Person A: “Are you going to hike next year?”
Person B: “No, being out there all by myself for so long earlier this year gave me perspective on things. Like I told you before, happiness is only real when shared… Going out there all by myself just doesn’t do it for me anymore. It just feels worthless.”
Some long distance hikers have a hard time hiking alone because it invokes feelings of loneliness. Feeling lonely is depressing. You might want to ask yourself what is the cause of your loneliness? For Person B, feeling lonely is correlated with their belief that happiness is only real when shared. That’s what Christopher McCandless wrote before he died in the Alaskan wilderness, after spending several days in solitude. Mind you, he wrote that knowing he’d never see another human being again.
If you take what he says literally, it makes no sense; for example, when I think to myself “I am happy,” that proposition is true and it exists. I don’t need to share it with someone else for it to be real.
Perhaps what he said can be interpreted as: A person cannot truly be happy without interpersonal relationships. I can imagine a life where only I exist, and that life lacks love and friendship; things that contribute to happiness. When I embark on a long distance hike alone, I expect to return to my interpersonal relationships where I experience love and friendship and so, my happiness remains static. It’s not as if I have lost these things when I don’t have them in every moment of my life. Perhaps someone who lacks love and friendship in their normal life, will feel less fulfilled by hiking alone.
While I think love and friendship are necessary components to total happiness, they aren’t sufficient. Other things like having good health, and living in a stable economy also contribute to happiness. Another thing which contributes to happiness is freedom to be autonomous, and hiking alone is a good example of that.
Hiking with others does not guarantee happiness. I have found that attachments are maintained only at the cost of great personal compromise. When I hike, my happiness is measured by how much freedom I have to decide on things like how far I want to go, how fast, when I want to take a break and for how long, etc. It is very difficult to find someone who wants to hike the same way as you.
So why do I hike alone? Because I am truly free. When I am free I feel happy.