What’s in a Name? (Or, Why I’m Not Taking a Trail Name)

Let me first say, trail names are awesome. They’re fun, easier to remember, and most of them come with a good story. They are great for most people, and I think they’re one of the most interesting traditions of the trail.

However, for me there also seems to be a deeper element to them. When we take a trail name, it’s almost as if we are taking a new identity. We are able to reinvent ourselves, become who we want to be on the trail, and all that is wrapped up in the trail name we’ve chosen. The problem with this is that we go back to “normal life” after the trail and then what? Is all that we’ve learned and all the ways we’ve grown on the trail gone as we assume our “real name” again? Probably not, but semantically and philosophically we can fool ourselves into dividing these two parts of our being, and believing them to be separate. With that comes an extra facet to the separation between “real life” and “trail life.”

My problem is that I don’t want to separate these two parts of me. This is not a break from my life, this is just a step that may irrevocably change my life in ways that I probably can’t even imagine at this point in the trail. I want to absorb the ways that the trail changes me and make them a part of my being moving forward. For me, that means keeping my name; keeping my history; keeping my past, present, and future; and keeping myself open to change.

As I experience the trail, these experiences will change me, Zoë, the real me, not a trail façade of myself. Perhaps this is just semantics, but for me, I choose to remain true to myself in the only way I know how. My name means life, and since this trail (along with everything that came before it and will come after it) is already a big part of my life, it only seems fitting.

This post is not meant to discourage anyone from taking a trail name. Like I said, I actually really like the tradition, but it’s just not for me this year.

Have a good story about a trail name? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Comments 8

  • Avatar
    Tim : Apr 1st

    Makes perfect sense to me. For me its not a separate identity but a fun way to enhance the trail life and make the most of my journey on the trail. I start Sunday 4-3-16

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Zoë Symon : Apr 23rd

      That makes sense too! Hope the beginning of your hike is going well!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    George (Dos Equis) : Apr 2nd

    I started out with a similar idea, but ended up with a trail name after about 200 miles in. I kept blogging using my real name. Your point makes perfect sense. You want to bring back everything you learned and to fully be that newer, more experienced version of yourself.

    So best of luck on your journey. And if you happen to be given a trail name at some point, enjoy it. But keep knowing that it is not a separate identity, and that you will bring back all the learnings and all the experiences. The trip will be something you will carry with you – the real you – for the rest of your life and will become part of the fabric.

    enjoy!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Zoë Symon : