The Pre-Trail Blues
What about the feels before the trail?
We’ve all heard about post-trail blues. Before we even start the trail, we come to expect and accept that we may hit a little post-trail depression when we finish the Appalachian Trail. It’s not surprising – the transition from living for months in the outdoors to re-immersing ourselves back into our normal, societal hum seems pretty rough.
However, I’m not really worried about that just yet. I’ll jump that hurdle when I get there.
What I didn’t expect is my unwanted apathy two weeks before the trail. I wouldn’t exactly say I have the blues, but I do feel sort of… empty.
Don’t get me wrong – I am excited. But its like the excitability is just skipping over me right now.
People keep telling me, “You must be so excited!” and I am. Or, I was a few months ago. And I know the final days before I leave will be full of excited/anxious/scared/nervous/ecstatic feels.
But right now… it’s sort of unreal. It’s one of the oddest times in my life. My time is not displaced enough where I can get excited for the trail, and yet have it be this far-off reality. On the other hand, I’m not close enough where the trail is actually a reality. I’m not stepping foot on the A.T. today, or even tomorrow. For what it seems like, it’s still years away. And yet, I know it’s not.
The Waiting Room
I feel like I am sitting around in the waiting room of life. There are a few magazines I can skim through to feel occupied. I can analyze that painting on the wall and make small talk with strangers. It’s nice, but has no profound impact on my life compared to the other side of that door. Ultimately, my mind is completely focused on when it will be my turn to get up and leave.
Months ago, I thought the last few weeks leading up to my hike would be a complete chaotic, emotional mess. I thought I would be scrambling to do as many things as possible, meeting as many people as possible, and training my butt off to get into peak physical shape.
I have literally done none of those things. My mind has this extreme”screw it” mentality. What does it matter if I spend 20 minutes on the treadmill? Like that’s really going to prepare me for the most difficult 6 months of my life.
Is eating extremely healthy the last week before I leave really going to make a difference? Pasta everyday it is.
Hey, I really love my friends and I want to see them! But, you know, I have time. I have time. Stay in bed a little longer. It’s okay. I’ll make time.
I am strangely calm in the face of a complete life-changing, horrific, incredibly awesome experience. I know I should be more nervous, but I just can’t make myself feel that way. I feel like the only thing I can do is wait.
I like to over-analyze life, so I’m trying to understand WHY I find it hard to feel more emotional. WHY is my heart not falling out of my butt every second? WHY am I not more concerned about my physical health? WHY have I not eaten any fruits and vegetables in the past week when I know such foods will be a rarity on the trail? WHY am I not making plans to meet up with everybody I know when I won’t see them for 6 months? I feel like my mind is completely refusing to come to terms with everything I thought I would do.
And then I realized… my mind is protecting me from anxiety over-kill. For me, it knows the most important preparation I will ever have for the trail is BEING on the trail. It knows that if I scrambled to fill my free time with lunch and coffee dates, SOMETHING will seem off. The prospect of my leave will seem far too real. I will exhaust myself before I even leave.
I KNOW it’s real. The Appalachian Trail is right outside that waiting room door. However, if I start to scramble, my mind might freak out.
Instead, my mind’s like, nah girl. You’re cool. You’ll be fine. Take life slowly. Be a knittah. You got two weeks left! Enjoy the comforts you’ll soon miss.
I don’t know if this approach is any better. All I know is that I gotta trust my mind and my gut. And if it’s telling me that I need to be calm before the storm (this will most likely become literal); well, hopefully it knows what the heck it’s doing.
(Also, there is some good advice here on how to avoid the pre-trail blues!)
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This IS exactly me right now. Thanks for writing it down so I can learn how to aciculate how I’m feeling, ill be leaving late March and I literally feel like this is one of the strangest times in my life…limbo is really bizarre. And waiting rooms suck. Best of luck! xo
I’m leaving mid-April. My hiking partner has been running/ellipticalling 6 miles a day for months. Other than buying gear and testing my underwear and pants to see if they chafe, I have done nothing to prepare.
Ha! I have a hiking partner that’s been running laps around me in physical preparation and i’m just sitting here like, eh.
I REALLY needed to read this, thanks. Relieved to know I’m not alone in feeling this way. good luck to us all!
I needed to read this too! I am a month out and I am in this weird spot where I know there’s probably things i could be doing to prepare…but at the same time i’m probably as ready as i’ll ever be and i’ll have the trail to figure things out on. The waiting room is no bueno!
I’m so relieved to hear from so many that I’m not the only one! I was worried about writing it because I kept telling myself shouldn’t I be doing more?! But I agree, there’s only so much more we can do without actually being out on the trail. Thanks for reading and good luck to you!