I don’t remember how I originally came across the link to Klara Harden‘s record of her solo trek through Iceland, so unfortunately I can’t properly credit that lead. I saw it around the time she first posted it so there was probably some interweb buzz. And rightfully so. This video has stuck with me. It’s incredibly well done, but more importantly, it makes me feel like I can do whatever the hell I want on my own and it will be totally fine.
This was brought to the surface in my brain again recently because I saw the film Tracks, which is based on Robyn Davidson’s memoir about walking across the Australian Outback from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean with her dog and four camels. Occasionally joined by a National Geographic photographer, but mostly alone. It is FANTASTIC. The actual book is now on my list because I want to read the non-film-ified story. But movie version or not, hearing these stories about women is refreshing because it’s so much more common to see films or read books about men going off by themselves into the big bad world. And these two stories are very different, but they’re GOOD. There’s a lot of truth without bravado.
The world needs more stories like these because the world – unfortunately – often needs to be reminded that women are just as capable as men of having these adventures on their own. We’re all just humans. We can take care of ourselves. We can handle nature and we can do it alone if we want to.
Happily, we’ve got another story like this coming our way. Cheryl Strayed’s (excellent) memoir Wild, about hiking the Pacific Coast Trail alone, has been made into a film. In a recent interview, Reese Witherspoon said:
I’ve never seen a film like Wild where the woman ends up with no man, no money, no family, no opportunity, but she still has a happy ending.
And I don’t think that’s to say they don’t exist, but they are few and far between, and SO MANY PEOPLE haven’t regularly seen stories like that.
I’m lucky in that no one ever really TOLD me I couldn’t do something because of my gender. (My family is great.) But when you’re a kid, you pick up on what’s generally accepted in society for girls without anyone having to spell it out for you. Even if you decide to rail against that, it hangs in the air around you. It’s exhausting enough to do the work required to take your own adventure. The feeling that you’re fighting the expectations of an entire society at the same time just make it that bit more of a slog.
Women certainly face slightly more challenging circumstances in solo travel than men. It’s unfortunate but we have to be a little more careful in general, of the public – of men in particular – and differing cultural expectations. And maybe we always will. But letting the world use that as an excuse or a reason to tell us we shouldn’t do something is frustrating and self-perpetuating. By showing more stories of women navigating extraordinary journeys on their own and for their own reasons, we help create a world where people see that as just fine because they see it working. And, importantly, working independently. Not in relation to a man.
I don’t know if I’ll ever walk and camp my way through Iceland or somewhere equally amazing by myself, but these stories make me want to. And they remind me that I can.