My return to “civilized” life hasn’t been as difficult as it was after the AT, but lately, I have begun to feel quite lonely and unproductive, and therefore a bit depressed. I felt like I was on a thru-hiker high last week and was proud enough about my accomplishment that I didn’t care that no one else around me knew what I had just done. I was going to write this post on that “high”, but now, I must write about it from the perspective of missing what the trail does for me, and what I can’t seem to find in “real life.” I have yet to have any friends from Boston visit me and I have not yet made a visit to my yoga studio, which is 45-60 minutes away, because my body is not ready for that kind of intense practice yet, and I have to conserve gas money. After my first home practice of yoga, I can 100% confirm that you need open shoulders, open quads, open groin muscles, and open feet to do backbends- neither of which I have at the moment! My knees are quite inflamed (making even child’s pose painful), and it really hurt the tops of my feet to roll over them transitioning from upward dog to downward dog. For five months, I used only a select group of muscles, all of which have become extremely tight, and all of the unused muscles have become very short. It does feel good to begin to open and stretch, though! Anyway, here are some of the reasons why I love thru-hiking!
I love having a long term goal that gives me a reason to wake up (reasonably early) each day and get moving, and one in which I make visible progress each day. I feel most productive when thru-hiking.
I love the feeling of being “filled-up” (with love, gratitude, happiness), that I feel each time I leave a resupply stop and get back on the trail.
I love the feeling of stepping on the trail and feeling like it is my home.
I see more sunsets (and even sunrises) than I ever do in regular life.
I love having instant friends in other thru-hikers. There is no warming up to each other, no wariness in getting to know one another as there often is in the city. In the wilderness, we have a common bond in that we are all doing the same thing, with the same goal. There is no hesitation in helping one another out. When someone is in need of something, a fellow hiker will almost always immediately step up and help.
You meet a lot of people who have stepped outside of their comfort zone and said YES to life- to really living. To being challenged. Previous to my thru-hiking experiences, I have only met people who insisted I stay in a job that I did not like- for years and years and years. They knew of no other options for me. Thru-hikers are a breed of people who do not live in fear. They know that freedom exists outside of the 9-5 world and build their lives around these journeys. It is inspiring to be around.
You realize that the less you have, the happier you are. I believe that when you don’t cling to possessions, or other people, or other people’s opinions of you, you allow more of the world in and therefore have more.
I love that people think I am much younger than I am when I am hiking! I also feel much better when I am thinner. It is amazing to see the difference in all of our faces from the moment we started the trail, to a couple of weeks in. We all have a glow, a palpable sense of happiness on our faces. It reminds me of the before and after photos of people who have attended a month-long meditation retreat.
I love that you can eat whatever you want on these long hikes and still not gain weight (although, I must admit that I did not lose as much fat as I wanted to on this journey, even when it hurt to eat food!).
I love the feeling of well-deserved rest! In regular life, I can sleep forever and still not feel rested! More sleep doesn’t feel good. On the trail, I don’t sleep nearly as much as I do in regular life, and yet function just fine! And when I finally do get a chance to get a bit of rest (rare!), it feels amazing!
I love that I never feel lonely nor depressed on the trail.
I love that I can be active for 12-13 hours every day.
I love seeing interesting wildlife and beautiful landscapes on a regular basis.
I love the feeling of reaching the summit of a mountain.
I love that every day on the trail is unique.
I love being in open spaces.
I love living in tune with the rhythm of nature.
I love that I feel completely content lying on a piece of dirt with no screen around me.
I love that I am in charge of making my own decisions in every moment.
I love the confidence I build with each mile hiked.
I love that people get inspired from what I am doing.
I love encountering kind people who are willing to help.
I love that I can easily remember specific details about any given day on a trail.
I love remembering funny things that happened with other hikers that continue to make me laugh.
I love the feeling of really being alive!