The Big Question
“How has life been after the trail?”
The big question. The question that sparks a million thoughts. The question that causes sorrow and happiness at the same time. The question that I don’t quite yet know how to answer. Life on the trail was simple. I didn’t do much thinking. I know you were expecting me to say that I went out there and discovered the meaning of life and what my true destiny is… I didn’t find out any of those things. I didn’t have to think. I was living the most simple, yet grand life I could imagine. Life back in the “real world” has required much thinking that I wasn’t prepared for.
It has been a literal culture shock going from complete solitude to people racing past me in the streets, cars speeding past me at 80pmh, co-workers running circles around my work. I’m not in the least bit the same person that I was prior to the Appalachian Trail. Coming back to the same town, house, job, and friends but being a completely different person has been one of the hardest parts of adjusting. People expect the same outcomes from me as I produced prior to my hike. And quite honestly, I’m having a hard time living up to their expectations.
I’m not as extroverted as I once was. I’m actually a complete introvert. This has caused people to question, “what’s wrong?” Don’t misunderstand me though.. I am thankful for their concern. But everything is “wrong”. This world is too loud, too fast, too controlled by consumerism, too focused on themselves. While on the trail, I lived in a world where everyone lived at 3mph, everyone owned what fit in their backpack, and the communities that surrounded us were more than willing to help. People say it takes 6 weeks to adjust to something new.. To make something a habit. I lived in the woods for almost 6 months. Trail life became my entire life. I adjusted, learned, and maintained that lifestyle for so long that I am now questioning everything this “real world” has to offer.
I am sorrowful and happy. I miss the trail every waking moment of the day, but I am also happy to have people in my life who continuously support me. I might be struggling to no end to keep my head above the water, but I have people who are willing to jump in and help me swim. (I like that analogy because I’m a swim coach). There’s no simple way to answer the big question, but what I do have to say is that I can’t wait until my next trail journey. If you have a thru hiker in your life, please be patient with them. They are struggling whether you know it or not. They truly love this life, but they’re having a hard time loving the “real world” like they love the trail.
-Pringles (I refuse to be called Ashley) AT SOBO 2016.
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