It was usually the second question I got when I told someone that I was about to start hiking the Bibbulmun Track – who are you going with?* Myself, I always answered. A lot of the time, people expressed surprise to hear this. Some people responded with comments along the lines of: I could never do that; you’re so brave; aren’t you scared?
And before I left home and got started with the actual walking, sometimes I was scared – imagining what it might be like to hike solo for week after week (after week!). While I was walking though, I was very rarely scared. I ended up spending only one full night by myself in a shelter, every other night there was at least one other person there too. (And that one fully solo night, I didn’t freak out!). I walked by myself for the vast majority of the days, but I also did some days walking with either the people who were on the same walking schedule as me, or with my mum who joined me for a few nights. I quite liked the experience of walking with another person or people, mostly because the conversation made the time go faster. But I really liked the experience of walking by myself. The freedom to be happy, grumpy, bored, ecstatic, silly, crying, laughing, singing – with no one around to see or care, was great. The space to let myself think all the thoughts, even the deep, shameful, scary ones that I usually avoid, was helpful. The deep knowing that I am capable and strong, by myself, was really empowering.
But I finished my walk with the very clear opinion that a solo thru hike is not really a solo hike – at least as far as my experience was concerned.
Yep, I carried all my own things the whole way – clothes, sleeping gear, food and food prep, survival bits and bobs, first aid, comfort – all on my back.
Yep, I was by myself most of the day, for most days of the trip.
Yep, I planned everything myself, to my own timeline preferences.
Yep, I chopped and changed my plans to suit myself.
And. I stayed with my little bro when I first arrived in Perth, and took over his kitchen table for a few days while I sorted out all my food resupply boxes. I left on a Sunday, and didn’t think about the post office not being open for me to post all those resupply boxes – so my little bro did it for me on the Monday. My bro and my Dad came to drop me off at the start of the track. My bro drove down to meet me not once, but twice in the first ten days (first time with a food resupply, second time responding to an sos call from me, bearing a new pair of shoes). A hiking buddy I met on the trail resupplied me with some gas (which his parents brought down from Perth) when one of the towns was out of stock. The same hiking buddy organized me a sweet deal on a new sleeping mat from his work when mine was way too cold, which the same parents brought down on another trip to see him. A friend hosted me in my first track town – her son let me borrow his clothes while I washed mine, she fed me with delicious fresh vegetable-based food (no fresh veggies on the track!) and drove me to the next town to buy probiotics for my sad tummy. My Mum bought me a couple of nights accommodation when we met in one of the track towns, as well as coffee and cake and dinner. More hiking buddies provided company and compassionate ears to listen when I’d had a really bad day. My Dad drove up and dropped me more gas when ANOTHER town had run out of stock. Random people I met on the beach gave me an apple. Other hikers offered me their spare food (I may or may not have received a bit of a reputation for being forever-hungry). My boyfriend answered my phone calls and sent reassuring text messages when things felt overwhelming, as well as covering work for me. Friends and people I’ve never even met provided encouragement and well-wishes throughout the whole trip, via text or on my instagram. My parents picked me up at the end. There was much more too
It became very clear to me that my solo hike was anything but. I was completely surrounded by love and support. It struck me that this was a perfect example of how to do not just hiking, but LIFE as an interdependent being. Not codependent, not completely solitary and independent, but being both self-sufficient as well as leaning on others at times and letting them help you. Being your own, whole person, who is not looking for others to complete them or fix them, but who also recognises the importance of community and connection and asking for help. What do you think?
*(the first question was: how long is the walk?)