When we leave our comfort zones and our usual surroundings, fear is a natural reaction. But just because we are afraid, it doesn’t mean we are in danger. And just because we feel calm, it doesn’t mean we are actually safe. And somewhere in between we have those fears that keep us at home, within the comfort zone, without any logical reason.
During my hike, there were many things to be afraid of if I had asked the general public: bears, wolves, high mountains, loneliness, men (if you are a woman), cold temperatures, bacteria in the water…. the list is long. And ironically, I had (and still have) to calm other people down that become afraid on my behalf.
Considering that it was a hike through Sweden in summertime, the only thing that IS actually dangerous for real is yourself and your risk awareness or lack thereof. Bears and wolves just don’t want to meet you, I meet far more potentially dangerous people any random day here in Stockholm than during my whole hike (I estimate the number of dangerous people during the hike to zero) and everything else such as weather, terrain and rivers is only dangerous if you take risks that are over your own capacity.
So was I afraid during my hike? Well, not like in “panicking”, but I was at unease several times, and mainly connected to two situations:
- The weather: I am afraid of thunderstorms and being on a mountain, this is actually a risk to consider. So those days where there was a risk of thunderstorms I decided to stay in valleys or indoors if possible. But I monitored the sky closely some days when I saw cumulonimbi forming – luckily they never reached me and I didn’t experience any thunderstorm during the hike
- Camping close to a road: as a woman (my male colleagues hardly ever even thought about this) I chose to send my position in the morning when I camped close to roads. On the mountain this was never a problem. But being a woman with an open Instagram profile, and getting questionable messages every now and then, I just slept better if my position was not known to the general public those nights. Sad? Yes. But unfortunately this is what we are taught, and female fellow hikers reported similar concerns.
And then there is my fear of darkness. And that fear actually does hold me back from doing things, I have for instance cancelled solohikes around Stockholm as I realized how dark it would be to camp alone in a forest. While we of course need to be situation aware, there is nothing to fear in the darkness (especially not a rainy October night – who would go out in the forest such a nasty night anyways?), and my goal for this winter is to overcome this fear. Actually, when I bought my tent 5-6 years ago, my goal was to overcome my fear of the darkness. But it took me 5 years and a solohike of 1350km to finally sleep alone in my tent during dark season.
What I am afraid of? Murderer? Ghosts? Well, no… I am afraid to get scared… so basically my own fear is most likely to be the reason why I get scared. Logic? Hell no. But fears are not built on logic…
And I am proud that I did camp alone in Paradisets natural reserve a few weeks ago – mostly thanks to miscommunication, as I thought I would have company. But in the end it brought me out there equipped for camping and longing for an evening by the fire. And surprisingly enough, I felt mostly calm.
The night has so many beautiful things to offer. Stars, silence, moonlit landscapes and not to forget the aurora if one is lucky. And while all of these things are wonderful to enjoy in company, I cannot sit at home just because I didn’t find anyone to join me.
What are your fears and how do you handle them?