7 Day Vision Quest: Encountering Myself

Have you ever been overwhelmed by an excessive feeling of ‘fuck this’? In the summer of 2018 I found myself jobless and bored out of my mind. All my friends were busy with work and their commitments so I had no one to go on an adventure with, so I went by myself.

I just woke up one day and said “I’m going camping!”. But you can’t just go camping. You have to make reservations and plans, including transportation, food, and logistics.

Phase 1 – Planning

I had three days to make it happen or the summer was going to be over and I would have missed my window. So I got out of bed and hopped on my laptop.

First I had to make travel arrangements, because sadly I do not have a car. I was going to need to get there somehow. Luckily I found a business that does exactly what I was looking for. They run busses up to Canadian provincial and national parks from various cities, and they just happen to offer an option that lets you off at the jump off point to the interior of Algonquin.

So that’s where I was going to go. I’ve been to Algonquin before a couple times, but I always went with friends. Now was going to be different, in that I was going to have to pick up the slack all by myself.

I booked my bus tickets round trip as a first step, which was kind of dumb since I had yet to even check if the park had openings, or better yet if there were any canoes available from the outfitters.

But anyway, now I was committed. As a next step, I needed to book campsites. Luckily for me Algonquin park has digitized it’s entire reservation process. I went on their website and saw where in the park there were openings, picked my spot, made my reservation (it cost like 15 bucks), and was half way there.

Now this is where I got nervous, because in the past when I’ve gone camping in the interior, the guys I went with were not ‘last minute’ kind of guys so our canoe was always accounted for months in advance.

I phoned the outfitters and asked if they had a single canoe for rental. They said they might at their other location and would check for me. In the end they did not, so I booked a double canoe instead.

In two days I had managed to get bus tickets, reservations, and a canoe all set up. Now I just had to go shopping for the food I would bring.

I went out and got all the food I would eat, plus some treats like chocolate and cider, packed it into a food barrel I bought years prior specifically for this kind of occasion, and then rounded up all the other essentials for my camping pack (clothes, books, tent, map, bear spray).

If you are interested here’s a guide on how to properly pack your backpack

The next day at 6:30 am I would meet my bus, but first I had a birthday party to go to. When there I told my friends what I was doing (because if something went wrong I didn’t want to disappear in the woods), and let them know when I’d be back.

I was so excited when I got home that I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep, so I didn’t. I made a pot of coffee and stayed up all night until about 6 am when I jumped in an Uber to take me to the bus stop.

In retrospect I would not do that again, you should sleep before travelling into the Algonquin interior.

Phase 2 – Facing fear

When I was on the bus it hit me like a brick wall. I was going to be all alone without a way of pulling the chord if I wanted to. I started to get really nervous. What if my reservation didn’t go through? What if my canoe tips? What if I’m attacked by a bear? What if I haven’t brought enough food? What if I get lonely and it’s too much?

I was speeding towards my destination now and there wasn’t much else I could do about it but go along for the ride, so that’s what I decided to do.

Then I got kind of sad because to do fun things like camping I had to go by myself. Am I a loser? Do I matter to people? It really bummed me out.

By the time I got to the drop off point on the other end I was so nervous I was having a hard time swallowing. But it remained something I wanted to do big time so I persisted through any uncomfortable feelings.

As it turns out I had nothing to worry about. My canoe was waiting for me and my name was in the park registry so all I had to do was load up my stuff and take off.

Phase 3 – Diving right in

I got in my canoe, lit a cigarette, and took off for the interior.

I’m an experienced canoeist but when you are canoeing alone in a two man canoe there are some things that cannot be avoided. One, is that the wind will easily grab the bow of the canoe and cause you to change directions. Two, it’s pretty slow going with just one man in the boat.

I decided that I would look for an island to call home for the next week. I checked my map, found one reasonably close, and hoped it wasn’t already taken.

I paddled for several hours before getting there, but I was lucky enough that it was all mine. This would be my home for the next seven days.

Because I had not slept, I needed a nap. It was only about noon at this point so I could grab some shut eye and then, rejuvenated, enjoy the rest of the day.

My fears were still going through my mind and now it was worrying about the opposite end of the trip. Would I make it out of here? Would I miss the bus?

But a man’s gotta nap first before stressing out about all that shit so I went to sleep.

I felt a lot better when I woke up. I went swimming, ate some good chilli, then opened a 2 litre cider I brought and drank it around a fire I built.

This is when I absolutely tossed my fears away. Fuck all that noise I said to myself, I’m here for a good time, if something happens, it happens, then I’ll deal with it. I decided to enjoy the moment I built for myself, scrambled though it was, I was doing what I wanted.

Phase 4 – Solitude

Being alone for that entire week wasn’t bad, on the contrary it was awesome. I took a GoPro and took daily video documenting the happenings and so forth and ate really well. It was now apparent I had brought more than enough food and alcohol.

I wanted to experience everything that nature had to offer, including storms, so I could have a reason to stay in the tent and read books.

Boy did I ever get my wish on the third day. It started raining and I thought no big deal It’s not raining that hard, then it picked up and I went into the tent. Then it really started coming down.

Tents are designed to be rained on, but I’ve experienced this before when camping and that is that at a certain level of rain no matter what kind of tent you have you are getting wet.

So I got pretty wet inside the tent and the temperature dropped. I only brought one sweater (stupid) and it wasn’t doing it’s job. The result was that I got cold, like really cold, and couldn’t get myself warm no matter what I did.

It was too wet outside to start a fire, my sleeping bag was wet too so it was no good. I just had to deal with it.

When the rain finally passed the sun came out and dried up everything in no time. I gathered wood for a fire that I would have that night and then went for a swim.

Then it dawned on me. There were absolutely no bugs. It made everything that much easier. Not having to constantly swat them away from your face was an added bonus.

I’ve been camping before when the bugs have been absolutely merciless, flying into your eyes, hair, and ears. This vacation had shaped up real nice.

I used a lot of the time to think about what I wanted to do with my life and how I wanted things to end up for me.

The days went by pretty eventless, except when I found some bear scat on my tiny little island. I will admit I got spooked for a minute, but alas there was no bear.

One of my friends joked with me before I left that I was going on a vision quest. And in the end that’s kind of what I did. I mean I brought some things to make the situation more comfortable, but I definitely encountered myself out there in the Algonquin interior.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. I didn’t get lonely, scared, mauled, or bitten. The circumstances proved that I had nothing to be worried about in the end. Maybe what I learned most about myself is that I worry way too much, and I should drop it as a habit, because it serves me none.

I’m going to go on another trip this year for sure, and I’m not even going to bother inviting anyone. I want to be in charge of myself out there and make all the decisions.

Phase 5 – Settling into myself

I’m a pretty anxious person, but doing that trip really settled me into myself. I know I can do things by myself that bring me enjoyment. I learned a huge self soothing technique in doing this trip as a big fear of mine in the past has been ending up alone.

Being alone isn’t scary anymore. I spent a week in the woods doing whatever the hell I wanted and my only regret is that I wasn’t able to get in a second trip before the season was over.

I’d recommend a solo camping trip to anyone who thinks they are up to it. Of course if you don’t have any camping experience this might not be a good idea, but maybe just get out there and test your limits, maybe you’ll learn something about yourself the way I did.

If you’ve done a similar trip feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this post. Or if you just have a great camping story, don’t hesitate to share it.

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