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Solo Camping & Thriving in 2023

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

I had been planning for months, in fits and starts, for a solo camping trip to parts of Kenya I don't usually get the chance to explore. I worked with a carpenter to build a bed in my car. I researched different campsites and posted on forums to figure out the best places to go. I mapped it all out so that no two destinations were longer than 5ish hours apart. But, still, I didn't quite believe it was going to happen until I was actually doing it.

The trip was incredible. The overwhelming feeling I had at the end was a sense of gratitude and of readiness to start the year. I've also been thinking about why it was so life giving for me and how I can have more of what I enjoyed during that week incorporated into my regular life. Here are a few things I experienced during my solo camping trip that I hope to have more of in order to thrive in 2023.

1. Solitary Time

When I arrived at my final camping destination, two employees came over to see if I was interested in purchasing some firewood. They kept looking around, then eventually asked, "Is it only you?" When I told them that I was there alone, they immediately responded with, "Oh, sorry!" as if the only way someone would be by themself was if they had been rudely abandoned. I (somewhat defensively) told them that I had chosen to come alone.

People often find my enjoyment of solitude very strange. It's not that I don't like being around people (I do have friends, I promise). But there is something that happens to me when I spend extended time by myself. The space it offers leaves room for peace, creativity, and focus. It results in a minimising of what I should do to please other people and a maximising of what I need to do to fulfil my purpose. I want to continue investing in purposeful times of solitude.

2. Getting Lost

Although I was never totally lost on this journey, I certainly thought I was several times. And I did not enjoy it. On one of my travel days, my phone stopped charging and I was left with only a physical map and my laptop and wifi modem for directions. This might not sound like that big of a deal until you imagine me pulled over on the side of the road, trying to balance my laptop on the passenger seat, realising that I hadn't allowed Google Maps to track my location, and therefore oscillating back and forth between trying to change the settings and finding a nearby landmark that I could choose as my starting point.

But the joy of finding my final destination, the relief at arriving (despite multiple missed turns and backtracks), the need to trust the random people on the side of the road who I asked for directions, and the general problem solving that was required to succeed all gave me a bit of a rush. I don't necessarily want to get lost all the time, but every once in awhile, I think it's important for me to be put in a position where there's an increased chance of it.

3. Time in Nature

When I think about being outside in the natural world, my first impulse is to take a deep breath. I had this deep-breath, spacious feeling the entire time I was on my road trip, especially driving through Maasai Mara. The open space, the fresh air, the sense of being a very small part of a very big world... makes me want to take a big, deep breath.

And the great thing is, I live in a place where those spaces are plentiful and accessible, so there's no reason not to take advantage of them. Even when I'm not able to leave the city, I can enjoy the wildness of the outdoors right here in Nairobi National Park or one of the several city parks near my home.

4. Surrounding Myself with the Right People

I ended my trip with a night near Eburru Forest with several friends (see, I told you I had them). It was sort of a birthday thing, sort of a grand finale of my trip, and my friends cared for me really well in that space. They asked me lots of questions about my experience, what I hoped for the year ahead, and the things I want to spend time writing about. They asked great questions and attentively listened to my answers. They gave me the space to process, feel, and share what I needed.

It made me want to spend more time with them (and people like them) -- and also modelled the type of friend I want to be.

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