Let’s be honest, solo-camping is fun but your first time is always a little nerve-wracking. Here’s how Karolina spent her first few days camping alone on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula.
Last year I went camping by myself for three nights and four days. By chance I was given a few days off work and decided that later that week I’d make the trip to Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park on the Yorke Peninsula SA.
Friends had uni, work, or other commitments and so the only option was to take myself and go alone, a fact which I didn’t assign a lot of significance to during the decision-making process.
My parents were not impressed. Dad told me to watch Wolf Creek. He also advised me to call the rangers and get some information about safety advice, which I followed.
Armed with this information, and $25 worth of Aldi nonperishable food, I set off.
Into The Wild
I did not expect the trip to be as scary as it was. The first day was filled with normal first day elements that I didn’t really notice that I had no one with me. My journal entry states I was attacked by wild bees, saw some dolphins swim right past a surfer, and that the herbal tea I brought with me was bad. Eventful camp things.
I went for a surf, but after the one older man who was at the same break left, I freaked out and felt my heart stop every time there was a shadow in the water. Surfing at an empty beach, especially as a beginner, was also way scarier than I expected.
Read more: Aren’t You Scared Camping on Your Own?
As I lay down in my sleeping bag after the sun had set, ready to sleep, it was then that I truly realized I was indeed all alone. There was an older couple camping at the same site as me, however the other 23 spots were empty. I was suddenly overwhelmingly scared. I had to get my brother’s multitool, pull out the blade and lay it next to my pillow for a sense of comfort.
It took me forever to fall asleep, the gentle lull of the ocean doing nothing to curb my elevated senses. I awoke multiple times, each time experiencing the same difficulty in returning to slumber.
I was painfully aware that I was a petite 19-year-old girl alone in a tent with what was probably a very blunt multitool.
I have not felt as exposed and vulnerable as I did then.
Will daylight dissolve the fear?
Day two was incredibly draining and emotionally exhausting. It was as if I was carrying this invisible yet very palpable weight of being alone. After getting up at 11am I returned to my campsite at 2pm for another 3-hour nap. I made noodles for dinner, hoping the warmth would comfort me, and spent the evening hiding in my tent, physically and mentally spent.
The next day I had to force myself to explore the park. As someone who’s gone to several gigs and shows alone (including the ballet), and also spent three days in Sydney on my own, I thought I was accustomed to my own company and would very easily spend these four days surrounded only by nature.
However, for the first time in my life I was being strained below the weight of my own solitude.
Switch Off, Sign Out
One of my goals for the trip was to unplug. I messaged all my friends saying I was ‘signing off’ for a few days. While I couldn’t switch off my phone completely and leave it in the glove box – my parents asked me to contact them every morning and night to confirm I was still among the living – I thought I’d be able to go largely without.
Instead, I found myself on my phone, mindlessly scrolling: when I woke up, during dinner, or while in my sleeping bag. After posting a photo to Instagram – which I wasn’t meant to do, a friend jokingly commented ‘I thought you were switching off for a few days’. The comment circled in my mind for a while.
I was meant to be switching off! But for some reason, I just couldn’t.
It was easier to be on my phone than to be present and still.
I was, and still am disappointed with myself that I chose to browse Reddit for an hour rather than read or go to bed.
The phone, and social media, represented my connection to society, and as silly as it sounds as I write it now, made me feel less aware that I was alone. I kept telling myself to just put it down, but my hands wouldn’t obey. It was this cycle of guilt and shame, back and forth.
I was also surprised that I was even having this problem. I thought I was above this kind of behavior. My phone usage did decrease significantly after that difficult second day, however not to a level that stops me from being disappointed with myself.
Finding The Beauty
The national park was incredibly beautiful, and I spent the rest of my time sitting on warm sand, engrossed in reading Flights by Olga Tokarczuk and letting the sun kiss my skin.
I’m really glad I went. If I hadn’t gone then, I probably never would have. Friends and other people will always be busy. After this year I’ll probably never live in South Australia again.
If the choice is to go alone or not at all, I hope I’ll be the kind of person to always go.
It was scary, but it was also incredibly rewarding and fun, and I’m glad I stayed as I planned. I’m going to work on using my phone less, something that I’m sure will come with practice and as I grow and mature. Here’s to more solo trips.