Walking alone. Just hearing this is frightening… No need to try and deny it, I can see you shivering and sweating bullets on your keyboard! One can always find a whole lot of good reasons no to walk alone. Yet, solitary travel is an incredibly rich experience. As for myself, I looooove to walk alone! Luckily enough for me, because I started each Way of mine started solo!
Walk alone, something absolutely worth trying. Even for a few kilometers only (or a few hours, for the bravest ones!). And to convince you to give it a try, here’s a list of 5 fears that keep you in a pack, followed by 5 reasons to get over it and leave your mates!
No 1: “But… I’d risk my neck if I were to walk alone!”
Alright, zero risk doesn’t exist. But let’s be honest and realistic: the truth is, zero risk doesn’t exist at all! The world has never been a safe place and incidentally, living neither. Anything can happen anywhere, but the relative safety in our countries tends to make us forget about it. Of course, given the tragic events that come one after another these years, this isn’t so true anymore… But, despite terrorism, France and Spain still are safer countries than Syria or Colombia and their country-sides still are peaceful. Let’s knock on wood and scallops to make this peace last long!
Then, of course, traveling solo means taking a chance. But not a bigger one than traveling in general or getting out of your house. Traveling alone means to be entirely responsible of whatever happens, bad or good. The solitary traveler is a lucid and thoughtful person, who acts with conscience and caution: he prevents trouble and accidents. And when trouble comes anyways, he already anticipated solutions and knows how to deal with it. (In general, with calm.)
Finally, Saint James’ routes are preserved and if an accident can always happen, walking is a low-risk activity. Two very good reasons to believe wise pilgrims are not in mortal danger on the Camino. Add a third one: Saint James reallly is watching over us!
Your neck is quite safe on the Way. If you’re reckless, prefer rough areas like the sea ice, war zones or favelas by night.
No 2: “But if something still happens to me, I’ll perish alone and forgotten…“
To end up surviving in extreme environment and dying away from civilization is the solitary traveler’s nightmare. That being said and unless one is audacious, looks for trouble or is literally cursed, it truly is really really really really (… should I keep going?) unlikely to happen on the Way!
The routes are quite safe: dangerous sections are rare, known and pointed out. In general, they are situated in the mountains or along the roads. Pilgrims are warned about it before they reach them, by guide-books, locals and signs. As for dying in an remote wild area, it necessarily implies a wild area and wide isolation… Despite the many amazing bits of preserved wilderness, such places don’t quite exist anymore in France or Spain. Civilization is everywhere, shrinking remote areas to almost nothing. Moreover, the Way is more and more popular. The main paths are even so (over)populated that such inconveniences are totally impossible during the high season. Tricky sections are under close surveillance and extended isolation is non-existent.
Again, the solitary traveler is thoughtful and anticipates trouble. But when something happens to him on a Saint James, he knows that most of the time, he’ll get help with the pilgrims who will arrive before long.
And then, seriously, who is still traveling without a cell-phone? I never met a completely disconnected pilgrim on the Way. And even this kind of person would be able to borrow one from the first pilgrim passing by and have enough signal to call for help, even if in the middle of nowhere.
On the Way, you are never alone enough to die by yourself if something happens. To achieve this kind of goal, prefer Alaska. Or Siberia. Sahara, the Amazon rain-forest, the North Pole! Well, elsewhere than the Camino!
No 3: “But I’m a woman, a weak and fragile prey in this ruthless world…”
you us! Obviously, the weaker sex should better stay safely at home! I can already hear everyone booing me… Alright, I’m making a provocative statement here and I admit in our societies, women have a quite free and enjoyable life. Still! If women who travel sola are much admired and men who do the same are not, it’s because people essentially see women elsewhere than on the road. One must be blind (or a man?) to think gender equality exists. Inequalities are less evident in westernized countries, but undermining-dynamics are in fact more insidious there. I’m not a feminist or even bitter, but I stopped counting women I met who really had imprinted within this concept of weaker sex … And you, do you believe in it? Do you really think you’re less able than a man? Will you let an archaic concept define who you are?
Men and women are different, it’s a fact and it’s for the best. We complete each other, but in substance, we are the same: if the world is harsh, it is harsh for all of us. Men too sometimes have a cold sweat when they get out of their houses! Their advantage is that for now, male values prevail: no wonder they have an easier time!
So, if you hope to get permission to act according to your idea in a world where men’s rule is might, you can always wait. A man who travels around the world is an adventurer, a woman who does the same is reckless. Please also note that, whatever is being said, the world also belongs to women. Feminists and female adventurer from the past gained their rights and the respect of the world by being quite pig-headed. Kiss your principles goodbye, forget about gossips and hit the road to enjoy the wold: the world will enjoy the new you in return!
