By Hans de Boer
So, there I was, standing. Utterly alone. In the midst of the beautiful nature of the Abruzzo mountains in Italy. That, at least, was something. But still, quite ‘alone’. (As it turned out later, when it got dark, I was not that alone. But more on that later.)
Why was I there? Part of the ‘Wilderness Leadership Transformation Program‘, by the FOUNDATION FOR NATURAL LEADERSHIP, was a so-called ’24-hour Solo’. A period of time alone. By yourself, for 24 hours. And that Solo had now begun, on October 27, 2021.
Well, what do you do with yourself for 24 hours? I actually didn’t know. No watch, no mobile phone. How do you manage that?! I looked around and sat down on a large stone. After a while, I took out my Foundation notebook from my backpack and began to write. I never kept a diary. Then I started writing in one. And I wrote pages and pages.
As I sat there, writing, the rhythm of nature subtly carried me along. The position of the sun brought something new every moment. And I wrote it all down. Until it got dark. In late October, that’s early, as you know. But naturally, I felt it was time to end the day. Nature did its work.
Sometime during the night, I woke up. The moon was shining, and I could clearly see the surroundings from under my tent tarp. And there they were, no more than 30 meters away from me. A herd of about 10-12 deer. I not only heard them snorting, but I also smelled them! They were unaware of my presence and continued to graze calmly. After a while, they left. So, you’re not as alone in nature as you sometimes think…
Those 24 hours flew by. I would have liked to stay longer in that forest. But on the other hand, I also longed to rejoin my fellow travelers. I was curious about how they had experienced their solitude. And after sitting for a while halfway between my bivouac and the cabin, our base that week, in the sun and soaking in the golden-yellow illuminated mountains around me, I walked back to the cabin in one go. Eager to share my ‘wow’ experience with the others!
Recently, I read the research by Virginia Thomas on the positive effects of voluntary solitude: “Solitude Skills and the Private Self” (2023). Thomas emphasizes these positive effects in her research. She advocates for occasionally scheduling what she calls a ‘Solitude Date’ for yourself.
The Solo with the Foundation was such a ‘Solitude Date’ for me. Solo, yet together with fellow travelers, each having their own solo moment. Sharing experiences afterwards added extra depth to the experience. I must say, I enjoyed it tremendously!