Some of my earliest memories in life are that of me and my family out camping – car camping of course as I was raised in the USA. I remember us driving around, setting up a tent, breaking out the coleman camping stove, grilling hot dogs, even remember the times our tarp was flooded out in Hawaii, or our car broken into in Utah while we slept in our tents. As I got older and in my teens, my camping trips started going towards shorter walks with tents, weed, beer and big ass bon fires. In my early twenties I moved to Sweden and my love for backpacking grew exponentially.
I bought my first tent in Sweden, my own personal tent when I was about 20. Before that I had just been borrowing tents. Me and my then girlfriend had this fantasy that we would travel around and sleep in a tent and explore Sweden. This worked for one time and the fantasy became mine alone and the misses stayed home. I soon realized that I didn’t have any hiking friends like I did in the USA, and out of necessity my love for solo hiking was discovered.
Throughout the years I have solo hiked thousands of miles, slept countless nights outdoors from Far above the arctic circle to deep in the Australian outback and everywhere in between. I have always loved solo hiking, I loved the deep contemplative beauty of it, the mental games of always questioning my own ability, or discovering a new idea. Solo backpacking is truly something I think everyone has to experience, I have grown as a person because of my solo hiking.
About 3 years ago I started to notice a change however, I started to find that I missed the comradery of hiking a trail together with a friend. Or discovering new friends along the trail. My solo adventures started to feel lonely and isolated. It wasn’t that I had nothing left to discover within myself, it was just that I wanted to discover other people and their loves or struggles. On my trek through Iceland in 2015, I felt a kind of loneliness that I hadn’t felt before, and it really took away from the total experience of hiking such an amazing landscape.
Maybe it was the birth of my son and the changes in the family dynamic after that, that made these other changes in me. Since my son was born, life seems so “solid” – love feels real, and my closeness to my wife has deepened in a way that is hard to explain. But on the flip side, my deeper meaning discussions with my wife have have been replaced by two word dialogs interrupted by a lovely boy that wants attention in one way or another. Perhaps his finger stinks because he picked his but and he wants us to smell, or maybe a meatball fell to the ground, or some other world shaking catastrophes that interrupts what little time my wife and I have for each other. So now we content ourselves with our little corners in the sofa with an ipad or iphone in hand and a TV on as background noise.
In other words, the isolation I so desired by hiking solo, has been filled by a 5 year old boy and an Ipad. So now, more than anything, I desire a grown up conversation about nothing, that is not interrupted in two word intervals. My love for isolation is now being or has been replaced, by a need to meet friends and new people. I’m not sure if there is anything better than just talking about nothing with a friend around a campfire. Last summer I made a pointed effort to meet somebody along the trail in Sarek and just hike with them. Ended up being one of the better trips I’ve had in a long time, and with that I made a new friend that I still meet up with from time to time here in Stockholm.
I keep trying to force myself to just go out and rekindle my love of sleeping in the outdoors by myself. I still go out 3-4 nights a month, and some of those nights are lovely, and others are less than optimal. But the best times are always with a friend or with my family. So instead of running away from this realization, it’s time to embrace it. Maybe I should start organizing little get together around Stockholm and around Sweden and everywhere else I happen to be travelling. Maybe little weekend groups here in Stockholm – I don’t know how this will take place, but I feel like it’s time to try something new. To embrace this new phase and need in my life, and I think it would be awesome to share that with new people!