For a while now I've wanted to go on a solo camping trip. Just to take myself (and my four legged friend) off for a weekend. Something about it felt quite liberating. To pack the car with the essentials, a tent and hit the road. To be in the great outdoors and go at my own steam. It's not because I didn't want to be with people or to go on the trips with my loved ones, but I wanted to do it on my own for me. To spend a whole weekend just on my own, and not just at home doing my own thing, but going away by myself. I love my own company. In fact, if I don't have regular times of it I really feel the affect of not having had some 'me time'. There have also been times in my life that I have felt lonely and I've had no choice but to do things on my own. I know from those times, I have never regret being on my own, and have quite enjoyed it once I've gotten over that initial feeling of loneliness. There have also been times when I have been places on my own and felt vulnerable. Not in a dangerous way (thankfully!) but in a way where I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb saying "hello, yes, everyone, I'm on my own." There's nothing wrong being on your own and whenever I see others taking their own trips or doing stuff on their own I'm always really inspired.
Now, I know there is a difference between loneliness and being on your own. You can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely, and you can be on your own and be really popular. I wouldn't call myself popular by any means, but I am lucky enough to have love in my life, dear friends, close family and to have a partner-in-crime. So this isn't about me being 'on my own' but it's about me doing things that I want to do and not always having to do them with others. I've always had places I want to go and things I want to do, and don't get me wrong, sharing them with people is brilliant, but what about my relationship with myself? I've never chosen to go somewhere I want to visit on my own, and even when I go for walks places or have a coffee somewhere, if I'm on my own I usually rush. But I do love it. I love the sense of freedom and that all important me time. So when I went camping with friends last weekend and we swam in the South Devon sea, I realised how much I loved it and how much I would like to spend more time outdoors this summer, use my weekends to get away and explore the Welsh countryside where we've lived now since January. I came back from Devon and looked at my favourite camping site website - Three Cliffs Bay in the Gower. I thought, as I'm doing this on my own for the first time, I should probably go somewhere that I know and that has everything I need. Plus it has the best beach! I'm also mindful that there are safety issues and things that unfortunately being a female means I think more about potentially, but I knew that Three Cliffs was a safe bet. I was so excited!! I literally couldn't wait. Then came the day - I felt nervous and as though I could just not go. It was a little like the feeling you get before exercising and you don't really want to do it - "well, you could just not do it?". Bugger it, what's the worst that could have happened? I turn the car around and come home. So, I packed the car up and off I went.
An hour and a half later and I had arrived. I was shown my pitch and felt incredibly welcomed, however I did feel like I needed to justify why I was on my own. No one had asked, but I noticed myself saying 'yes, I'm on my own as my partner doesn't really like camping and he's away this weekend too.' However, no one had asked. Was this a security thing I wondered or because I didn't want people to think I was totally on my own in the world. That got to to thinking about why being on your own is seen or perceived to be seen as a negative. We all know that the best relationship we can have is that with ourselves but we put so much importance on the relationships we have with others. Of course they are important too, but in certain areas of our lives we're judged on our relationships - how many friends you have, how many likes you get on social media, whether you're in a relationship, whether you have a good social life. We're made to feel as though we need others to help us feel a sense of achievement, satisfaction or purpose. Surely they should be the cheery on top of the cake, rather than the cake itself, which is in fact, you! I also started to wonder whether men on their own have the same thoughts and whether we would look on at a man on his own in the same way. This made me think - why do I feel so differently about when I see a women on her own compared to a man? I notice it more even and consider it more than if I saw a man on his own. I definitely look on solo women with inspiration and pride, but why so much more so than for men? Part of it is because I like my own company and would like and do do the same, but I couldn't help but think about my conditioning. Women in stories that we have grown up with who are on their own are usually on their own because of something happening in their lives to make them so - the princess left in the tower, the evil witch who lives in the cottage on her own. It's either a women waiting for a man or one that's been wronged by others and is 'evil'. The single female is never celebrated. We're told to be careful when on our own and stay within our means. So no wonder we, including myself, look at solo women differently to men, because it's slightly taboo.
To overcome these creeping feelings of tabeoness and shame, I pitched my tent and considered these thoughts, I made myself a little privacy area using a wind screen and created a space where I could be me, on my own, doing what I wanted and not having to interact with anyone else. I could just be. I grabbed my swimmers and headed for the beach. As the evening went on I felt more and more relaxed and comfortable on my own whilst surrounded by families and groups of friends. I did feel the odd stare and I couldn't help but wonder if they were considering why I was on my own, but I also hoped that there were some who felt inspired and as though they could have the confidence in doing the same thing.
I would be lying if I said I didn't feel uncomfortable at times, but those times were fleeting and honestly not because I was on my own, but because I needed to entertain myself without having anyone to talk to, TV to watch or things that I needed to do or places I needed to be. Those feelings were fleeting, and whenever I felt them they were overridden with a sense of calm and peacefulness. Time slowed down when there were no distractions. I was inside my head, in a good way, thinking my own thoughts and being calm. There was all together a general calmness to it. I slept so well and read a good chunk of my book. It gave me time to be and to be with me.
The next morning as I sat making a coffee and watching the word go by, a lady passed by and said hello. We got to talking and she asked if I was on my own. I still felt the need to justify why I was on my own and that my partner was away working. It didn't matter to her though, she glossed over it and welcomed me. She too is a fellow female solo camper with her dog. I told her that this is the first time I've done it and that after doing so I would love to do it again. She's been taking herself off for solo camping trips for the last 5 years and agreed - it's the best. She said she'd seen me arrive and that she was impressed with the speed I could put up a tent (another sexiest myth busted! I was winning). Maybe it was because she was older and wiser, or because she'd done it for so long that it wasn't a big deal to her, but being on her own was something she said she just did and hadn't really given it much thought. It made me think of a friend of mine at work, who last year did her own solo camping trip. For her, it was more of an accident than a planned thing as she'd planned to go camping with family who at the last minute couldn't go, however my friend continued to go. I remember her telling me that before going she was nervous and questioned whether she should go at all. She was sad though as she'd been so looking forward to getting away for the weekend, so much so that those feelings took over her feeling of nervousness and she went on her own. when I saw her the next week she was overjoyed with herself at going and at how much she enjoyed it. I remember her saying that had her family have gone she wouldn't have had the same relaxing and grounding experience that she'd had on her own. It had opened her up to a whole new way of spending time on her own and enjoying her down time.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. In fact, I think I would find and go to an even quieter more remote campsite where I could be even my on my own and not surrounded by families and groups. I would also go for longer. I feel like night one is about settling in and if I had a second night I would feel so much more comfortable in my own skin, doing my own thing. Next time, I might even do a little tour myself, move around and see more places. Who knows, I may even meet more solo female campers. I certainly hope so, as we should never feel too ashamed or embarrassed to spend time on our own doing things that we love and makes us happy. If anything, we should be doing it more. You don't need others to justify you or what you enjoy doing.
Hopefully see you out there soon!
(The essentials!! What more could I need?)