Wait, how come you are alone?!
Overall, the second question we get at every time I talk to someone about the journey. Maybe it does sound weird at first. It’s not really the same as going alone to the cinema. Which, indeed, I do as well and it’s great in spite of the few people who look like they disagree.
It’s not only that one should enjoy spending time on their own. I love being alone at home or taking a walk alone in a new city. But even if I didn’t love it, I would still have gone to Spain alone.
I am convinced that such a trip, as an experience which offers more than tourist attractions, ought to be done solo.
I am rushing through some purely practical reasons for this – the routine, the walking pace, and the accidental injuries. If I had started with a close person, they would surely have gone mad if they had to put up with the numerous occasions when my body wouldn’t listen or do what the mind was telling it to. It would have caused for us to part on the way, which would have been uncomfortable because they would feel like they need to put themselves in my shoes and so on.
‘Independence’ is the word that flashes in my mind even when the emergency power supply has broken down. Like the EXIT sign on every door. I need this independence as much as the people around me. I cannot imagine how for one month, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, two or more people can have the same needs and wishes. And I think that, at least when it comes to a journey like this when every moment matters and is different, you should be able to follow your own impulses completely – from the pace of your walking to the amount of time you choose to spend staring at something. There is something else that leads us on this way and everyone is pursuing it at their own speed. It sounds egotistic but, at the same time, I am not talking only about the good things. I do not think I would have had the same mind control as I do today if there had been someone next to me for these thirty days; if there had been someone to soothe my pain, comfort me, encourage me and repeat that I was the best. My will power would have been non-existent.
All the nice people that I met and helped me were priceless in their kindness. But I knew that they were people who pass by and that I might meet again someday, but most probably not. They are not THE people in your life. At the beginning of the journey this was really frustrating for me – you meet someone, you might walk together for hours and talk about anything, find mutual interests… and then never see each other again because on the next day he or she was faster. It was an extremely unpleasant feeling. I have never made friends with someone in a day and I prefer to trust people gradually just to be safe; and make them more than a one-day friend, if it’s possible. By the tenth day and after encountering and losing about at least thirty people, I was longing for a normal contact that would last beyond the limits of my daily hike. Thank God, I had such acquaintances but it was for the first time that I could clearly formulate what and why I value in my interactions with people. Especially when it came to new ones. I don’t know if I would have realised this if I had someone with me already.
It was important for me to separate myself from my previous surroundings, including my closest friends and relatives. Everyone lives in a comfy cocoon where we allow in only the things we approve of or like. In the safety of the cocoon the others think the same of us, or at least we would like it to be so. My contact with a foreign culture (as a place) and many foreign cultures (as people) pulled me violently out of this idyllic state and made me consider questions which I would have otherwise confidently ignored. If I had someone with me to spend the journey together in harmony, we would have both remained on the same side of this imaginary cultural border. Maybe we would have gone out of this experience intact and with unaffected convictions. Or maybe I have gone crazy and have missed the great opportunity of being not-alone on the Road to Santiago. I don’t know. Taking all this into account, if anyone asks, I’d say: alone, mate, go alone, don’t overthink it. And as for me, I would definitely go alone again as well.
To the question ‘Wasn’t it lonely?’ I always answer ‘No’. Or at least not more than it could be here on daily basis. Was I afraid? – Again ‘No.’ There was no reason, everything was well-organised on the route.
It seems to me the most natural thing to be alone on a searching like this. Whatever searching you are doing. The second thing everyone asks after ‘What’s your name?’ is ‘Why are you walking the Camino?’ A brave question, coming from a stranger. ‘Wait, how come you are alone?!’ My reasons were too personal to disclose to anyone. Personal enough to do it alone. Is this answer satisfactory?