Originally published April 12, 2010.
One of the greatest things about solo camping and hiking is the feeling of accomplishment and independence that comes with realizing you can be self-sufficient. Holy cow, I can build a fire! I can pitch a tent — and get it all back into that little sleeve it came in! I can climb a mountain and find my way back down! (These are even greater triumphs if you grew up thinking you had no capacity to deal with the outdoors or anything remotely physical — and having that thinking reinforced.)
Self-sufficiency, and the independence and freedom that comes along with it, is truly valuable. When embarking on your first solo camping and hiking endeavors, you should definitely push yourself towards that goal. Even if you aren’t totally sure you can build a fire and cook that hot dog, give it a try. A real try, not just a half-hearted one. Plot your own course on a hike, figure out how to use your equipment, make your own decisions. You’re way more capable than you give yourself credit for, I promise.
Sometimes, however, you need a little help. Maybe you can’t change the tire on your car in the middle of a busy highway. Maybe you can’t get a particularly tight knot undone. Maybe you just. Can’t. Get. That. Fire. Going. That’s when Rule Number 10 comes into play:
Ask For Help When You Need It
Sure, it’s great to be self-sufficient. Sure, part of solo camping and hiking is to push yourself and test your limits, boost your confidence by realizing you’re better at a lot of things than you thought you were. Sure, sometimes it’s embarrassing (and, as a woman, can rankle a little) to ask for help.
But here’s the thing: faced with the choice of spending a few hours frustrated and upset, or asking someone for help, avoiding the frustration, and perhaps learning a new way of accomplishing your intended task so that you don’t have to ask for help in the future, that second choice sounds pretty good. It’s not giving up, it’s being realistic and making a choice about your own education and enjoyment. You might also make someone else happy, because when you’re out on the trail, people generally like to be friendly and helpful.
This isn’t to say you should give something a feeble try, say “I can’t do this” and find someone to do it for you because it’s hard and/or annoying. But when you’ve given something a good go and you just haven’t quite managed to figure out the best way to do it…or have learned your physical limitations, ask for a hand. You might even make a friend in the process.
© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.