As someone who always travels with her partner, I can find and understand the happiness that travelling with someone else brings. Being able to share those incredible moments with someone is a fantastic feeling, knowing that when you look back on those memories, you can share the joy of remembering them with someone else. I love travelling with my partner. Knowing he is with me makes me feel just a little bit safer and relaxed. If something goes wrong then we face the problem together. If we miss the last bus and have to wait hours for the next one, we wait together.
In all the moments that travel brings, whether its joy, sadness, frustration or spontaneity, having someone beside you makes it just that little bit easier and manageable. But…when you get down to it, travelling with your partner, friends or on a group tour limits the possibilities of doing WHAT YOU WANT and you end up (even if you do it willingly) sacrificing your wishes and goals of your trip to make everyone else happy.
The words “Happiness Only Real When Shared” comes to my mind. When Christopher McCandless graduated from college and sold all his belonging to discover the world, he did it alone. He burned all his cash, went into the wilderness of Alaska with his rifle and a handful of winter clothes to escape from mundane dullness of human life to retreat into the peacefulness and solitude of nature. Just four months later, his decomposing body was found in an old abandoned bus along the Stampede Trail in Alaska.
“Happiness Only Real When Shared.”
— A short Passage highlighted in a journal found near Chris McCandless’s remains
Ironically it was during his last few days of his life that he realized the very thing he had been running away from was exactly what would have bought him happiness: the company of others.
Before considering to take on the journey of The Camino de Santiago I would of agreed with the moral of the story that In To The Wild Movie highlights. As my partner always reminds me when we travel, what is the point of watching the most spectacular sunset or trekking the Atlas Mountains if you have no one to hug and celebrate with when you reach the peak?
While I fully intend on continuing to travel with my partner, I am choosing to walk the 785km of the Camino de Santiago alone. Why you may ask?
After many years of travelling as a couple I feel the need to accomplish a trip completely by myself. However selfish it may sound to exclude my partner or friends who wish to join me on The Way, I want to take these five weeks to spend time with myself, to discover exactly what my body is capable of and to set off on a solo journey where everything I need is carried on my back. It is a common theme that regardless of the reason you choose to walk the Camino, it is agreed that most understand there is something they need to learn on the Way. For me it is to learn to be at peace with my own company and to realise that I am capable of walking and accomplishing something by myself. One of the greatest lessons one should learn in life is that we’re all capable of far more than we think we are. Other reasons that appeal to me include:
I can do what I want
I have 785km to walk and my path is already laid out in front of me, but by going at it alone I can stop when I wish, take a break and kick back, change my walking schedule and I don’t have to stop or keep up with anyone else. I can walk at my own pace, choose to talk to passing pilgrims or zone out and enjoy the landscapes that I will pass through. I am in control of my itinerary and have I have no one to report to.
Immerse myself in a new culture
Nothing beats discovering a new culture then spending 5 weeks traversing through the deepest depths of Spain’s basque country, speaking a new language and eating new foods and meeting new people. Having spoken to many solo travellers, I notice how their solo experiences differ from those I have with my partner mainly for one reasons. People are more likely to reach out to you when you are on your own. I am a believer in the kindness of strangers and have often found the kindest acts have been while I have travelled solo. People are more likely to offer you directions if they see you lost by yourself, offer you a bed or a meal or change for a train ticket if they see you are travelling alone.
Travelling alone also means you don’t have anyone by your side to speak with, eat with or experience things with which allows for a much deeper immersion into a new culture. You may find it easier to attend a cultural event, a family meal or speak with locals if you are by yourself. I know that when I travel with my partner I often shut off having conversations with anyone else but him.
I can by myself
I am not choosing to walk the Camino de Santiago to find myself. I am very comfortable with who I am. But when you travel with friends or family, husband or wife, you are conditioned to act a certain way and you unknowingly carry the reminders and characteristics of who you are back home. When you travel alone, there is no one with you who knows you and therefore no one to remind you of who you are “supposed” to be. That doesn’t mean you can invent an alter-ego for the trip, but it simply means you can let go of all those expectations of what people think of you and be yourself and open yourself up to meeting new people. Solo travel truly tests your limits, puts you in situations that you ordinarily you wouldn’t encounter if travelling with a partner, and pushes you to realize your potential in many ways.
I have found on my solo trips that I am so much more aware of my surroundings and I learn so much about myself and what I am capable of. While many disagree with me, I am a firm believer of making time for yourself. Marriage and relationships should never stop you from embarking on solo journeys. While I can completely identify with the quote from Christopher McCandless I also find that solo travel has a different type of happiness associated with it, one of accomplishment, self-belief and confidence.