Sarah says:

    Hilary,
    Thank you for writing this post! Every one of the seven reasons had something that I could relate to and completely agreed with. Challenging myself in the backcountry and looking at every step as a learning opportunity is such a cathartic, rewarding experience. The reasons you have listen only reinforce that notion. For someone who is introverted like myself, it is very important to me to spend time alone and doing so in the wilderness is something that I love, but rarely can I feel fully at ease and centered. I’ve gone on great solo hikes but always have something in the back of my mind telling me to be 10x more conservative in my decision making process than I would be if I was with someone else. I am very confident in my backpacking skills and backcountry knowledge, but it is these feelings that prevent me from seriously considering through hiking the AT or PCT. Do you have any advice or other articles you might be able to share with me?

  5. Hilary T. says:

    Hi Hilary!

    My friend sent me this article. Probably has something to do with the fact that how I posted on New Years about taking Solo trips alone hiking and snowboarding. My mother freaked out on me so did my girlfriends. Glad someone else does this as well, and of course with my same name!!

    xoxo,

    Hilary T.

  6. Alecia says:

    I love this! I hike and snowshoe alone 99% of the time and it has done all of the above for me. I also try to find off-the-beaten path hikes, so the solo planning has definitely taught me about last minute route changes and being flexible. I would absolutely agree about the instincts. I end up studying a lot of tracks and scat when I know I’m in an area with bears and potentially cougars, and I feel like my instincts have been honed pretty well. Knowing that I’ve gotten myself out of some pretty tricky situations has given me a lot of confidence in myself all-around, not just on the trail.

  7. Hi Hilary,

    I’ve loved reading your article. I have traveled many times, with friends and on my own, and I found that, just like you said, the experiences on my own were more magical. The wonderful experiences with like-minded wanderers and the humanity and beauty that I saw has stayed with me through the years.

  8. Elena says:

    Thanks for this! Going alone has really helped me a lot too – whether backpacking, traveling, or both. I remember the first time I went on a solo backpacking trip and spent the night in my hammock with all the things people had said to me about going alone racing through my head. And guess what? None of those horrible things happened and I had a blast! It’s amazing what happens when you prove to yourself (and everyone else) that you can do anything you set your mind to.
    I also wanted to add something to your list – traveling and backpacking solo…but with a dog. I’ve done both with and without a dog, and I’ve found that looking out for someone else other than myself and making sure that he’s loved and cared for has given me new confidence as well. Because even when I’m not feeling brave enough for myself, I have to be brave for him. I could see this applying to children as well.
    Let’s keep shattering expectations, ladies! 🙂

    • Hilary says:

      Oh…dogs! You bring up an excellent point. And one I’ve thought a lot about! There are so many benefits. Personally, I travel quite often, sometimes to other countries and often to national parks, which had held me back from getting a dog…which is a bummer! Dogs are such wonderful companions, especially for solo women! I’m always envious of my lady friends who road trip and backpack with their dogs. I kind of feel it’s a only a matter of time before I get one!

      • Elena says:

        Yes, traveling with a dog isn’t quite as easy as just hopping on a plane, but it’s much easier to travel with a dog in Europe than in the U.S. They are even allowed in restaurants! National Parks here are our biggest hurdle, though some parks do allow dogs on some trails or a portion of the park. I was happy to find out this past weekend that Acadia National Park allows dogs.
        Alfie is a huge inspiration for me too – when I’m being lazy, he emits tiny (he’s a small dog), disgruntled sighs to remind me to keep exploring. 🙂

  9. Loved every piece of this article. There is an unique feeling of inner strength and independence after adventuring on your own that overflows and translates to so many other aspects of life. I’m absolutely sharing this with this will my friends, they don’t take my word for it but maybe they’ll take yours! And my mom… it may not make up for the gray hairs but hopefully it’ll justify them. Thanks Hillary!

    Cheers,

    Carrie

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