I come back to the issue, the subject, the feelings of fear. I have written with great passion about fear. In particular, fear as it pertains to being a woman, traveling, and living alone. I am asked all the time about fear. I am questioned about my lifestyle choice and mostly folks are surprised.
It came up again the other night in a different way. Fear reared its ugly head. This time, I felt afraid. I did not feel strong and powerful. I felt small and alone. I was at my free camp in Missouri. This was a forest service site, clearly marked, paved road, about two miles off a gorgeous roller-coaster-like backroad highway. There were about 6 or 7 sites near a lake. There were clearly indicated sites, vault toilet, picnic tables and fire ring. Pretty nice for free. No ranger or person patrolling and plenty of locals in the area. I had seen folks shopping the sites, one family had a picnic, and others on their way to a fishing spot. I got there mid-week and stayed the weekend, knowing that every other place around was booked up. The sites got shopped hard and I ended up talking to some interesting folks.
The weekend passed and Sunday night arrived. It was just me and another camper who was also there when I arrived. This person was gone for the evening. I was alone. Then, out of nowhere, I felt afraid. I felt very small and exposed and vulnerable. I was scared! Every sound and every noise presented a threat and I was too nervous to even walk to the vault toilet, opting instead for a LNT event near my tent. Well, this was new! All my talk about fear and telling it to fuck off and here I was, in the woods, in my happy place, scared. I felt afraid.
I took the time to stop myself, not let my emotions get away with me, and check in on these feelings. I felt alone, small, vulnerable. That was where this fear came from. I felt like the huge world was all around me and I was just a grain of sand on the beach. I felt exposed. I mean, to what or to whom, that was a mystery. I felt powerless out of control, and out of my element. Regardless of the source, I was afraid.
The other camper came back later and I felt better. I guess I no longer felt so alone. I did not know this guy, but we cordially waved as we made eye contact in passing, as one does in a camping situation. I was not afraid of him or his friends who came to visit. Nope, not me. I was afraid when I was alone.
I have had this feeling before while camping. I have been totally alone and isolated, by choice, and then the vulnerability and “smallness” hits me and I get scared. That feeling of being exposed washes over me. My nerves tingle and I am on high alert. I hear things that were just in the background before. I go into safety overdrive, and then I just feel scared and helpless. I feel afraid.
So, there I stood at my campsite with all these feelings. Let me tell you it was a long night! I never quite shook the feelings of fear and vulnerability. It was also fall and I was deep in the woods where leaves were letting go all the time. During the day, they fell like masses of yellow snowflakes. I could smell them drying. At night, however, these leaves and sticks hit like I was under attack. This has been going on for days, and yet, now it was like I never heard any of this before. It seemed that I woke up each time a leaf or stick hit my totes outside. I shined my flashlight, thinking it was an opossum or raccoon, but there were none insight. Fear was keeping me from my slumber.
In the end, the fear was all in my imagination. I was at the same site for days, with no change in the conditions. I had zero incidents and had a couple nice conversations with neighbors. My fear was literally all in my head. My fear was what movies and books and TV shows are made it. My fear is what society says I should be in this situation. My fear was of things that had not happened. My fear was imaginary.
My fear was also the unknown. I am traveling down in the South. The REAL South, with heavy accents and small towns and rolling hills and farms. This is also the land of Trump supporters, Dixie Flags, dilapidated dwellings and Baptist churches. This also makes me nervous. This makes me on guard. Not afraid, per se, but alert, concerned. These expressions, to me, represent hate and oppression and racism and sexism and a disregard for the lives of anyone who is not an Anglo Saxon God FEARING southern talking man. What if I broke down and a truck – and it would be truck – pulled up with a Dixie flag out the back and TRUMP poster in the front? I would be afraid. Fear would be the first emotion I would have.
There is always the chance of a threat while on the road. I have prepared for this as best I can. I do not make up stories of a boyfriend or partner and I refuse to carry extra supplies to make it look like anyone else is here. I do not always shout it from the mountain tops, but when asked, I proudly state that I am, indeed, alone. I try to be smart and aware and mindful no matter where I camp or how populated it is. I carry my firearm when and where legal and run through self-defense and Jujitsu moves in my head. I envision scenarios and try to practice my response. I am aware and work hard not to let fear or the unknown run this show.
My next camp was in a populated and patrolled state park. It was nice and that shower… man, that was a treat!! Even so, I broke the rules to keep my gun in my tent and at the ready. This place was exponentially noisier, more populated, and chock full of luxury camping set-ups. I never felt alone or vulnerable or “afraid”. I was on guard, kept things locked up, and always aware of who belonged and who did not. But, fear did not live here like it did out in the woods. I was not alone or exposed.
In the end, fear was my active imagination. Fear was my feeling of being alone and being vulnerable. Fear brought me negative stereotypes and assumptions. Fear was uncalled for and not necessary. Fear is what separates us and fear is what will break us down.