When I hike alone I am truly free

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.

10 thoughts on “When I hike alone I am truly free”

  1. I love hiking alone. I don’t like when I am asked if I am hiking alone, like there is something wrong with it. Coming down from an early overnight on Church earlier this year I ran into a group of people who asked just that, I asked them if they would ask a man that…Hiking alone gives me time to work through my thoughts, to enjoy being where I am without distraction. I feel like I am doing just what I need to be doing, that I am strong enough and fast enough, that I am enough.

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  2. Hikerbox and I have to compromise a lot when we hike together. he has to take longer breaks, spends more time waiting for me, does fewer miles, etc. I have to actually think about my pace instead of just lollygagging down the trail, and I don’t get to spend nearly as much time lying in the sun reading books as I would like. we struck a nice balance though, I get to spend our whole lunch break reading, and usually read a bit at camp, and when it’s a hard day he’s learned to just let me read in peace at night, which is nice. I still want to do something solo that’s more than 3-4 days though!!

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  3. As a man that does a lot of solo hiking I can tell you that I get the same questions. As much as I value the time when I have hiked with friends or family I really enjoy just spending time in my own head. I am very comfortable there

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  4. When hiking with others I find myself spending much of my time absorbed in conversation or in maintaining pace. When solo I’m absorbed in the environment. I’m so much more aware and alive.

    I enjoy both. The only time I feel lonely is when I’m camped near others who are not solo nor inclusive.

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  5. I hike alone for more than one reason: For one I find it easier to get organized and thus I don’t have to get into any conflicts other than inner ones, but that’s another story. Furthermore, I am very aware of what happens when I find myself alone in the wilderness, like the conversations between me and fear, doubt, elation and the tiny little rational me who’s always lurking somewhere near. These conversations have a way to make me feel alive. So yes, I agree, I go alone because it makes me feel free. There are truths about the saying that good things are better shared but really the fact we know they never fully will be gives meaning to the uniqueness of an experience.

    Happy new year to you!

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