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The Timeless Isolation of Wilderness Solos

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 27, 2020

For The Guardian, Mark O’Connell writes about experiencing something called a wilderness solo. The basic idea is that you go alone into the woods and spend 24+ hours, usually without food, in a small area doing essentially nothing but being there.

When you’re actually in it, the reality of the solo is, at least at first, one of total boredom. I cannot stress enough how little there is to do when you have confined yourself to the inside of a small circle of stones and sticks in a forest. But it is an instructive kind of boredom, insofar as boredom is the raw and unmediated experience of time. It is considered best practice not to have a watch, and to turn off your phone and keep it somewhere in the bottom of a bag so as to avoid the temptation to constantly check how long you’ve been out and how long you have left. And as you become untethered from your accustomed orientation in time — from always knowing what time it is, how long you have to do the thing you’re doing, when you have to stop doing it to do the next thing — you begin to glimpse a new perspective on the anxiety that arises from that orientation. Because this anxiety, which amounts to a sort of cost-benefit analysis of every passing moment, is a quintessentially modern predicament.

See also Outward Bound’s “Solo” experiences.