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Q&A | “How do you feel safe walking alone?”

This one is a summary of something multiple people have asked me when I mention my solo walks on the trails in the woods.

How do you feel comfortable walking alone? I feel nervous about it from a safety perspective.

A wooded walking path.

First, a caveat: everyone has to figure out their own comfort level with personal safety. I’m going to share my perspective, but I am describing it, not prescribing it for you.

Here’s how I think about this.

Walking is very, very good for me

Going out for walks by myself is a serious boon for my sanity.

Dilapidated wooden bridge in the woods.

Especially in those earlier months after I left my house, I could not manage to think about lifting weights or doing any sort of formal workout.

But I could throw on my shoes and walk, so that’s what I did. I’ve logged hundreds upon hundreds of walking miles since I left my house in January, and I really don’t know how my mental state would be if I hadn’t done that.

I’m somewhere near 97% sure that I’d be in way worse shape without this near-daily activity.

I don’t have someone to walk with!

Wild daisies under a blue sky.

Obviously, if you have someone to walk with, then that solves any solo-walking worries that you have.

But I do not currently have someone in my life who is willing and available to walk 100+ miles with me every month. So, if I refused to walk alone, I would just be refusing to walk.

I’m not making obviously risky walking choices

wet log with fungus on it.

It’s not like I’m walking in a sketchy area of a city at nighttime. I’m walking in daylight hours, in predictably safe areas.

The odds are good that a stranger is not going to hurt me

I assume that most women are afraid of sexual assault if they walk alone, but the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by non-strangers.

This is also true of stalking, physical assault, and even murder (do a Google search and see for yourself).

green moss around a tree.

Do strangers sometimes brutally attack women? Yes. But this is the exception, not the rule.

Americans tend to walk around in fear of something that’s not very likely (stranger assault), and we tend to not be afraid of the thing that IS more likely (that someone we know will hurt us.)

This is not particularly logical, and it reminds me of people who are too afraid to fly, but who regularly get into a car!

a stream in the woods.

Just because something feels more dangerous, that doesn’t mean it actually is more dangerous.

The “safe” choice carries risks too

Let’s say you refuse to fly anywhere because you are afraid of dying in a plane crash. Then you can be sure that you will not be the one in five million that dies in a plane crash (See this Newsweek article).

It also means you are 100% guaranteed to be limited in where you can go. Your world will necessarily be smaller. And if you are chill with that, then that’s all well and good.

A path through the woods on a sunny morning.

But considering that the risk of dying in a plane crash is so, so small, I’m willing to hop on a plane. I’ll take the tiny risk of dying over the guaranteed risk of having a smaller world.

In a similar way, if I refuse to walk alone, I can be 100% sure that I will not be assaulted by a stranger on a wooded path.

But then I also am 100% sure that I will miss out on the myriad benefits of walking in nature. To me, that doesn’t make sense, given that the odds of being assaulted by a stranger are pretty low.

A path in the woods.

To take it to an extreme, you could stay huddled in your house all the time to be sure you avoid all the risks out there in the world.

But then you wouldn’t see people, you wouldn’t see the world, you’d never have adventures, you’d probably be sedentary, you’d never get the benefits of being out in nature, and you’d probably end up in pretty bad mental and physical shape.

a field under a blue sky.

So. I personally am happy to take on low-risk activities that offer clear benefits.

And walking in the woods falls into that category for me.

If you are nervous, but you still want to walk…

You could always try something that feels a little safer.

a neighborhood road at sunset.

You could walk on your neighborhood streets.

You could carry pepper spray.

You could turn on your location tracking and share it with a friend or family member while you walk.

You could walk on a local track (maybe at a local school or college).

And you could also arm yourself with the hard facts about the odds of getting hurt. You may still decide that you don’t want to walk alone, but at least that way you can make an informed decision based on reality rather than just perception.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Do you walk alone? And how do you balance risk and benefit when it comes to safety?

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Monday 5th of September 2022

I'm Dutch, and I walk in the woods three times a week. I walk alone because I want to calm down, organize my thoughts, etc. Very often people ask: aren't you afraid. Not really. But I always choose a time that feels safe to me. For example, early in the morning.

I also carry pepper spray with me (which is actually forbidden in The Netherlands) and a pocket knife. That's enough for me. It's so nice to walk. And I can always send my location to my hubby or sons, if things go wrong. The Netherlands is a small country. No bears. Some wolves here and there.

I enjoyed your post, Kristen. Thanks for it.


Monday 5th of September 2022

I used to walk alone. Now my family won’t let me (unless I sneak out). I fell in 2020 when I stepped on a cherry. I broke my shoulder when I fell and ended up with a reverse shoulder. Recently I had a hip replacement so I am able to walk better than I have in a couple of years. It is suspected that I damaged my hip in the same fall but the shoulder was more demanding. I never leave home without my phone. Heck I never walk around the house without my phone. I have walked thousands of miles and am hoping that now I can walk a few thousand more. But alone probably not. But that is what happens when you hit your 7th decade. I used to walk around my city with no fear but in the last couple of years the environment has changed and now a walk takes me by many homeless groups. They generally accost whoever walks by looking for handouts so walking up to the closest walking nature paths has become iffy. Now to get there I am driving to a different safer location. I have always loved walking and have missed it.


Saturday 27th of August 2022

I read this post when it came out a few days ago. It motivated me to walk on trails today instead of on my neighborhood streets. It was so nice and cool and a welcome change. Thanks for the motivation.


Saturday 27th of August 2022

Yay! I'm so glad. And you are right; the woods are often cooler than the streets in the summer.

Trish H

Friday 26th of August 2022

I need to walk alone for my sanity. I use this time for thinking, praying, praising the Lord, meditation. I often find myself in the woods or other areas, but it’s not far from our home. I feel safe.


Thursday 25th of August 2022

I, and my wife, walk all the time alone. She more often than me out on remote hills and mountains, but either of us locally in woods and fields etc. Usually we have a dog or two but we figure it’s too much effort for the Bad Guys to climb a mountain to first find you and then assault you when they can hang out in the city much more easily.

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