I Am Not a Hobo

That was a line from the movie Wild where a reporter is trying to interview Cheryl Strayed along the side of a road for the Hobo Times. She angrily protests that she is a thru-hiker, not a hobo. Of course the reporter determines she has no home address and everything she owns is on her back.  Ipso facto hobo. 

So I asked Ian if after 800-plus miles of carrying his home on his back, he felt like a hobo. He said no. Then I asked him if he felt like a thru-hiker. Again he said: “No. I just feel like me.”  

Thinking about it for a little bit, I realized that’s how I felt too. I suppose you can’t really be a hobo if you have a home address and a bank account. But neither of us feel like thru-hikers either.  Fundamentally we are alway just ourselves. 

There is that question you get on your birthday: “How does it feel to be a year older?” But we don’t feel a year older, we feel the same as we did yesterday. No magic transformation during the night. 

That’s the way it is with experiences. They add a little bit at a time. They build slowly, almost immeasurably, over time. They build on you but the they don’t change you to not being you.  We grow as people, but we are always ourselves – the same people we were yesterday. 
So given that, how has hiking 890 miles changed me? I’m still me, but what has the experience added so far?

  • I’m lighter for one thing. I haven’t weighed myself lately, but my clothes are starting to look really too baggy.
  • I’m in the best shape I can ever remember. Hiking 10 hours a day has a way of doing that. 
  • I feel weird and a little off-balance when there is NOT a pack on my back.
  • I can eat two or three meals at a single sitting. 
  • I know I can take care of myself in the woods for weeks at a time. I can deal with injuries, discomfort, and pain. 
  • I am more patient – with myself and with others. 
  • I can walk for 8-10 hours and not be bored. In fact boredom has not been an issue at all. At least so far. 
  • I’m willing to talk to just about anybody. 
  • I realize that in any group of people you can find some common ground if you look. 

That’s it so far. We’ll see if there is some stuff to add as the miles grow. 
Postscript:  I’ve changed in other ways too. This morning I think we took another step away from “civilization”. We were eating breakfast on The Pinnacle in PA and several ants crawled into my oatmeal. I looked at them. Then I ate them. And it wasn’t a non thinking I’m too hungry kind of thing. I actually thought “Oh good. More protein.”  I don’t know what this means for the future, but I definitely crossed some kind of line here.  I asked Ian if ants got in his breakfast and he said, “I ate them.”

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