The Solo Trip Challenge

Six months ago, I signed up for a solos-only, multi-sport spree that involved six successive days of high-altitude hiking, cycling, kayaking, and rafting in Yellowstone National Park & the Teton Valley. Of course, every action leads to an equal and opposite reaction. So, the next week, I walked into a gym and asked if they had a trainer who could actually help get me in the kind of physical shape I needed to be ... well, Sporty Spice. They did, it was hard, and, four months later, I was ready.

This August, I made my way to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and did the tour. I must say, I highly recommend going ahead and doing that crazy thing you're thinking about doing but not really ready to do yet. Trust me, it's worth it. Coming from someone who has a hard time even going to a coffee shop by herself ... let alone ordering dinner for one ... the idea of going on a solos trip was pretty left field for me. Maybe it was that "where do you want to be in five years" question that's been rattling around in my head. Maybe it was the "buy something frivolous" message in my Dove chocolate wrapper. Either way, this year was apparently about teaching me the importance of my own personal trajectory, which, it turns out, is a very good lesson to learn.

Most sane people trying to get back in touch with themselves might have booked a spa vacation, or a yoga retreat, or paid the single supplement and taken a cruise in the Caribbean. I think I knew that the "me" I was looking for wasn't hiding somewhere deep inside. I knew I needed to get out of my own head and into the world. The thing about personal trajectories is that they don't exist in a void. They exist in comparison, often in contrast, to the life journeys of the people around you.

On a solos-only tour, you're challenged to define yourself in an entirely new context. You don't know anyone. No one knows you. You have no one to lean on. No one to make excuses for you or reveal your quirks before they reveal themselves. No one to protect you when the going gets tough. 

So you show up in front of all these strangers with a choice to make. You can let a lifetime of insecurities define you. Or you can make the herculean effort to ... not redesign or reinvent ... but maybe refine who you are ... be a bit of an escape artist, escaping the parts of yourself that have been chafing or too tight.

You know what? It was really fun. And I kind of liked that me. Turns out, even if you're part of a loving relationship, group, or tribe, life is like a solos tour. You have to follow your own path to get to your own nirvana.