Never Gave Returning Home a Thought
Totally Blindsided by “Post Trail”
The first “30” days home has been a trip in itself. August 26th is the day that I arrived home, home sweet home. Random thoughts constantly popped into my head, some about the trek and others about being home. Physically I felt as though I was still hiking but my brain was trying to acclimate to “life.” I was trying to switch from “trail” life; rationing food, finding river water to drink, and hiking 20 to 25 miles a day. I thought compared to what I had gone through that the transition was going to be a breeze. After all, being home meant ample food, a hot shower, clean clothes, and the comfort of knowing where I was going to sleep.
I decided to write a few “Post Trail” blogs. I asked myself, “What would I possibly have to write about, “post trail?” Evidently, more than I expected or anticipated. The thought crossed my mind that other thru-hikers might be in the same boat. Maybe they too were trying to hop back into “life.”
As my husband drove me up our long, spruce filled driveway, I didn’t know what or how I was suppose to feel. Perhaps a sense of relief or contentment. What I thought or surmised didn’t matter because basically “home” blindsided me.
Everything was familiar (totally opposite from the unfamiliar trail). The bumps in the driveway were the same. The trees were standing as they had in the past and our house looked identical. Yet something felt different. There was an unexpected void, a disconnect.
Waking up in my own bed was an amazing luxury. The clean sheets, a toilet, dry clothes and peace of mind of “No bear” visiting my sleeping quarters. Though, the material things around me brought comfort, a numbness or emptiness remained. I wasn’t sad, happy, mad, mellow, I was just existing.
Every once in awhile, I would venture to see how the real world felt. Without fail, it plastered me with commotion; fast moving cars, people talking, music blaring, and the list seemed to go on and on. I realized the “Real” world had not changed, but I had. My brain craved stillness, quietness, and the smell of the woods.
While on trail I couldn’t do anything but focus on survival. My Heavenly Father was with me the whole time. My days were filled with hiking and praying. There were no coincidences. Christ provided over and over. When I needed food, it appeared, when I thirst for water, a stream would play its sweet, trickling song, and when I needed a ride, the smell of exhaust would heighten my senses.
I couldn’t have planned these great moments, I just had to trust.
His Timing, Not Mine
I’m not sure what happened when I returned home. The numbness disconnected me from my prayer life that I had on trail. Maybe it was exhaustion, mental fatigue or something else. My prayer life took a sudden turn.
I knew God hadn’t left me, though in a sense I felt as though I left Him. It was all just craziness, and I couldn’t figure it out, I decided to at least read my Bible, though that didn’t work either. Reading and trying to focus gave me “ Eye aches.” Simple tasks just seemed so confusing.
Eventually, I decided to start doing research. Perhaps this would help me to understand this phenomenon.
Giving Myself Time
Many people surmised that I must be “Happy” to be back home. I couldn’t mentally or emotionally admit that I was happy. Then, I would think, “Why am I not happy?”
I couldn’t answer the question honestly or at least in away for me or others to understand. I knew that prior to me leaving to hike, I was content, happy, and enjoying life. God had a plan for me on trail and I knew He wasn’t going to leave me hanging now upon my completion. He had the master plan and I just needed to ride it out.
Focus on Little Tasks
Bouncing back from the curve ball(s) that life throws is a battle for all of us, and each battle is different. Maybe this was my own little “Post trail battle.”
After arriving home on a Friday, I had decided to give myself the weekend to rest. Naive and a bit impatient about this “Post trail” mumbo jumbo, I decided that things would be better by Monday. Monday came and went and I was still a wreck.
It was then that I started to get scared. Many concerns such as, “Could I have done permanent damage to my brain cells?” “Was this because I couldn’t eat enough on trail?” “Did I have a long term medical condition due to mental exhaustion that all thru-hikers experience.” Panic mode crept in!
Pre-trail my world consisted of multitasking. I think, in general that is what we all do, it’s the world we live in. I dare say each of us have at least 5 or 6 items that we are constantly juggling at all times. Though since arriving home simple tasks put me into an overload mode. Failing constantly while trying to do these tasks would create frustration and then end with a screaming headache.
This happened day after day. One of my favorite failures (if one can have a “Favorite failure”) is when my daughter asked me to help her rebuild her van. Easy task pre-trail…I had spent the last 15 years doing renovations so helping with this project seemed simple. Well not so, funny but true, after two days of working on the van, I basically got fired! Everything I tried to do was either wrong or required a do-over.
Physically – Ouch
Pain on trail is normal, thru-hikers learn how to “Not feel.” It’s truly the only way to hike that many miles, day after day hikers survive using the mindset of “Block the pain.”
The day after I arrived home I was ready for the “Absence of pain,” I was so, so ready! Removing my backpack and a few hot showers didn’t cure or touch the pain. Ultimately, I felt worse “Post trail” than I had on trail. Yikes, now what?
30 Days Home and Life
I know there is this thing called “Post Trail Depression.” For me, I’m calling it, “Another way God is teaching me.”
The trail encompasses three crucial components; pre-trail, trail, and post-trail. All of which are of equal value. Before leaving I spent months preparing. Then on trail, preparation continued, though it was more of a “Survival mode” mentality. Therefore, by all rights “Post trail” should need as much preparation. This I am learning. This first thirty days home has been challenging; emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically but this too shall pass.
Presently I am not just sitting. I started going to the gym and slow hiking. Creating new “Mini adventure routines” that are reachable to help my body heal I believe is important. With my new normal “Post trail” activities and with God’s perfect timing, healing will prevail. I will continue to trust that this hike will be used to give God all the glory. The “Emptiness” will subside and eventually God will give me the words to articulate the journey of a lifetime. Can’t wait to see the next 30 days!
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