Weren’t you scared? It’s always the first question.
I return from a solo adventure, having wild camped my way, pushing my physical, emotional and mental limits, reached new heights and set new sights. There’s mud under my nails and freckles pepper my face. I’m desperately craving fresh fruit and vegetables. My hair needs a wash and the thought of a duvet is too good to be true. My heart is gloriously full. I unlock the door, settle to some food, and share my new stories.
It’s always the first question. Weren’t you scared?
I get it — I do. Wonderful friends, your concern and investment in my well-being are so very appreciated, I promise. The fact that you care enough to check how I might have felt means a lot. The fact that you want me to be happy makes me happy. The fact that you worry (although I so wish you wouldn’t) shows me that you care.
"The fact that you want me to
be happy makes me happy"
But, no, I wasn’t scared and I’ll break it down logically. Here, in Europe, the single biggest threat to my safety is another human being (statistically a man), with violent or malicious intentions. However, when hiking or biking, the odds of me running into another human being are already drastically reduced. And if I do encounter someone else, experience tells me we’ll swap friendly hellos or compare routes, before pushing on with our respective journeys. I've felt safer cycling a forest road at 11pm in the dark depths of January than I have travelling on a brightly lit subway in the middle of the day.
I have never been harassed in a forest. I have never been catcalled on a hillside. I have never been threatened on a trail. Though these have happened more times than I care to remember in the urban realm — trains, streets, town squares — where I am supposed to feel safe, surrounded by other people. But the reality is that, to date, the by-stander effect has caused me more harm than any adventure.
"No, it's not the lone adventuring
that scares me."
Yet, that’s not to say I don’t ever feel scared. Those who know me can easily testify; I'm a sensitive soul. I've only recently stopped getting nervous when I walk over a cattle grid with my heavy pack on! I still feel the hairs rise along my arms when I leave the warmth of my tent to pee in the night. And climbing big hills intimidates me (having sweet-talked myself through many a scramble). But, no, it's not the lone adventuring that scares me.
In trade of worry on my behalf, here are some positive swaps for your concern in order of severity; Will she make it to the pub before they stop serving chips? Will she find a place to camp that isn’t clarted in sheep shit? Will she get caught out by an unsuspecting farmer as she howls pop songs at the top of her lungs on the downhills?
What I’m actually scared of is living in a world where women hold themselves back. I’m scared of a society that lets the hopes and ambitions of its women go wholly unrealised. And I’m absolutely terrified of little girls growing up believing that all of this is normal.
"I’m actually scared of is living in a world
where women hold themselves back"
Someone who’s challenging this worldview head-on is adventurer Fiona Quinn; her recent solo epics have made her the first woman in the world to complete a length of Britain triathlon. She shares frustrations around the assumption that she should be scared adventuring alone, but rolls her eyes and explains: ‘of course it crosses my mind, but statistically, I’m more likely to get seriously attacked at home by a man I already know — so actually I’m safer adventuring!’
Keeping safety in mind, the best thing that a woman on a solo adventure can do is to make sensible (ish) plans and wise, informed decisions; leave contact details and expected route with a trusted friend, then get out there and have fun. Adventure on!
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