I can’t exactly tell you how to overcome your fears in the wilderness, but I can explain to you my story and how I deal with my fears.
I’m probably one of the most afraid, nerve-shaken people on this planet. I still get scared during Disney movies and I’m almost 30. The part in Lion King when Mufassa gets thrown off the ledge. Yeah, I still close my eyes during that part.
But with these fears, I also have my most desired and treasured hobby in the world, hiking and backpacking. For all my life, this was my favorite thing to do. It made me most happy and made me feel most alive. Still does! But unfortunately, this also brings an undesired trait with it, fear.
I have been an avid hiker and backpacker for over a decade now. Exploring more of the US and what the wilderness has to offer than most, and I am incredibly grateful for that. I do not come from anything or money to have made this happen. What made this happen was my own ambition and hard-work in order to explore the world. Being able to travel as often as I do, brings me to the wilderness quite often and for the most part, alone.
When I backpack alone or even with people, I tend to get really fearful of the wilderness. Especially at night! Every noise in the woods makes me quiver and my brain spirals out of control of what is out there and what could happen to me. I have spent countless nights wide awake all night long shaking in my tent or even crying for that matter. That’s how fearful I get. No exaggeration. That’s how I know, if I can do it, you can do it.
What I do is just not stop. Simple as that. I don’t give up my love for the wild because I am afraid. When I am on a backpacking trip, the first night tends to be the hardest. Then the second night gets better and by the third night, I’m so exhausted I sleep like a rock. If you are only going for a one-nighter and you are so afraid you don’t sleep, catch up on sleep when you are home.
Don’t let fear stop you from enjoying the wild. Life is too short and anything can happen to you at any given time. Can something happen to you while you are out in the wild? Yes. Can something happen to you walking around your own neighborhood? Yes, and assuming you are in a relatively safe neighborhood, the chances of either happening are probably around the same odds.
For most people, it tends to get easier and the first night is the hardest. For me, ten years later I still get nervous and scared being out in the woods by myself, but I still do it. I still get myself out there no matter how afraid I am. I’ve backpacked through grizzly territory alone and I will do it again because it makes me happy and every time I come back, I feel even more alive.
Statistics are, you are more safe in groups out in the wild rather than solo, but there are plenty of occasions where even in groups people get hurt from either weather, an animal, or whatever it is. You just never know and I guess when it’s your time it’s your time.
This doesn’t even have to pertain to hiking anymore. No matter what your passion is make sure you live it. You will regret it if you don’t. There is danger in every aspect in your life. You can be sitting at home fearful of going outside and a robber can come into your house and kill you. So don’t be afraid or be afraid, that’s on you. Just get your butt wherever it is you want to go! I can’t tell you not to live your life in fear because I do so that would be contradictory of me. But what I can tell you is don’t let fear control your life and don’t let that fear stop you!
If you need extra aide in getting yourself out there, then do just that. I bring music with me. It keeps my brain distracted and it calms me down. If I didn’t have music with me, I probably wouldn’t go solo. If you can think of something to calm your nerves down, do it. Yoga before bed, reading a book in your tent, writing your thoughts down in your journal. Try to keep your brain busy when you are most fearful. That will help tremendously!
If you are up for a good read, Wilderness and the American Mind is amazing! It explains the American history for the wilderness and how american’s perceived the wilderness since they came over from the “old world.” It’s a pretty dry read but I learned so much from this book!
I hope this helped and thank you for reading. If you have something to say, make sure you write it in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you would have to say.