Austin, TX

What do you do when you're terrified of being alone? When you get agitated after only a few hours to yourself? When you constantly call friends, looking for someone, anyone to hang out with? You could decide to take six months hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Alone. At night. This is self-therapy in its most extreme permutation. When bears and mountain lions are less threatening than the prospect of solitude, perhaps their company is perversely welcome. Another difficult decision. Will it work? Break the fear? Be empowering? Or will it fail, break ankles, and prove to be a financial washout? You do not care. The monophobia is so crippling that the choice, now made but yet to be acted upon, feels inevitable.

Austin is a city with bike lanes, public green space, topography, and a few walkable areas. Towering condominiums are being erected that have more in common with Chicago than anywhere else in Texas. For all of its size, the city is sleepy, as if half of its energy vanished with the local university's already-forgotten spring semester. In the park, an old man with dark skin, a flowing white beard, and a blue robe is fishing. When he smiles, his teeth are stained betel nut-maroon.