Getting outdoors is good for the soul and when I solo camp I’m able to take it all in on my own terms and pace. It might sound scary or even dangerous (did you read Wild by Cheryl Strayed or Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer?). The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages in my book and here’s some tips on how I do it:
Part of feeling safe in the outdoors is choosing a location that you’re confident in and comfortable navigating. The last solo camping trip I took was at the Enchanting Blueberry Farm near Fallbrook, CA. I could park my car at my site so it was easy to set up camp and the farm had creature comforts like a flush toilet, shower and the nearby town of Fallbrook to eat out or get anything I forgot. As a woman I’m constantly being told never to camp alone because something bad will happen to me and it will be all my fault if it does for not listening to their warning. The warning I listen to is the one I get in my gut. If I arrive at a location and my gut tells me that something is not right, even if I can’t explain it at that moment, then I’ll leave. It’s that simple. When I arrived at the Blueberry Farm I met the family that lives on site and toured the farm. After that my gut told me I’m going to be a-ok.
To camp or not to camp when you’re menstruating? Let’s get this big one out of the way. I’ve done both but I’m more comfortable when I’m not on my period. It’s one less thing I have to deal with and for me it’s an important one. For the past few years I’ve switched over from using Tampons (darn that Tampon tax!) to Jade and Pearl sea sponges. I’ve tried other options that are supposed to be great for the outdoors that are sold at REI like the Diva Cup but so far the sponges work for me. None of the options for women are convenient for outdoor use in my opinion. That’s why I choose not to go during that time of month and that’s my tip.
Kids that live on the farm, Daisy and Antonio, give me a tour of the place with their dog Penny.
When I’m camping with someone my attention goes to them. When I have no one to talk to my attention goes to anyone who comes my way! I think I’d go crazy if I didn’t talk the entire time to someone. I totally understand the need for Wilson in the movie Castaway. Anyway, I find that I meet the most interesting people and always learn something new when I talk to strangers. For example, on my blueberry trip I asked the cashier at Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens (20 min away from the farm) where they would recommend for lunch and coffee. That lead me to other local eateries that I would never have found on my own. Conversely, I’ve had people talk to me and it’s always been men who have creeped me out. When my gut tells me that some guy is dangerous then I am under no obligation to keep on talking to them. I have no problem stating when my personal boundaries have been crossed and upholding them. It’s kept me safe and one of the most important tips I can pass on not only for camping but for life.
On a lighter note, I always talk to kids! They teach me so much and force me to view the world through a different lens. The kids at the Blueberry Farm did just that and here is a photo of them giving me a tour of the blueberry crops.
I feel more on edge in my day-to-day life and that’s good and bad. Daily stress is normal but I don’t want to get used to that feeling so I let it out when I’m solo camping. No one is around to judge my fashion sense or hairstyle. No one to critique my cooking or TV show choices. It’s just me and mother nature. One of the most peaceful things I do is stargaze. I love trying to point out as many constellations that I can on my own before I cheat on Google Sky Map. It’s hard not to breath when you stare deep into the night sky realizing how big it is and how small you are.
3 year old Antonio and his chicken at the Enchanting Blueberry Farm in Rainbow, CA. Loved capturing his story of what it’s like to be a kid growing up on a farm.
Maybe it’s a generational thing but I love telling stories through video and photography. Many of my social media posts reflect that and that’s a major creative outlet for me. I’m forced to think about how to frame what I want to share and edit it in a way that reflects how I feel about it. It’s incredibly rewarding so when I solo camp I’m sharing shots that have meaning to the experience I’m having. It in no way cheapens it and they are snapshots that I can reflect upon long after I’m gone. I don’t follow anyone else’s rule either. For example, just because I’m camping doesn’t mean that I have to take photos of myself “roughing it”. I’m going to create an experience that I find authentic and if I don’t want to hunt for my food and cook it on an open fire then I won’t. It doesn’t mean that I’m not camping. This leads to my next tip but to summarize this one: I won’t spend all of my time on my cell phone but I will use it to plug into my creative outlet.
There’s no reason not to be. Who are you when you are alone? I’m no longer a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend. I’m just me. This is my time to spend on whatever I want. On my Blueberry Farm trip I took my guitar with me. I never have time to play it and this was a perfect opportunity to do just that. On other trips I’ll bring a book that I want to finally finish or write poetry. You don’t have to hike or do any outdoors activities other than camp. I use nature to help find a deeper connection in myself, and if that means strumming a guitar to easy tab songs then so be it. Sometimes being alone in nature inspires me more than being alone at home.
Torrey Pines State Beach hiking trail. One of my favorite beach trails.
Just because I’m solo camping doesn’t mean that I have to stay at my campsite the entire time. I like to explore the area and sometimes revisit places I love. Torrey Pines State Beach is one of those places and is less than an hour away from the Blueberry Farm. There’s this quote by T.S. Eliot that I keep coming back to meditate on and I think summarizes this tip:
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
I think as a woman I’m lucky to live in a time and a place that gives me the freedom to explore. I know that in other countries I may not be allowed to drive let alone solo camp. Knowing that adds another dimension to these trips. It also adds a layer of depth to my experience that makes me incredibly grateful to be alive. I guess that’s what is so appealing about solo camping. I’m remembering to be grateful that I’m alive.
My fellow ladies, I hope these tips inspire you to enjoy a solo camping trip.
Words and photos by Maureen Barley
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