No, living outside for a year is not for everyone. There were times I even thought that maybe it wasn’t for me. In fact, it was pretty much within the first week where I had to have the most consecutive series of internal pep-talks to help me over the multitude of, “What have I gotten myself into” mental hurdles. Over the course of the year, a few mantras were developed such as “happiness through hardship,” which helped to keep spirits high during their lowest points. Instead of the defeatists thoughts that plagued the early days of the journey, the pep-talks became increasingly important as my burgeoning – albeit foolish – sense of invincibility began to take form. As fearlessness began to develop, I found myself in increasingly dangerous situations which would require the help of some mental and verbal encouragement as my sense of invincibility washed away to reveal the gravity the situations. For example, when my vision began to fade, as the snowblindness at Yosemite set in, a mixture of prayer and mental butt-slapping helped me to emotionally survive what could be considered a very close brush with fate.
Time alone in the wilderness is one of the most important activities a person can do for themselves. While the beauty of silence ought not be ignored, don’t also ignore the importance of thinking out loud even if no one else but you is there to hear it. You may ward off a hungry Grizzly, help yourself overcome loneliness, discover something new about yourself, or give yourself the needed nudge over the next ridge.
Nowadays, and perhaps for most of human existence, the concept of “being along” has had a negative taboo stuck to it. Now I am not trying to make a plea to campaign for the positive aspects of loneliness (which may be a struggle to find), however the occasional opportunity to be alone should not be overlooked. Hell, in this day an age of cell phones, texting, and general impersonality (not a word apparently), our society appears to be jettisoning towards a state of self-inflicted loneliness on its own. So why not do yourself a favor and discover a bit about yourself by disconnecting for a little while. I’m not saying you have to abandon society for a year but maybe go for a short hike by yourself without any distractions and just see what side of you comes along for the walk.