Battling the Boredom
During the 5-7 month trek on the Appalachian Trail there will be times where you are not only battling the elements and terrain, but you will be battling boredom. Keeping the mind occupied will help with thoughts of self doubt and anxiety. This boredom can be felt hardest if you are going on a solo hike for the first time. For me, when this anxiety and doubt creep in it means it is time to get into my own little world and make things. This time could be well spent to continue with your favorite hobby or to try a new one. As long as this hobby can be packed up comfortably into your backpack, you are good to go. Here are some ways I plan on passing the time spent alone and not allowing for boredom to overcome me.
Whittling is a great activity because it does not require many tools to get started and those tools are light. I enjoy carving spoons a lot which is a perfect object to make for the trail. Imagine eating your food with a utensil that you created! For that, I require a straight knife, a hook knife, and a pencil. That’s it! If you are carving an idol, charm, or something else, you may only need a straight knife to get the job done. The material for carving is cheap will be all around you lying on the ground!
When selecting wood for carving, make sure it is already lying on the ground. We do not want to harm any still living trees for the sake of our carving. We also want to make sure that the piece is not rotten already. If it is soft and spongey, leave it be on the ground.
Now it needs to be said, you should practice before you get out there in the middle of no where. Practice is great because it gets your muscles used to the tiny movements that are needed when carving a piece of art. Small movements give us more control. When we have control, we can be safe while we are carving. Learn your capabilities, comfort level, and limits is going to be important. This is only learned by experience, so this means practice. Even the most experienced carvers will have slips, but novice carvers tend to slip a bit more.
Have a good first aid kit handy incase of an accident. If carving is not a risk you are not willing take, that is great! Know your limits. There are a ton of other things you can do along the trail to fight that boredom. Any little thing that you can do to keep you mentally in it is a good thing.
I highly recommend keeping a journal for your thoughts and feelings. The trail will be an emotional roller coaster at times, so having a place to write or “vent” your frustrations can be good. I started years ago keeping a journal and it helps me a ton. Not just for the venting, but it helps to organize ideas, make plans, and so on. You can do anything with it.
Use it as a diary to write down the events of each day, what happened and how it made you feel. For blogging, I am going to use my journal a lot. You can not only keep a written journal, but it can be a visual journal. Draw things that inspire you along the trail like a really interesting bug, a beautiful flower, or a breathtaking view.
Journaling is such a valuable tool for mental health that it needs to be (in my opinion) a necessity on long hiking trips.
Activities That Don’t Weigh Much or Take up Space
Having an activity that does not require a lot of tools and materials to pack is very crucial. It also helps if these activities pack small too. Weight and size is something to definitely consider when packing for the trail. In basecamp situations, things will be very different than if you are performing a thru hike. When setting up basecamp, you maybe able to carry more materials and specialized tools. For carving, that may mean packing a hatchet, folding saw, and more knives. If thru hiking, I do not want to carry all those extra tools in order to make something.
I have recently taught myself how to knit, which to me, seems like a perfect craft for winding down for bed. I can sit in my tent and knit to my hearts content before getting some shut eye. Depending on the project, I might only need some yarn and straight needles. This makes knitting very portable for the trail and the materials needed are lightweight. I can knit items such as hats and donate them to trail magic along my trek. This way I won’t be carrying a lot of complete projects while hiking. If I want to send finished projects home, they will pack nicely in a box along with any other gear I will be sending back.
The point here is that knitting is an activity perfect for the trail. It packs very light, does not take up a lot of space in your pack. It will keep the mind sharp, busy, and calm. A pretty good combination for the trail if you ask me.
Start a New Hobby
If you are performing a thru hike, one thing you will have a lot of is time. A lot of time for walking, for thinking, and for practicing a new hobby! Again, thinking about portability, I going to to take along a harmonica and try my hand at playing. I have never played one before and that is okay! With all the time I will have, I hope to be able to sound pretty good by the time I reach Katahdin!
There are so Many Options!
Whatever you choose to do, whether some of the activities listed above or other interests you have such as listening to music, reading, playing the banjo/guitar, or any other activity remember a few things. Just remember, whatever activity you choose the tools and materials have to be packed and hauled around with you. You have to know what you are gaining and what you are sacrificing when packing tools and materials for these hobbies. So if you are a guitar player, you now have to carry that guitar with you along your trek. If you are willing to do that and sacrifice pack weight, by all means take that guitar with you. If you are not willing to sacrifice that extra weight, it is time to bring along something else.
There are so many options for battling the boredom on trail. In my mind, planning to deal with the boredom is just as important as weighing your pack and planning you meals. Since significant time on the trail could be spent alone, having some activities to help battle the boredom will keep good for your mental health while on the trail. It can help distract you from thoughts of self doubt, loneliness, the monotony of hiking, and thoughts of quitting, especially when you hit those Virginia blues!
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