Sometimes life requires that we navigate it in the thick of things, with the world humming around us as we meet deadlines and fulfill responsibilities and care for those we love. But other times we get a moment to catch our breath, to step away from the hustle and bustle and ground ourselves in the things that keep us going through the life we love (but sometimes need a break from).
Recently I could tell I was heading straight for burnout if I didn’t take a break pronto. Visions of seaside retreats or spa escapes were quickly squelched by a glance at my paltry bank account, but instead of skipping the idea, I got creative and decided to take a solo camping retreat for mindfulness and healing.
Dreaming is an essential part of retreat planning. I took time alone to draw pictures of how I wanted my retreat to look and feel, making doodles of things I wanted to experience, even sketching out how I wanted to set my campsite up for optimum rest and enjoyment.
I made lists of foods that would delight me, drinks that would comfort me, and wrote out the things I needed most: nature, rest, inspiration, and creative expression.
Menu for A Solo Camping Retreat
Premade Fried Potatoes with Farmer’s Sausage, Onion, Garlic, and Bell Pepper.
Nibbles — brie, camembert, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives, spring onion crackers, new season apples
Pan-fried Scallops in Tomato Sauce with Spinach and Cheese Ravioli, Crunchy Cocoa Cookies for dessert, wine
Carrot Sweet Potato Soup with leftover Spinach and Cheese Ravioli, toasted Turkish bread with butter and farm honey, Salted Dark Chocolate for dessert, wine
Cheddar and onion potato chips, roasted thyme hazelnuts, dried cranberries, new season apples, toasted sunflower seeds with salt and pepper, toasted pumpkin seeds with cumin and sea salt
After getting a clear picture of what I needed most, I then chose a place that met those requirements: Bunya Mountains National Park in Queensland, Australia. Only a 2-hour drive from our little farm, it is a wondrous place of dense rainforest, stunning mountain vistas, and cool, fresh air that restores body and soul.
Once I knew where I was going and why, it was easy to collect the things I needed. I couldn’t stop grinning when I found a beautiful tent that just happened to look exactly like the tent I’d sketched in my Dream Drawing days earlier. I nabbed discounted art supplies at Aldi and received a box of tea from Plum Deluxe that just happened to have Gratitude Blend strawberry Earl Grey in it. That made me smile, too.
Camping Gear List for One
- 4-man tent with tarp in case of rain
- Matches (in a sealed plastic bag)
- hammer for tent pegs (I use extra strong steel pegs so my tent is always secure)
- folding table
- folding chairs
- foam mattress
- sleeping bag and pillow and a lap blanket for coziness purposes
- woven rug for floor of tent
- multi-purpose pot
- kettle for cuppas
- bowl, plate, wine glass, coffee cup, cutlery
- cutting board
- cooler with frozen water bottles and fresh food
- walking stick and large knife for forest walks and protection
- cameras and phone cameras
- hats, sunscreen, bug spray
- First Aid kit
- clothing and toiletries
When my little car was packed to the brim and hubby had been soundly hugged and kissed, I set off on my solitary adventure. Initially, I was afraid to be out there by myself, but as I stopped to hike along the way, I met other women, elderly women, hiking alone, too. They beamed at me without a shred of fear, simply exploring and enjoying the wilderness they loved, trusting that all would be well. They were such bright lights to me, and their courage quieted my fears.
I set up my happy little camp, lingered over a scrumptious dinner, and that night practiced bedtime rituals for mindful sleeping and slept like a log without a twinge of fear.
Over the next few days I hiked and took naps and read books and wrote and drew and explored alone, and absolutely loved it. I woke early every morning and sat outside with my cuppa, journal, and sketchbook, watching the sun rise over the mountains as I sipped and wrote and drew and felt like I was alone in this magical place as the rest of the campground slept on.
On every walk or hike I took my camera and sketchbook, stopping wherever took my fancy to record the things that delighted me — from tiny flowers and brilliant berries to wallabies grazing in the bushes and bush turkeys running down the trail.
Evenings were dedicated to relaxation. I always made dinner early while it was still light, then lingered long with a glass of wine or a cup of tea, reading by lamplight and listening to my elderly neighbors play guitar and sing old Beatles songs.
By the end of my trip I was rested and refreshed, my thoughts quieted and emotions leveled. I returned home excited about the future, with fun projects planned and a deeper courage and strength to embrace this crazy, wonderful life I’ve been given.
How to Feel Safe on a Solo Camping Retreat
Be Prepared. Fear increases when you’re unprepared. Bring extra water, food, batteries, blankets, and a tarp. That way, no matter what happens, you’re always hydrated, fed, dry, warm, and have light and shelter.
Choose a family-friendly campground with cell phone service. You will feel safer with families around, and the ability to make phone calls will add to your sense of security.
Bring a walking stick and a large knife. These both aid in trekking through the woods and give you something to defend yourself with.
Bring something to do. Make your tent an oasis, a happy place of relaxation and enjoyment. Sometimes bad weather, or fear and anxiety, may keep you in your tent, so make it a happy place with books or art supplies or handiwork.
Reach out to other campers and introduce yourself to the park ranger. Campers naturally look out for each other. By connecting with the elderly couple to your right or the young family across the road, you’ll know that your stuff will be looked after and you’ll have someone to turn to if your tent falls down in the rain or you forget matches.
Research. While camping is the main purpose of your trip, you can also add adventure or exploration to the list. Research interesting things in the area such as waterfalls to hike to, historic sites to visit, or beautiful lakes where you can rent a canoe and paddle out to watch the sunrise.