I get asked often about hiking and traveling solo from other women, “Aren’t you scared?” with horror on their faces. Yes, I do get anxious at times on the trails when the trail doesn’t show up on my GPS, and I don’t see anyone for a while, but those moments don’t stay long. A little bit of fear is good for you like anything else.
I may be a little more adventurous than an average person, but I am never reckless. Let me share what goes on behind the scene that you don’t see in my photos and videos. Maybe this will give you some ideas on how to start solo traveling or hiking with your pup if you’ve been thinking about doing it.
1. Life is better with a dog
To be honest, traveling with a dog is a lot harder and requires more preparation than traveling solo. Not all hotels, restaurants with outdoor seating and hiking trails allow dogs so I need to research before getting on the road to make sure we both enjoy our trips. However, traveling/hiking solo with a dog comes with valuable benefits.
Xena attracts good people. I am lucky that she is patient with kids, not a barker, and behaves well in public places. We always seem to meet the kindest people when we travel. I’ve received kind and encouraging words from older people. “It’s not usual to see a woman traveling by herself with a dog. Good for you!” and they always tell me to enjoy myself on the trip but be careful. Maybe because Xena puts strangers at ease. She makes everyone from kids to elderly persons smile when we pass by. I know for sure if I were to travel alone, I wouldn’t experience the same warm encounters.
However, if Xena sees a person who looks suspicious(e.g., hood over their head so we can’t see their faces, refuses to make eye contact while passing by, walking tensed, etc.), Xena stops still. Her body tight and tense, she stares at the person until the person is far from us or out of sight. A lot of times, her fixed stare makes these suspicious grown men feel uncomfortable to move away from us instead of walking straight. “Good girl, Z”, I tell her when we are alone. She protects us from bad energies in every direction. Dogs can sense things humans cannot. I listen to her instinct without question.
2. Common sense goes a long way
Often we travel to an area where there is no cell phone reception when we go hiking. While I love exploring the wilderness, it raises a safety issue in case of an emergency for sure. My biggest fear is ‘what if my car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.’ However, I have no interest in cars and don’t even want to learn how to fix a flat tire. I don’t even know if I can physically do it with my wimpy upper body strength. Any way you slice it, it’s a bad situation. So I religiously keep up with regular maintenance of my car. I should probably still learn how to change a flat tire…sigh…
I always let my sister know where we are going. We both use Waze, a free community-based mapping, traffic & navigation app, and we are “friends”. Before each drive, I send her an ETA from the app. She can check the app on her phone to see where I am on my route and gets a notification from Waze when I am about to arrive at my destination. This tool has been great for us, especially when I am on a road trip because I am always on the go. This prevents her from worrying about us and also makes me feel safe that she can come and rescue us 🙂 or call for help for us if needed.
3. Get to know the trail before you go
Read trail stats (total distance, elevation gain, etc.), download the map of the hiking route to your GPS tracking app if you are going into the wilderness and do your homework on the current trail condition, so you know what to pack.
- Is it dog-friendly?
- Is it exposed? Is there any shade?
- What is the terrain? Do I need shoes with good traction?
- Is there any water crossing? Do I need water shoes or a towel?
- Are there any poisonous plants or wild animals to watch out?
- Is it well-maintained or hard to follow? Is bushwhacking or scrambling required?
- Is it shared with bikers and/or horses? How is your dog around horses? Look out for speedy bikers.
- Is it a popular trail that gets busy during the day? How is your dog with a crowd?
- Is there snow/ice? Do I need microspikes?
More information you have about the current trail condition, you are already better prepared to hike this trail and will be safer than someone who just shows up without proper gear and enough water. I recommend you always pack more water and food than you think you would need. You can get lost, or you might decide to stay out longer. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are dangerous for you and your pup.
4. But just in case, keep the emergency kit close
Over time, my emergency kit grew. The list isn’t complete and I still have some items I would like to add to my backpack like a compass and a pocket knife. My phone has a compass but what if my phone gets damaged?
So, what’s in my backpack?
I also have two first aid kits in my car at all times – First Aid Kit & AMK Me and My Dog Medical Kit – and extra bottles of water. The AMK Me and My Dog Medical Kit has a comprehensive list of wound care, sprain/strain, medication and medical instruction for you and your pup. I recommend it to anyone who is active with their dog. The First Aid Kit is a backup plan and it’s also for home. I have it already so why not have it in the car. Did you know your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) covers for these?
5. Be your best friend and guardian
After taking care of things I can control, I try to stay calm and positive. When fear creeps into my mind, I try to use my logical side of the brain. What is the likelihood of my car breaking down right here without any warning? Highly unlikely. What are the chances that someone will attack me from the back without Xena noticing the person first? Very unlikely. It’s more likely I will roll my ankle and sprain it or worse break it than the other terrifying scenarios. This type of self-talk works for me.
I enjoy solo traveling and the feeling of adventure. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn about myself. I learned to trust my instinct (and 6th sense) and especially Xena’s. At the end of each adventure, I feel more empowered and our bond deeper than ever.
Being aware of my surroundings, Xena’s guarding nature, and being prepared for the possible emergency situations put my mind at ease. Hopefully, this blog helped you to get ready for your first solo travel or hike with your pup. I am curious to know what other emergency gear I should carry in my backpack. Do you have any suggestions? Please share in the comment section below. Thanks so much!