We are becoming increasingly isolated, and Iâ€™m no exception. Just before I turned 25, my mother succumbed to cancer, and a year laterâ€”as I was mustering the courage to contact my estranged fatherâ€”he passed away too. I have no siblings, and after I left the East Coast and moved to Wyoming, I rarely saw my extended family.Â Â
Thatâ€™s not to say I was alone: I had plenty of friends, a caring significant other, and wonderful colleagues. I ran into acquaintances almost every time I went to the grocery store, and my work at the radio station had made me a minor celebrity in Wyoming. But making plans around other peopleâ€™s packed schedules was often a challenge. And as friends got married and had children, the delightful one-on-one conversations I used to share with themâ€”the kinds of conversations where you hash out lifeâ€™s challenges together and go home feeling lovedâ€”became rare.Â Â
It seemed reasonable to assume that trekking alone for 500 miles, in areas with no cell phone reception and few other hikers, might leave me lonelier than ever.Â Â
But loneliness and being alone are two different things. During the five weeks I spent on the trail, I felt less lonely than I have in years.