What I Leave Behind: Comfort, Expectations, and Deodorant

I leave tomorrow. Nerves rack my body. My pounding heart can be heard from across the hotel room. What if I hate it? What if I get injured? What if I fail? These questions bounce around in my head for hours as I try to sleep.

My bag is packed. Boxes are filled for resupply. Equipment is tested. Loose ends tied up. As I look ahead to this 2,200-mile beast I’ve come to challenge, I feel a strange disconnectedness. I don’t have rent to pay, or a bathroom to clean, laundry to do, homework to complete, or a test to study for. This pulling toward the trail I’ve felt for years is the strongest it’s ever been, yet as I leave behind my everyday life for this wide adventure, I can’t help but feel as if I’m leaving behind something important (or perhaps many somethings).

My pack sits around 20 pounds at base weight (without food and water), so obviously I couldn’t take every creature comfort. I’m taking one set of hiking clothes; have mercy on the laundromats to come. I don’t have all of my books or a dinner plate. I left behind fuzzy socks, blankets, and even a comb! There a few things that I’ll leave behind once I step on the trail tomorrow that aren’t as obvious.

I’m leaving behind the comforts of home: a warm bed, a bug-free environment, a real toilet, but I have found that when I am most uncomfortable with a situation, I tend to learn the most about myself. This was true when I traveled to Bolivia in 2016. I was in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, but I learned a great deal about family, friendship, and that I shouldn’t drink dark liquor.

I’m leaving behind deodorant and a razor, and with it any pressure to look (or smell) a certain way based on what society thinks. The deodorant really wouldn’t do much after day five, but I’m well into a month since I’ve last shaved my legs and honestly, it’s great. 10/10 would recommend.

I am leaving behind wonderful friends, my family, and with it, my immediate support network. There hasn’t been a time in my life so far when I will only know one person wherever I go. But I hear that going through a life-changing experience and letting a few rip in close quarters breaks down walls to lifelong friendship pretty quickly.

Finally, I leave behind expectations. I’m not the most physically fit person, nor have I taken a dozen outdoor survival classes. The worst could happen (but most likely won’t). My mom said that I could lose all my toenails or break a bone and I’d still make it to Maine from sheer stubbornness, but I realized that anything could happen. My mental toughness that’s usually cut like steel could dull; I could run out of money; I could injure myself from being clumsy or by no fault of my own.

A million things could happen out there and I may not even finish, but just by setting foot on the top of Springer Mountain, I will have succeeded. This trip was spurred by one of the toughest moments in my life and while the reasons to hike have evolved and grown with me, in the recesses of my mind, I still hold onto a small piece of that pain and bitterness that brought me to this moment.

But come tomorrow, I’ll be leaving those behind too.



*This post was lost to the web somehow when I originally posted it on Feb. 21. Still haven’t shaved my legs. 

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