*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Travels as a misanthrope

This is another rescued post from something I left on a hard-drive.

I have a list of planned journeys taller than my piles of maps and guidebooks.  I plan to sail the length of Superior and Georgian Bay; cycle Gaspé, the Cabot Trail and Newfoundland; paddle any number of Shield and Tundra rivers; and hike the length of the Japanese Alps.  Very little of this happens.

I chose teaching in part for the time it gives me, but the shame of it is none of my friends have the time or inclination to join me.  I love my fiancée despite the fact she won’t spend more than two nights in a tent.  My secret shame is that I am too needy for company to go solo.

Oh, I have done solo trips.  I have paddled on Georgian Bay, in Algonquin, cycle-toured Ontario, and hiked in Japan and the Adirondacks.  To be modest, these have not been much longer than my fiancée will spend in a tent.  Then again, even short solo trips tend to be dramatic.  It’s more exciting alone to be in high waves, chased by a dog, or fall into various dangers.  Stupidity is a better story after the fact.

Most people go squirrelly alone.  History abounds with ‘Mad Trappers’ and other desperate souls.  There is much to be gained by solitude, but once you’ve done it, you realise how daunting it is.  Everyone ought to make a solo trip, but they should do it ignorant.  It’s too late for my ignorance, so this summer I did not paddle a week on Georgian Bay, cycle the Gaspé, and last year was no better.

It’s taken me some time to realise I need company, which means I’m a little thick, but that is the least of my faults.  There is a reason I don’t get company.  It might be that I’m a son-of-a-bitch.  It can be a good thing to be a son-of-a-bitch.  Your friends may even appreciate that you are a son-of-a-bitch.  But it doesn't mean they want to go, again, on a trip with a son-of-a-bitch.

A son-of-a-bitch can put out a fire, on two occasions, when the person responsible is frozen in panic.  A son-of-a-bitch will get camp set-up and warm food into people in a thunderstorm.  A son-of-a-bitch keeps an eye out for other paddlers in two meter waves, and doesn't back down when anyone wants to make the same mistake the next day.  A son-of-a-bitch has forced his delirious friend into dry clothes and a sleeping bag when showing signs of hypothermia.  However, my friends are still friends, but oddly busy on long weekends.

I could work on my expedition inter-personal skills, but I don’t know how to separate my gruffness from my diligence, and I am too smug about my friends' continued survival, due to nothing on their part and entirely on mine.  I will ask readers one thing: please remember what a son-of-a-bitch has done for you.


  1. I've never been a fan of nature. But then, I grew up in Australia where nature is a total bitch and out to get you. I've been camping a few times but with friends who have all the mod cons short of a generator. It's still pretty scary to think that the only thing between you and every kind of danger at night is a thin bit of fabric.

    Is the fiancée you talk about the current wife or another woman altogether?

    1. She's the same, god help her: "This is another rescued post from something I left on a hard-drive."

      'Australia is out to kill you' is a meme indeed.

      We have bears, but I don't worry, because we also hunt them (I don't): keeps them honest. So long as you're not stupid enough to keep food in your tent, they'll go to your food: you hang it in a tree or put it in a bear resistant container. Far more dangerous to drive anywhere than to do anything there.

  2. Bonafide son-of-a-bitch here as well. I was needier about ten years ago, but after going into a forced period of extended isolation (not institutional), I came through still a son-of-a-bitch, but needing to be alone most of the time. Since then, I've traveled almost exclusively alone. Unfortunately, my social skills have suffered quite a lot. I'm still human, meaning I feel the need to be appreciated, but I've given up on it. I wish I could say that I'm happy enough just doing what I do and living a "my way" kind of life, but the truth is that it would be nice to have a bit more validation in my life. However, it's not worth the compromises that need to be made in order to get it. I've settled for staying busy and trying not to have too much contemplation time...

    1. Every son-of-a-bitch is an existentialist, whether they are correct in their intransigence or not. The existentialism is of the, 'I'm clearly talking more sense than your shit, no matter how unpopular that makes me, and my integrity is something I own, rather than external validation from the likes of you'.

  3. I love nature and really wish the step-son wasn't such a pansy. It's more torture for me to take him out of the house than for me to sleep on an ant hill. I didn't have a dad to teach me camping and my mom had 5 other kids to worry about wanting to tempt her sanity with a camping trip. But when I got old enough to strike out on my own I sure did. Still in my early teens I took off on 2 over nighters not knowing jack shit except for, well jack shit except the will to keep going when cold and wet or dehydrated and hot. I learned to better prepare for a few more trips solo and with drunk work friends. Then I hit the dark ages when I was married the first time. More recently, I met my current husband with not enough time but to enjoy one camping trip before his son showed up. We married fairly quickly for most of our likes are common including nature. Unfortunately I think the hubs and I would be hard pressed not to leave his progeny to fend for himself for lack of motivation and crummy attitude. I should blog about some of those stupidly teen fueled camping trips.