For the past few months I’ve been preparing for my upcoming hike on the AT and have been concentrating on my kit, toughening up my feet and wearing in my boots. Ive also been fattening myself up in preparation for the expected weight loss, though I suspect that is more because I am a greedy hog than any conscious effort on my part. However, one thing that is difficult to prepare for is the loneliness that is necessarily going to be part of my experience at some time or another.
That said, I have had some experience of this in recent weeks, without having been particularly conscious of it. It is only now, sitting here typing another post, that I’ve become aware of my wife’s brilliant strategy to assist in my preparations.
My wife’s folks have been living in an assisted living facility since October and Diane has been helping to manage their affairs. She is about as hands-on as any person could be and an amazing advocate for them. Sometime around Christmas, just after we were able to sell our business and the hike moved from being a dream to a reality, things went downhill for both of my in-laws and, at various points, they have been in hospital, in rehab, back in hospital and, latterly, one of them is back in the facility.
This has exhausted poor Diane, both physically and emotionally, yet she has shown a resilience way beyond my comprehension. I’ve often said before that, when I start dribbling from the corner of my mouth, I want Diane to be there kicking ass on my behalf.
As a consequence of these various relocations and her folks’ greater needs, Diane has had to spend untold hours, including many nights, sleeping on a couch in their room(s) or, more accurately, not sleeping. This is part of the normal course of life for carers and, while she has certainly had fantastic help from her bevy of sisters, she is pretty much on her own for a lot of the time.
This, of course, has led me to spend a lot of time alone and get used to my own company. Diane constantly, and totally unnecessarily, apologizes to me for leaving me on my own, so much so that I’ve now asked her to substitute “I love you” for “I’m sorry.” That is much sweeter to hear.
So, I’m going to be alone – a lot – and my wife is helping me prepare for the hike by leaving me alone – at lot. Even at this most difficult time of her life she is helping me while rightly concentrating on her parents in their difficult times. What a woman and what man could wish for more?
One thought on “Loneliness of the long-distance hiker”
The best and the worst thing about the camino was the loneliness. I had to spend so much time with my own thoughts. It was like meditation, only with blisters. In modern life, we have so many distractions – TV, Facebook, iPads – so that even when we’re alone we’re not really alone. But not on the road. I found the deprivation of all my distractions torturous. In the end it was good – but not at the beginning. Plus I only had to do it for 34 days – and Eli was there for some of it anyway, when we weren’t trying to strangle each other. This is an awesome undertaking.