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Solo - fears and boredom

Glenn MacGrady

Staff member
Oct 24, 2012
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I've been dealing with fear of the dark with my grade school son. I was surprised to learn that overstimulation is part of the problem. The mind doesn't know what to do with itself when it is time to shut down. Meditating really helps him. It might help in the woods, especially a noting exercise where you listen to the night sounds. It takes some practice for it to work. I found the more I listen and understand the less scary it is.

I normally take a book and harmonica when I go by myself. I take more time for pictures. I tend to travel more and stay busier too.

Of course part of the fear is rational. I felt my safest when traveling with a dog. My experience is the dog wakes up when human companions don't.

Practically my biggest problems have always been with other people. If I'm by myself I keep a low profile and avoid places where there will be large groups of people.

And I encourage you if you're taking a trip and don't want to go solo post it. I imagine most of us don't get out as much as we'd like to.


Ryan, welcome to site membership! Feel free to ask any questions and to post messages, photos and videos in our many forums. Please read Welcome to CanoeTripping and Site Rules! We look forward to your participation in our canoe community.

As to the topic, a lot of members here paddle alone according to our latest poll on the subject:

I've done many things in life mostly alone, especially as an only child living summers on a Maine lake with my grandparents, so paddling alone was always natural. I've never been as bored paddling as I've often been at home or at work many times in life. The things that bore me at home and work—such as kitchen chores, phone calls and meetings—I affirmatively and gladly avoid when on a paddling trip.
Jun 15, 2022
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Spartanburg, SC
It's hard for me to imagine being lonely or bored for very long in the woods. On a rainy night stuck inside a tent time can get a bit long, but a good book or a notebook to record your thoughts and observations made during the day can go a long way to alleviating any boredom.

In our present "connected" society many people have become used to a steady stream of available entertainment always at their beckon. One of the great things about going to the wild, especially solo, is that you can shut it all off and use your own mind to imagine and create. This is a skill that was readily used prior to the electronic invasion of our present time. People looked around and developed folk tales to explain an unusual ditch, rock formation or light in the sky. It is still easy to do when you are by yourself on a lake shoreline with the waves lapping on the bank. It is harder to do when you are used to the story being force fed to you by our media.

So sit on a rock, look around, start looking at smaller details of what is around you, look at the details in those details, and you won't have time to be lonely or bored.
Jul 23, 2020
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SE Wisconsin
Your biggest friend for night time anxiety is a good set of ear plugs. Ear plugs magically repel all wild critters and night time googly boos.
Since I am significantly hearing impaired (deaf in R ear and failing hearing in my L ear) I wear a cochlear implant in the R ear and have an aid on the L.) Once the devices come out at night I sleep very well, no night sounds to bother me.

Now I mostly basecamp and enjoy my time alone in the woods.
Mar 3, 2020
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Never had an issue with being bored or scared using an aggressive schedule and the right variety of electric lettuce.
Sep 25, 2022
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S. Central Alaska
I completely agree @SouthernKevlar, many folks don’t seem to have much of a “mind’s eye” which is too bad. I believe it can be developed thru use.
back in high school they told us “fear of the unknown” was one of mans biggest fears; well if you spend some time learning more about your environment it will become more familiar and less stressful.
A lot of folks see the big picture, the natural beauty etc. Possibly some prominent feature will stand out but if you really look you begin to notice how many other “big pictures” are right there in front of you.
A simple way to become more familiar with your surroundings is to track an animal, even a mink on a shore line. This takes time and patience (in the summer) but as you follow a track notice where the critter traveled and ask yourself, why’d he go there? Something like a mink might be challenging for most but any small animal, maybe a shore bird or an ungulate would be an easier first attempt.
All the critters are just like us, they go where they do for a reason and once you are familiar with they’re patterns you’ll be able to appreciate them in a fuller way. Tracking is one of many mind occupying things that will give you a fresh perspective and help alleviate anxiety in the woods. Learn what you can eat out there, learn how to identify the trees in your area; “o look, theres some Sassafras's” i’ll dig a root and we’ll have some good tea this evening. With enough of these skills under your belt your longing to be in the woods will greatly overshadow your fears.
Jun 12, 2014
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NW Iowa
One thing I'll say about boredom is that it's more possible at some times and places than others.

Many of us camp in places where a campsite is just a small spot big enough for a tent surrounded by dense forest. There is no beach and "Going for a walk" to explore just isn't an option because of the density of forest and blowdowns. In these situations I find it quite easy to get bored if I'm in camp for extended periods of time. Being pinned down by weather for a couple days can certainly lead to boredom too, especially if you're in one of those camps that doesn't allow you to get out for a stroll when the rain breaks momentarily.

This is why I tend to paddle late into the day and minimize camp time. If I come to a nice section of open forest during the day I'll often stop paddling for a couple hours to get some exploration done or I might loiter around a portage trail to poke around at the flora and relax. If I'm fortunate enough to find a campsite that allows exploration of the surrounding area I'll sometimes delay my start the next day so I can go for a walk and explore.

So, for me personally, I find it best to take what I'm given when I'm given it. Oftentimes camp is far from the most interesting place I've seen in a given day.