Alaska-Yukon Expedition: The Challenges of Going Solo
Follow adventurer Andrew Skurka
as he skis, hikes, and rafts 4,720 miles through eight national parks,
two major mountain ranges, and some of North America's wildest rivers in
Alaska and the Yukon from March to October. Read his blog updates here.
Posted from Delta Junction, Alaska
I enjoy solo wilderness travel. I also enjoy group wilderness travel. There are pros and cons to each, but certain trips are best done solo, while others are best done by two or more individuals.
In the case of this expedition, the reason I'm doing it solo basically comes down to the question: How many people do I know who are willing and able to do this trip? Willing: have the desire. Able: have the skill, time, resources, and flexibility with job, family, and other commitments. I know of a few people who might be willing and able, but I don't know them well enough to risk the expedition on them. So I am doing it alone, which has some significant pros….
First, I find that I'm much more engaged with my surroundings. There's no opportunity to get distracted in conversation or to be sidetracked by group dynamics. This engagement with my surroundings helps keep me from becoming lonely–I'm so immersed out there that I don't think about it.
Second, I'm more open to local interaction. When you're traveling in a group, you're in a bubble. Outsiders are more inclined to speak to someone who is on their own.
Third, I am completely responsible for my own success or failure. My fate is contingent on my commitment, health, and physical ability. I am not concerned about a team member getting homesick, being incompatible with other team members, or being physically unfit.
Forth, I have full-time executive authority. Compromising and delegating are good skills, but they are not always practical in the wilderness. When the stakes are really high, as they are during this trip, I prefer being able to decide where I'm going to camp, how hard I'm going to push, and what route I'm going to take.
And there are certainly cons in traveling solo….
First, I find that I become intellectually stagnant. There is much to be learned vicariously through relationships with other people, and I miss this component entirely during my long solo trips.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Second, I am limited in the technical difficulty of my expeditions because of safety considerations. For example, my trips do not include any technical rock climbing or glacier travel, and I try to stay out of avalanche terrain.
Third, a great group can achieve that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" effect. My potential as a solo traveler is limited to just me.
Editor's Note: How about if we send Andrew some encouragement? We don't want him growing too intellectually stagnant (kidding, of course). You are welcome to post your comments below….