When I was a child, I’d never imagined that as an adult I’d be hiking in so many places throughout the world. To be honest, I don’t quite remember what it was I had imagined my life to be. I do remember always feeling I wanted to be free and travel the world – but not necessarily by walking it.
Life always gives you surprises and pathways, and for me that is the most exciting thing; exploring all that appears in front of you and discovering the hidden surprises.
Walking has always been a great way to explore and as long as mankind has been around we have done exactly that. We walked to discover, we walked to get from one place to another, but with the invention of powered vehicles, not many people walk like we used to.
In recent years I have noticed more and more people – especially women – are going back to walking to explore; discovering not just the nature around us, but also themselves.
In this world of instant news, there is plenty of bad, scary and terrifying reports: murders, accidents, rapes, people being robbed. But what they don’t report are all the good things, it just not as news-worthy. There are many women out there living great adventurous lives including many solo female hikers that travel all over the world. For the most part, they are more than ok and survive to live another adventure.
I started hiking when I was younger through Girl Guides, Duke of Edinburgh but as I became an adult I married, had children and my priorities changed. As my kids grew, I started thinking more about me and my own interests which led me back to my hiking life. I realised that there was a whole world out there that I was missing out on.
First, I headed out on local trails, but before too long this left me wanting more. I thought about travelling overseas and interstate to discover their trails. Like most people, specifically women, I would buddy up with another hiker to do this. I think we are programmed to feel like we need to do that to protect our safety as women.
Eventually I realised that there was no reason why I could not attempt it on my own. I started to try local day walks by myself which led to consecutive days camping out. Then that led to a 645 km trek overseas and a 212 km hike interstate on my own.
There’s been no stopping me since then. Last year I completed a 1000 km hike in the Western Australian bush on the world famous Bibbulmun Track.
In addition to doing solos, I have been trekking in Europe on many distance trails alongside my husband – who had been watching my hiking life with great interest and decided he needed to get a part of this amazing world. We have hiked together through Italy, Switzerland, France, United Kingdom, Scotland, Norway, Austria, and Slovenia. I have also hiked through Alaska with a friend – now that was a trip to remember!
I want other women out there to know that even though we do live in a crazy world, we also live in an amazing world. This is a world wanting to be explored and there is no better way to do that than by getting out there and walking it.
I would like to share with you a piece I wrote whilst on my Bibbulmun Track walk. At the time I was in the middle of the journey and it had been six days since contact with the outside world.
I am at one……
My heart slows down
My breathing becomes a relaxed rhythmic flow
I feel at ease, relaxed at one
This might be where you would say I’m in the middle of nowhere
But really, I am on a major highway of busyness (calm)
I am lost, I am found
I am alone but surrounded by life
That fills my heart with joy
I am one……
This is life……
This is living……
This is breathing……
This is me…….at one
Tips for women who want to hike solo:
Do your research. Choose the trail you would like to hike and RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH. I can’t emphasise this enough as I see many people on a trail that haven’t done their research. No excuse these days as the resources are at our finger tips.
Ask the important questions. How long is the trail? How difficult is the trail? What is the terrain like? Where is it? What is the best time of the year to hike it?… and so on.
Be realistic in what YOU can achieve. Don’t choose a trail that would be too difficult for you. Be completely honest with yourself in what YOUR capabilities are: endurance levels, fitness, and skill set. Never put yourself in a high-risk situation or set yourself up to not make it.
Train and get in shape. One of the most common reasons for people not succeeding on a trail is because they haven’t conditioned their body to cope with the day in day out physical workout you will be experiencing. I see people having to leave their hike early because they have injuries that could have often been prevented if they had prepared their body properly. Don’t be that person.
Learn basic first-aid skills. You really need to know how to help yourself in time of need. If something should go wrong, like a twisted ankle, snake bite or broken bone, then you are your best hope. Ensure you have a full first-aid kit in your pack and know what to do with it. Knowledge is power, and it could be the difference in life or death if something was to go seriously wrong. If you are not sure, sign up for a first-aid course in your local area.
Carry a Personal Location Beacon. Too many people still wander out on hikes in the bush and don’t have a PLB. One of these could save your life! They are not expensive and can be hired. If you choose to go very remote, also consider using a satellite phone.
Carry identification. I always carry an ID card with all my necessary information so if I have a situation and am in shock it’s easier to hand that over.
Employ S.T.O.P at times of need. This means S – stop, T – think, O – observe, P – plan. If a situation arises, for example you think you may be lost, then stay calm and remember S.T.O.P.
Be focused and aware. I always stress you should, especially if on your own, be present in your journey. Always be aware of your surroundings, this could be a great help in any emergency or even to just prevent you losing your way. Keep an ear out; don’t put your headphones in both ears if listening to music. I tend to not listen to my music when hiking as it distracts me from my surroundings.
Meet strangers on the trail. When you come across another hiker acknowledge them. Let them know you are aware of their presence by a simple ‘Hi’ or nod of the head.
Always tell people where you are. Make sure you let a loved one know where you are going, when you will return, and contact them when are safely back. DON’T flash it over social media as you do not want the wrong people to know where you are.
Carry the right amount of food and water. I always carry the amount I need for the time I’m on a trail plus a little more to be sure.
Learn from others. Spend time reading other peoples experiences from their blogs. Often people are writing these accounts as they go so their stories are less likely to be glossed over than if it is written once they return.
Use your common sense and HAVE FUN!