Do you believe in being alone but not lonely?

I do.

But I find that it doesn’t last too long. You can be alone and okay but only for so long. Then you get lonely.

Some people can be satisfied with short, unforgettable interactions. A chance encounter on a safari bus. A woman with swollen eyes on a plane. A frustrated writer meeting a desperate student in a coffee shopA photographer playing football with the tribal kids in Haiti. Like a short burst of fire in your chest. A firework. The interaction ends almost as soon as it begins, but the loner is satisfied. He can go days, maybe even months, on this interaction.

I’m not really like that. It’s not that I need another person to cure my loneliness when it comes. I need a specific person. I want someone to think about me, to miss me, to need me because they’re lonely without me.

It’s not a sudden burst of fire, but like a fiery coal. It stays hot for a long time and can easily spark into a flame.

I don’t like big crowds, and I don’t need people talking to me every day of my life. But sometimes, a book by a campfire or a fire stove or a fire place just doesn’t cut it. Sometimes I

Jared looks up as the sun becomes nearly twice as bright. It’s somehow managed to leak through the clouds. Romania is vast. Mountains and hills of green with jutting rocks that form monuments. Sublime.

It’s quiet, almost silent, but there’s some type of noise that sounds distant. Then sometimes it’s close, like a whisper in his ear. It’s the wind.


Jared leans his head back and whistles as loud as he can. The sound echoes off the rocks and disappears into the trees that are miles away on the mountain across from him.

Where would Victoria be at this time?

It’s a wilderness, but somehow it feels tame, like there’s an unseen guardian watching over it. It’s the only reason it’s still untouched. He can’t explain it. What is that feeling that makes your heart pound so hard that it’s hard to breathe but also makes you feel safe? What is that?

This feeling is the reason he left. He wants to be breathless yet safe. Excited and content. Curiosity? Maybe. Leaving things left unknown, undiscovered. That’s needed. Just enough curiosity to want to witness it, but enough wisdom to leave it undisturbed, to not want to understand it. Explanation ruins the magic.

At times like this, he’s glad to be alone. If it’s shared too much, exploited, the beauty is ruined. And he knows he’s not really alone. He can feel something watching him. The wilderness is alive. Everything around him is alive. Its guardian is alive. But deep down, there’s a little ache of sadness.

It pulses slowly. It’s contained, even sort of easy to ignore, but it’s there. It’s loneliness.

People are meant to be with people.

If only she would come with him once, but Victoria believes in growing where you are planted. She wants to help her family. She doesn’t want to leave the mountains of east Tennessee.

Jared closes his eyes. “Why did you make this?” he whispers.

It was for the people like him. The people who were willing to explore, to have their breaths taken away. The people who didn’t try to explain beauty or love or happiness. They just enjoyed it.

“I hope… not many people after me find this place,” he says out loud.

The wind blows continuously without a response. He’s only an onlooker in this wilderness, neither welcome to take part nor converse with, only to witness.

“I’m going to marry Victoria.”

As beautiful as the mountains of Romania, as vast and as sublime, Victoria is more. She gave him that same feeling of safe and excited.

He had asked for her to wait. He remembers the face she’d made.

That wasn’t fair of him. He knows it wasn’t, but he had thought that it wasn’t fair to him.

But what is fair?

In life, you have to pick your battles.

And your passions.

He could look at Everest in pictures. He could watch documentaries on Fuji.

But learn to love someone else?

To watch her be loved by someone else?

To go through life never knowing?

If he lost her, he would always be lonely. The sadness inside of him would expand and take over his entire body. Just the thought makes his insides feel like water.

As much as he loved to explore, Jared never figured that he would ever have a home, but he had been thinking of home as a house planted on a plot of land. Maybe home is a person.

Jared stands and tries to memorize every shadow, every color, every beam of light.

“I will never forget this,” he whispers. “But I’m going home.”

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