Originally published October 26, 2009
As we discussed last week, when you’re camping and hiking (and road-tripping) on your own, your own observations, thought and instincts are your best tools. You need to look around, be aware, and make judgments about the right balance between adventure and safety. There isn’t going to be a Twitter update (or even, ahem, a useful blog) to tell you when the group at the local watering hole poses a specific danger to you, or whether that grizzly bear up ahead on the trail is content to keep out of your way.
That might sound a little intimidating. Can I really think on the fly, you might ask? How will I know if my instincts about someone I meet are steering me right? How do I tell if the campground is a safe place for me to stay tonight?
I’m telling you today to stop questioning yourself.
You’re smarter than you think, and not everyone is evil.
You know the old saying: Common sense is a misnomer, because most people don’t have it. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not precisely true. Common sense is common, it’s just that a lot of the time, people don’t bother to use it.
We live in a world where information comes to us through countless sources. Television, newspaper (whether in paper form or online), books, ebooks, radio, billboards, podcasts, magazines, Google reader, email, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and in tiny digestible bites on that little screen in elevators. While wandering through our environment, we get information from stop lights, digital temperature readers, weather forecasts with icons of sun and rain, traffic reports, and subway announcements.
We rely so heavily on external sources of information, in conclusory format, that we’re spending less time and focus on internal sources of information: our own senses and observations. I’m guilty of it too — when I wake up, I check the weather on my iPhone and often don’t even look outside until I’m ready to walk out the door.
That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t come to our own observations and conclusions about the world around us. It’s just a muscle that most of us don’t have to exercise in our daily lives as we go about our routines. So exercise it. Look around, see what you notice. Test yourself. Get used to being observant and reaching conclusions based on your observations. You can do it — it’s a survival instinct that naturally exists. It’s just that most of us are lazy in our comfortable routines where we don’t have to be so vigilant most of the time.
Furthermore, while there are dangers out there, and while being cautious around people you meet while camping and hiking alone is smart, not everyone is evil. While the stories of solo female hikers disappearing or running into trouble because of unsavory characters are frightening, they aren’t actually the norm. They’re the exception. In fact, most people you will meet aren’t evil. They’re like you — interested in enjoying the outdoors, having experiences. They might be downright good samaritans.
It’s good to be cautious. It’s necessary to use your common sense. It’s smart to not blindly trust everyone. But give yourself — and others — a chance. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
© Her Side of the Mountain, 2009.