That being said, the she-traveler is not a scatterbrain. She does travel, but she is highly aware of realities. Alone or accompanied, she keeps a cold head, uses her intuition, is even more vigilant and cautious. From this point of view, the Way is a great and ideal destination for a first experience solo (or an easygoing relapse)! You will have the challenges of a solitary travel and your convictions will be put to the test, but all in a kind and secure environment.
Ladies and… Ladies, the Way is the perfect place to tame your education and your fears. Hesitate no more and walk alone! Then, if the weaker sex role suits you… prefer to cook scallops rather than taking them out on your bag!
No 4: “I need company or I’ll undoubtedly get bored!”
We are so used to run everywhere and to battle on all fronts that once cleared of all of our duties, we just have one wish: not to do anything! This is what we usually call week-end or holidays: a time (ideally) made to take.a.rest! But once we’ve regained some energy and after some quiet time, time seems to be deadly long and empty. Boredom in all its might! This is usually when we look for anything to fill our schedule up, with friends or various activities. Even if we complain never to have enough of it, we actually don’t like down-time and we have a real hard time dealing with it. Hence our urge for bustle and company. Or even to go back to work when we’ve had enough!
To get bored while traveling is possible if we see it as a tour operator break. We go on this kind of trip to don nothing and we end up … doing nothing! And to be bored: we then subscribe to any activities and enjoy constant company, before we come back tired but happy to have filled the vacation up. Then of course, the Way seems at first to be just like this cycle of stasis-boredom. Don’t we go to walk and nothing else? No fancy or entertaining activities: the only parry left is company.
Yet, it is possible to learn and appreciate the absence of hustle and bustle and like to be alone without being bored! The Way is a nice and unique way to manage it. Walking may be the only thing to do, but just this is enough to be busy for hours. One only has to be fully present to unravel the worlds that are so close by. What is around us, first: fauna, flora, the 1001 details of a landscape changing with every step, silence, the murmur of the Universe and sometimes its soul.
What we are, next: a wonderful machine we almost look at for the first time, realizing we’ve never really paid it a close attention. Who we are within, finally: a whole universe we carry at all time, one we can never be done exploring!
The Camino, an awesome way to walk alone and to like it, without the need to have any company or bustle. To get bored, have your holidays elsewhere!
No 5: “I’m afraid to be with myself, this frightening and unknown stranger…”
Ohoh! Here’s a deeper argument than the others… Because, yes, to walk alone means to be one’s own company. Trouble is, we usually don’t take the time to spend it with ourselves without interference. So the day we finally stick our noses within ourselves, there’s one reaction to have: cry out “My Lord, what a f—reaking mess in here!” and quickly run away. Anything’s better: work, fun, music, movies, reading, friends, phone… Our whole social universe help us ensure a overloaded schedule to avoid any down-time! Too bad, because under the first layer(s!) of mess is actually a truly charming person who awaits to be met…
To end up alone with ourselves after a so long time to avoid our own company is a bit like entering a huge house that has not been maintained for years. Before one can enjoy it, one first has to tidy and clean it up: there’s nothing fancy about that, let’s admit it… Yet, to chose to postpone cleaning is to ensure more dust and mess to come. Thankfully, just like any housework, once the sleeves are rolled up and the work has started, the disaster often reveals to be way less catastrophic than foreseen. By taking care of one thing at the time, restoration moves on. Of course, some tasks are quite unpleasant or even painful, but they really get better once taken care of and matters purified.
Being alone on the Way’s gracious environment is a chance to do your inner cleansing in pretty favorable conditions. Walking helps it: the body’s movement is a reflection of the mind’s movement, towards the new, ahead. Being alone then becomes a pleasure rather than a chore, a nice time one will soon come to seek! Moreover, getting in touch with your inner self is much easier and faster than trying to manage a hellish schedule. To rediscover ourselves as a pleasant friend rather than a frightful stranger truly is one of the neatest gift some solitude of the Way can offer you…
The Way is an opportunity to purify your inner self and make yourself your best ally… if alone to make it happen. Would you let fear of solitude keep you from meeting the true love of your life?
So! What say you? If you’re not too sure about going solo, remember: it is mostly your own decision! The Camino is a safe and protected place, there are always people around so you can be alone without being alone and there is no need to go solo all the time. If walking alone seems to be a crazy idea to you, trust me on this one: it’s actually a good one and an unspeakable experience.
Have you ever felt at home anywhere in the World? So blessed and watched over you knew angels were walking by your side? Such freedom and such bond to the World you body seemed to dissolve into the Universe? Have you ever felt your heart filled up with such love and gratitude that you couldn’t stop crying? Solitude and silence are ways to get there… Ways for anyone to reach!
Solitude is not to be feared, it is a gracious state. Objections are to be heard, they are the voice of our fears. Fears are to be soothed with love, they can then lead us to peace. Whenever you’ll be ready, I assure you, it really is worth it!
Now, let us share some thoughts! Being alone, bad time or pleasure? Ready or not quite? Done or avoided? Did this article make you feel like trying a bit of solitary walk?