I spent a solid hour cruising up and down a dirt road, navigating potholes and scouring for somewhere to sleep. Dusk dissipated as I drove through full campgrounds and past private property. At one point I was Austin-powering a ten-point turnaround after a rutted single lane proved to be a driveway. I ended up parking in an obscure spot and eating a cold dinner.
Sitting there with my chicken sausage speared to a fork, I felt acutely aware of my aloneness. I mean, my two absurdly fluffy and non-combative dogs were with me, but other than that, I was soloing.
When I woke the next morning, I let the dogs out and startled at the cadillac parked near my van. The figure within it had his back turned to me as he did something in the driver’s seat. My Dangerdar went berserk and I called the dogs back in, ripped off the light-deflectors from the windows, and peeled out of there like a robber running with money from the bank.
Now, I might have been carist, seeing the old, beaten Cadillac and associating it with movies of kidnappers and thugs. I might have even been sexist, seeing a single man, alone, in the dim light of dawn, parked next to my van of all the places to park in the Red Lodge entrance to the Custer-Gallatin National Forest. Regardless, I took no chances and fled the scene, briefly making eye contact with him before my wheels sputtered rocks in his direction.
You see, as women we’ve been instructed from a young age to associate being alone with a strange man as dangerous. This is an essential part of our survival, of course, as the threat of rapers in this crazy world is a very real one. At times, though, the Dangerdar can prove detrimental.
It can prevent us from going out alone at all. It can deter us from taking the She Solo.
Every time I hit the road by myself doubts pass by like mile-markers. What am I doing? Where will I sleep? Why do I feel the need to endure loneliness when a husband and friends and family fill my life with love at home? There’s always this peculiar mix of anxiety, fear, and sadness that stir up, and it’s always an hour or two into my travels.
It doesn’t matter if I’m heading to Wales or Washington, North Carolina or northern Peru. The doubt proves to be the same. Stories of abduction populate our cultural bandwidth, and while these narratives offer important precautions, honing our Dangerdar, they can overpower the success stories of women adventuring alone.
Yes, this is the way media works: bad news sells, or some crap like that. But I feel the need to tip the scale, in my small way, by sharing some She Solo successes.
Now, these profits earned from solitude are mostly gender neutral, and I suspect men and women alike can relate. Yet historically men were the ones to go out and become actualized through the narrative arc of a heroic journey. (Think: Homer’s Odyssey).
It’s becoming increasingly common for women to apply the same recipe of adventure + misadventure = transformation. In celebration of this trajectory, and with intent to encourage its progression, here are there things I’ve gained from the She Solo.
Time alone allows thoughts to crystalize. Many of the life-directional decisions I’ve made came from those miles on the road, when silence grows preferable to music and I allow my thoughts to roll out with the pavement.
Talking to myself normalizes and through a spirit of curiosity I discover what actually matters to me and why. There’s something about time away from the people, places, and practices of routine that brings these things into relief, and in so doing allows me to see clearer what’s important, where I want to go from here, etc..
I enjoy adventuring with my husband and/or my friends. I LOVE it. Love it.
But in equal measures I love listening unapologetically to my shitty rap music full blast, singing out the lyrics. (This may be the biggest paradox and guilty pleasure of my white girl existence.) I love those moments when I feel singularly alive—screaming into wind careening off the ocean, or sitting silently on the mountain peak until my feet fall asleep.
In a world that often feels loud—images and words flooding over from screens and into our brains—having those moments of solitude seem to abate complete insanity, at least for me. At least I think. I hope.
I’ve learned to trust and honor my intuition, including when a situation feels dangerous. (Way) more often than not I’ve witnessed that the world is filled with lovely, good-intentioned people. That being said, unsafe situations arise and listening to that binging noise in the belly proves vital.
My friend and I were talking about sketch situations and she made an astute observation that as women we’re trained not to offend others. In fear of being “rude” we’ll put up with the man undressing us with his eyes, or stay in likewise uncomfortable situations longer than is prudent. I say F that. For my lady friends in the crowd today—and the men, too, should they find themselves in threatening circumstances—give that Dangerdar the power it deserves and peace out without apology or excuse.
So sorry, man on random dirt road, for potentially chipping your windshield when I peeled out the other morning. Sorry, not sorry. This lady's gonna solo once in a while, and if that means leaving a windshield worse for the wear, well, that's the price the Dangerdar demands.