The Worldwide Solo; Turning Time Alone Into A Learning Experience

I’ve been thinking about these last few weeks as “the worldwide solo”. The current pandemic is forcing people to spend time with themselves, and if there’s a good side to this situation, that time for self-reflection and introspection is it.

All of our courses have a solo aspect, and it happens in two parts. First, we encourage students from day one to participate in “sit spots”. Going to the same place in the woods, at the same time, every day we’re in camp. Secondly, they take part in a multi-day solo at the end of our last trip of the semester. It isn’t framed as “you against the wilderness”, but instead presented as “coming home” to the woods. It’s always a powerful experience for students, and because we schedule the multiple-day solos for the end of the courses, students have time to reflect on their time in the bush, and decide how the experience will travel back home with them.

The experiences they have in that time alone mean so much when they return to the group and share them. They’ve not only had the experiences, but allowed them to simmer slowly and therefore provide insight into themselves, the natural world, and often the group itself. I think that’s an aspect of modern life we forget, to our detriment. Time spent “alone” is often hyped up and made to seem more extreme or adventurous than it really is. It also tends to be shared in the moment, and superficially via social media, and phones, and in that loses some of its educational merit that would be achieved via introspection and self-reflection. That educational aspect is often only relevant to the other members of a tight-knit group, and because of that reinforces strong community bonds that we all crave to some degree.

I’m not encouraging people to delete their social media accounts. The reality is that, for better or worse, our ability to instantly connect with people who are miles away is making this time much easier to get through. I would, however, encourage folks to think about it like that “worldwide solo”. Take this time to learn something new, improve your ability or insight into something you’re already good at. If you’re an alumnus and have had this experience with us, pass it on to the people around you. We could all use a little peace of mind now, and I’m sure you can speak better to your friends and loved ones about embracing the alone time than I can.

If you have access to a place to go sit outdoors, do so. (If possible, don’t post about it, the time is for you) Not for the sake of “prepping”, “Survival” or anything in that particular line of thinking. Do it in in order to A. bring something (skill, observation, insight, etc) back to share with your community when this situation runs its course, and B. To grow more comfortable with spending time with yourself. It might not fix anything going on in the world, but it’ll certainly help you get something out of this time.

I hope you’re all staying safe and healthy. We’ll see you in the woods soon.

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