The prospect of sleeping alone in the woods has never appealed to me. Actually, even the prospect of being alone at all has never appealed to me. I live in New York City, so I’m surrounded by strangers all the time. Even in the wee hours of the morning, you can be sure that there’s someone else within a block’s radius of you. Even if I’m holed up in my apartment alone, I’m just a text away from all of my family and friends. Solos were different to say the least, and consequently made me extremely nervous. Leading up to the weekend, I pictured being blindfolded, and helicoptered to a remote spot on the Neck, fighting off bears and moose, with only a flashlight and a small plastic tarp to protect me, feeding off fungus and whatever else I could find. Believe it or not, this was not actually the case.
I was dropped off at my spot by my advisor Laura, who kindly helped me scout out the best place to set up my tarp. I mournfully watched as she disappeared into the forest. “Goodbye world, this is it,” I thought. I tried to busy myself by setting up my home for the next two nights, adding extra leaves as padding for the roots. Slowly but surely, the sun started to fade, leaving me faced with the inevitable fact that I would be sleeping in the woods, alone. By 6:00 I decided it was too dark to stay awake calmly anymore, so I retreated to my humble abode and dove Into the Wild. Reading about Chris McCandless’ fearless retreat into the Alaskan wilderness put me in my place, and calmed me enough to fall into light sleep.
After waking with the sun the next morning, I settled down on my rock overlooking the water. I tried to calm my fears (both of boredom and of being alone). I wrote, read, drew, and contemplated. Sometimes I even just sat there, letting my thoughts run through my head in a flurry, never really landing on one for long. During this period of time I decided that I will always enjoy peoples’ company. In a world where a “solo” puts me only a couple hundred feet from someone, my love for people is probably a good thing.
Few people in the world can say that they’ve spent 2 nights alone in the woods. I’m still amazed that I’ve done it. On the last day, as I looked across the water, with the mist clinging to the fire-colored trees, and the grey clouds stretching endlessly above me I wrote in my journal:
“I‘m glad I experienced it as I did. The whole time I was looking forward to this moment of being able to leave, but now that it’s arrived, I find myself hesitating… no one will ever truly understand my experience in the woods. But then again, I will never truly understand theirs. We are together in our solitude.”
-Drew Perlmutter, New York NY
Does anyone else have a solo story to share? Wildlife you saw, things you thought about, or ways you stayed busy? Comment about it!