Every once in a while, communing with yourself is just what the doctor ordered. It's an opportunity to go it alone, at your own pace, without having to compromise on the menu or the schedule. It's also a chance to get to know yourself better, to discover your strengths, and – why not – to push your limits a little.

Be careful! This doesn’t mean jumping into the void, being reckless, or looking for trouble, but rather exploring new horizons by consulting your inner compass. How? By respecting your own rhythm and preparing yourself carefully, as you would when spoiling someone you love. Except that this time, it's all about spoiling yourself.    

From small to large adventures, here are a few suggestions for a great breath of fresh air on your very own.

Auberge de montagne des Chic-Chocs Auberge de montagne des Chic-Chocs
Auberge de montagne des Chic-Chocs © Sépaq

1. To take a breather: walk the trails for a day

Isabelle has always loved the mountains, but she had never ventured out alone. That was until her life and hiking partner broke his shin last fall, a few days before an outing in the Eastern Townships. The young woman hesitated at first to go alone, but, encouraged by her crutched lover, she finally packed her rucksack and headed to Parc national du Mont-Orford... to live a completely different experience. "I had already explored des Crêtes trail with Jonathan, but this time I saw and felt it differently. I had no one to talk to, so all my attention was on nature: the smell of the wet earth, the birds singing, the temperature of the air changing with the altitude. Even my sandwich had a whole new taste when I took a break at Pic de l’Ours! I took a picture for my boyfriend and told myself that even though I love hiking with him, I had just discovered that it was good to hike alone too. And that with a minimum of preparation, I had nothing to fear. It gave me a little hit of pride and confidence.”    

Want to give it a try it? National parks are great places to go it alone: the maps and signs are clear; the trails are well marked; and the staff can suggest circuits just for you. Here are some suggestions for what to pack in your rucksack.

2. To reconnect with yourself: take a long hike and spend the night in a hut

To go a step further, why not continue hiking for a few days? As you hike along a hut-lined trail, nature will be a sight for sore eyes – and a source for sore legs –  during the day. Then you can stop for the night in all simplicity: without TV or electricity, but with four walls, a mattress, and a warm wood stove!

In non-pandemic times, huts are also great places to meet people. Often communal, they allow you to get to know other outdoor enthusiasts. This is what happened to Philippe during a long hike in Parc national de la Gaspésie. Planned as a solo outing, the expedition ended up being a two-person affair. And since then, the couple has continued their journey together in everyday life...

Before exploring more remote territories, take the time to plan your itinerary and share it with a loved one, a precaution that preserves everyone's peace of mind. Also, make room in your baggage for a first aid kit, which is very useful when you have only yourself to rely on.

3. To enjoy the soothing properties of water: explore a lake by kayak

Gliding along the water is a great way to leave your worries behind. Even if you have to paddle harder to move forward, you don't have to synchronize your movements with the thrusts of any teammate. You can walk along the shoreline and observe the variations in vegetation; count how many seconds a duck can stay underwater after diving (and try to guess where it will emerge); explore the meanders of a river; come ashore for a bite to eat... and do so much more. In a kayak, in a canoe, or on a paddleboard, each stroke of the oar or paddle has a calming effect on the mind.

No watercraft? No problem! You can rent one at a number of Sépaq establishments. Before heading out on the water, don't forget to put on a life jacket, observe the direction and strength of the current, and identify landmarks so you can easily find your home port.

Parc national d'Oka
Parc national d'Oka © Sépaq
Auberge de montagne des Chic-Chocs
Auberge de montagne des Chic-Chocs © Sépaq
Réserve faunique des Chic-Chocs
Réserve faunique des Chic-Chocs Mathieu Lachapelle | © Sépaq
Parc national d'Oka
Parc national d'Oka © Sépaq

4. To clear your mind and get back to basics: escape at a ready-to-camp

A ready-to-camp is the best of three worlds, offering closeness to nature, comfort, and peace of mind. Available at almost all Sépaq destinations, this formula lets you enjoy the pleasures of camping without having to gear up. There's even a space heater if the nights are chilly. All you have to do is stop by the caterer to pick out your favourite dishes, throw your sleeping bag in the trunk of your car, and off you go for a stay under the trees, with the wind in the leaves and the chirping of the birds as the only background music!

5. To make time stand still: devour a good book in front of a cabin fire

Outdoor activities are all well and good. But sometimes you just need some rest and relaxation. Like Mélanie. Once a year, this mother of four rents a small cabin and goes into the woods to find herself. "For 48 hours, I just think about myself: I eat when I'm hungry; I get up at the time I want; and I enjoy the silence. It does me a world of good!” Her ritual also includes a stop at the bookstore to pick out a fine novel, which she then devours without interruption. "I move from my bed to the gallery, then to the sofa, in front of a nice fire when it's cooler. If it's raining, so much the better: no guilt about staying in my pajamas all day long! Anyway, when I look up from my book to look out the window, it's always beautiful, no matter the weather.”

6. To recharge your batteries: let yourself be pampered at a lodge or hotel

The great thing about a lodge or hotel getaway is that there's nothing to organize. You can sleep in, order a picnic lunch to go, head off for a hike, and then feast while enjoying a breathtaking view. Then come back for a nap, enjoy a gourmet dinner featuring fine local products, and take a nice hot bath before slipping under the duvet to catch up on lost sleep.

Gîte du Mont-Albert, Auberge Duchesnay, and Auberge de montagne des Chic-Chocs are three great destinations where you’ll be treated with tender loving care. Are you intimidated by the idea of dining alone? Well, keep your eyes peeled; there are probably other solo pilots. This is your chance to strike up a conversation, eat mindfully while savouring every bite, or read at the table without seeming rude.

Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier Mikaël Rondeau | © Sépaq
Auberge de montagne des Chic-Chocs
Auberge de montagne des Chic-Chocs © Sépaq
Parc national du Mont-Tremblant
Parc national du Mont-Tremblant © Sépaq
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier Mikaël Rondeau | © Sépaq

Science has shown that spending time with yourself has many benefits (especially when you resist the urge to answer your emails or log on to social media): reduced stress; increased self-confidence, concentration, and creativity; more meaningful experiences; better relationships with others... and the list goes on! The secret is to be well prepared and to go step by step.

So the next time that little inner voice whispers that you want to go solo, don’t hush it up. You’re getting a darn good piece of advice!

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