Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Tale of the Lone Traveler

As a man who isn't too phased by the notion that one could travel alone for an entire week on the Appalachian Trail, the notion struck me that others may not feel the same way as I do about solo travel.

So I decided to take it upon myself to venture out into the Athens population (and beyond) to find out the general concensus on the issue.

Before I did this, I wanted to make sure that I myself was in tune with the practice of solo travel, before I went asking others about it. I surfed the web to find out some information, and was inundated with facts and tips about the solo traveler.

Steve Gillman, an outdoorsman author, gives great tips and reasons why solo backpacking is such a great experience.

The main point of Gillman's article is the fact that being alone allows you the opportunity to not worry about the general hassle of other people. Finding people to go with, having to share food ,etc.

Though others go for a more specific reason, self discovery. As mentioned in one of my first blog posts, Vision Quests are a way in which Native American boys ventured out alone in the wilderness to become a man.

To some, this notion may be a bit on the 'nutty' side. Though after talking to several people on the street, I was able to find a distinct gender opinionated difference.

Chris Wagner, a junior classics major in the Honors Tutorial College said, "Doing that is just so...manly! I don't know how to put it any other way. Being alone, survival, I mean I love Bear Grylls to death man. It's just gutsy and cool."

John Petro, a sophomore accounting major said, "It's all about the adventure, having to rely on yourself and nobody there to help you. You are like a warrior."

While the men that I managed to interview were more impressed with the notion of solo backpacking the Appalachian Trail, the women had a more 'motherly instinct' type of response.

"You're kidding right?," Patricia Roberts, a junior biology major said. "You know you could die out there. Are you bringing a cell phone? (No reception) I cannot believe your parents are letting you go! (Mom isn't)."

Amanda Hawkins, a junior journalism major, shared the same opinion. "You really should bring a friend, wouldn't you get bored anyway? You have first-aid? (yes) Flashlight? (yes) Enough food? (yes) Cell-phone (again, no service) Well this just isn't a good idea it sounds like."

I called back up the backpacking tour guide, Ethan Wall, who I talked to in my last blog post, to see what he thought of this gender gap.

"Women can't handle it. I don't know why, but they can't. It's the motherly instinct I guess. Guys want to go out there, show their braun to mother nature and get out. Women, they want to share it with friends, so I really don't know, man," Wall said.

I brought a group of close friends over to sample some freeze dried spaghetti and meatballs that I am testing out before I go out backpacking, and to view the film, 'Into the Wild.' The video is about Christopher McCandless, a solo traveler who hiked out into the Alaskan wilderness because of a qualm with society, only to end up dead. Here is the preview of the movie and some reactions from viewers, a gender difference in opinion is evident here as well.

Jesse Neader, a junior studying public advocacy said, "The guy had real guts, you have to hand it to him. He had a problem, and he tried to go out there and find it. He ended up killing himself, but he went out with a purpose."

Beth Mohr, a junior studying political science disagreed. "A purpose? What did he prove other than he was an idiot? He went out, trapped himself and died, end of story."

Giffin White, a junior mechanical engineering major said, "I mean you are right, but the story he left behind is his 'man-ness'. How badass was it when he killed that moose by himself. I would have crapped my pants if I was in the woods alone by myself at night. This guy is legendary."

Overall, the view on solo travel definitely has a distinct differentiation depending on what sex you talk to. Males most likely will see the opportunity as a way for a guy to express his inner 'mojo', while females will see anyone wanting to do this as an idiotic buffoon.

I talked to Justin Kleckner, a outdoor employee at Dick's Sporting Goods in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to get a final word.

"I get tons of people a year coming out to the store saying they are going by themselves. Most of the time it doesn't happen, but to me it's fine. As long as you are well prepared there is no worry. Especially on the Appalachian Trail, hundreds of people walk that thing a day, you are bound to run into somebody if you need help."

Kleckner went on to talk about incidents happening to both people who backpack in groups, or solo, but added finally, "It's a different experience when you are alone. The wild is different, the air is different, the night is...and when you are out there you are too. Just get ready to meet a new side of yourself, man."

I'm ready.

Best Travels,

1 comment:

  1. Some of these responses made me laugh my head off. This post was very enjoyable Matthew. Good luck on your trip this week and let us know how it goes when you get back! :)