My (Un)expected Break Up

Everyone told me.


Post thru-hike depression is real and you will likely go through it.”

My sister asked me the day I got home “are you ready for the postpartum period?” I think my answer was yes because I thought I was ready, but mostly I thought it wouldn’t happen.

I was so ready to be done with the trail. I was certain that because I was so ready, I wouldn’t be sad to return to a life of convenience and routine.

As soon as I returned home, talk of the trail sent me into a spiral of nostalgia accompanied with a literal pain in my chest.

I had to deactivate my Instagram because looking at photos related to the AT threw me into the sadness. I can’t look at my own photos or watch my videos from the trail because of how emotional it makes me. There are times when I’m driving to work and a memory comes into my head and stays with me all day.

My zodiac sign is cancer. Apparently, cancers are a very nostalgic sign.

The whole thing is very reminiscent of my experience of going through a break up. You love something so deeply. Then, you don’t. Then, you grieve. I heard someone the other day call it a “goal hangover,” a feeling of sadness and sickness after a goal is completed. The feeling in my chest is the same I have felt in break-ups, a literal pain. I guess that is why they call it “heart-break.” I never read the book “Thru-hiking Will Break Your Heart,” but I think I get the gist.

I thought finishing the trail would bring me a semblance of peace, and it has, but mostly I just want to go out and do another one. I think I understand now why people get so addicted to thru-hikes. They provide a sense of freedom that seems impossible to replicate in everyday life.

I nurtured and grew the idea of my thru-hike for two years, taking it from a little idea to a very large part of my life. I spent hours and days planning and prepping, turned down jobs and trips with friends, always with the response of “I’m planning for my hike.”

Now, I’m thinking of other things… things i always said I would do once the hike was done… but part of me feels like the long-distance hiking bug will interrupt many of my plans… or will maybe just be THE PLAN for my life.

Much like a break-up, after the relationship ends, you remember the good times and the bad stuff fades out of the mind. I feel like I’m saying “it was hard” with a feeling of emptiness, and “it was amazing!” with enthusiasm and love. The love will always outweigh the rough times, as it should, as it always will.

Here is an excerpt from a Facebook status I made that I try to reread to remind myself of the why behind my hike. I have to remember to sit with the nostalgia for how ever long it takes and let the whole thing propel me forward in the same way Katahdin propelled me forward for six months:

I’m back to picking up those papers that were strewn on the floor, trying to stack them again so the corners match up. But, the papers have been crumpled and stomped on, dampened and torn. I feel like I am constantly looking around yelling “I’m fine! Everything is good!” to my fellow paper stackers… as I try to get my pile looking as neat as theirs. Reminder to self: don’t forget what is written on those papers, don’t ever forget!!

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 1

  • andy : Dec 25th

    No, kidding after 20 years, I still think about my thruhike nearly every day. I don’t dwell on it , it just pops up. Did the Long trail a few years ago that was nice, but “short”.


What Do You Think?