Solitude and Loneliness

Pracitising solitude in Les Estrets

The dynamic of loneliness is resistance (something is wrong here), whereas the dynamic of solitude is acceptance

As I walked the first day from Le Puy-en-Velay in 2018, I remembered solitude. Sarah Bachelard makes a key distinction between solitude and loneliness: “The dynamic of loneliness is resistance (something is wrong here), whereas the dynamic of solitude is acceptance.” I embraced solitude but encountered loneliness at times on all my Caminos. In Sauges I was crushed with loneliness when my only room mate rejected my company outright. On the Camino Sanabres pain from ill-fitting boots made me scream aloud for comfort and help.

Not having any English-speaking company at all on many days in France edged me into loneliness. I walked alone nearly every day. Several days I met no other pilgrims. Two nights I was the only pilgrim in the gite, and on at least 5 nights I had a dormitory to myself. I had to consciously turn from resisting my solitary state to embracing my aloneness and becoming alive to the positive elements of my walk.

I learned to be more willing to be a stranger in a foreign place reliant on the kindness of locals. As stability within grew, an openness to whatever and whoever the day brought bred gratitude and banished the loneliness. I reflected, read and wrote reams in my journal. Walking and resting alone gave me time to reacquaint myself with my self. Solitude became my chosen state.

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