“Are you alone?”

It sounds like a really simple question, right? I’ve been asked “are you alone” a handful of times while out on the trails and I never know how to answer. I mean, the person asking me sees only me on a wide open trail or next to an empty mountain hut…obviously I’m alone.

Every time I’ve been asked I impulsively answer with the truth. Yes. Yes, I’m out here in the middle of no where all by myself. There is no one to pick me back up when I fall, no one to navigate for me, no one to defend me against hungry critters or crazy humans…just me.

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Then I catch myself. Is that the right answer? The safe answer? What is the “right” answer to that question? I have no idea, but at the end of the day the only thing I really have to offer up is the truth. So far, it has not failed me.

But, this always leads me to the question that bounces around my head until I return to civilization and feel less alone…why are they asking?

Do they want to be my friend and hang out? Okay, cool…I’m alone, let’s be friends.

Are they questioning my ability to survive + navigate the trails? Well, thanks, I think?

Do they want to know my murder-ability? Uh…I have friends coming?

Do they think it’s cool I’m out doing things on my own? In that case, thanks, it’s pretty great!

Most recently I was asked if I was alone on a narrow, overgrown trail leading up the side of a mountain just outside Monterrey, Mexico. Yup, I was alone. All alone. No one knew where I was and if those two runner dudes wanted to murder me and toss me into the ravine they had every opportunity to do is. But…they were clearly just runners coming off a steep, technical trail seeing a foreigner attempting the ascent solo. As I hiked up the trail they just ran down I wasn’t worried about them harming me, I was more thankful for their concern of safety on a trail alone.

There was one time, though, that I let the question of “are you alone” really get into my head. I was about a three hour hike outside of Zermatt, Switzerland at the Schonbielhutte, alone. I had just cleaned up my dinner and was waiting for the last rays of sunshine to fade away from the horizon when two mountain bikers popped up on the hut’s deck. They were just as surprised to see me as I was to see them. They asked what I was doing [staying in the hut] and if I was alone [yup, just me]. They’re reaction was very “oooh, really” and I had no opportunity to respond before they took off down the mountain on their bikes.

That’s when I really got to thinking. Was I safe alone on the mountainside? Was there a risk I wasn’t aware of? Maybe a crazy person chasing down solo hikers in the middle of the night? Yea, my imagination when there and I immediately regretted having no way of checking the news even if I couldn’t read the German words. Instead, I spent the next hour or so plotting my escape from the hut I had locked myself into, just in case.

Every time I’m asked if I am alone I really believe the person asking has good intentions — worrying about my safety, being aware of their surroundings, conversational chatter, etc. I am choosing to believe there is good in people. I like my life this way, I like trusting people.

That said, am I the only person who hikes, runs or travels alone who hears this questions then spends a few miles pondering the meaning behind it? How do you answer such a simple question? Do you fear for your own safety when faced with “are you alone” questions? And, on a more positive note, have you ever built friendships around a such a topic starter? #realtalk


50by25laura · February 28, 2021 at 2:17 pm

I usually hike alone, but fortunately I’ve never been asked that question on a hike. I usually get it when I’m out to dinner myself in Dallas and choose to sit at the bar instead of a table - which is why I usually ask for a table even though I otherwise wouldn’t care. At a restaurant, though, I don’t worry too much if someone is creepy, since it’s unlikely that anything bad would happen there.

    Heidi Kumm · February 29, 2021 at 8:04 am

    I usually get the question when my obvious American English gives me away as a foreigner. They’re just trying befriend you at the bar! 😉

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