One Year Later
One Year Ago
It is hard for me to believe that it has been one year since I first stepped foot on the Appalachian Trail to begin my thru hike.
What a year it has been.
A year ago, I was 29 years old and in the throes of a just-past-quarter-life crisis. I had quit teaching the year before, after discovering that my “dream job” was actually just a bunch of bureaucratic bullshit. I took a severe pay cut to work with troubled teens in a wilderness therapy program, and ended up having my car repossessed because of that decision. I had no car, two degrees I wasn’t using (but was certainly paying for), and an underpaying, overly stressful job.
Something wasn’t working. My life. My life wasn’t working.
I decided to hike the trail five weeks before I left. I told my boss I was quitting three weeks before I set foot on Springer Mountain. Many people close to me felt that I was “running away” from the problems in my life, that I was “escaping” to the woods. I saw my sojourn in the woods as a reboot. I knew my problems would be waiting for me when I got off the trail, but I needed to take the time for myself…push the pause button on life, if you will.
On The Trail
I could not outrun (out-hike, if you will) my “problems” while on the trail. The same issues that plagued me in town followed me on the trail. Turns out I’m a piss poor money manager in the woods as well as in the indoor world. I still dealt with self-doubt and criticism, even though I was stronger and more bad-ass than I’ve ever been. The trail doesn’t take those things away. The trail takes everything else away so all you are left with is your fears, your worries, your concerns. Your problems.
The trail forces you into a brutally honest relationship with yourself.
The trail gave me the time, space, and relationships that I needed to heal some old, deep wounds, to solve some problems, to rediscover myself. For many, the trail is simply a physical task. A test of stamina and will. A feat of strength and grit. For me, the trail was therapy. It was healing. It was time. In a world that is high-speed and wifi and connected, time was the best gift the trail gave me.
It is alarming how quickly and easily I jumped back into the same daily routine that I so desperately fled from a year ago. Within just a few months of finishing the trail, I was back to teaching (yep, it’s still bureaucratic bullshit), in a lease, and buying a car.
Wait…what? How did this happen? I was supposed to keep adventuring…build and live out of a teardrop trailer…see the world…take a few more long NOBO walks…
Sometimes it takes the lessons we learn some time to really sink in, to take root.
I am still digesting, processing, and making sense of my hike and how it will impact my life as I move forward—away from the AT and towards new adventures. Obviously, it already has—I think about the trail every day.
Every. Damn. Day.
Walk on, friends.
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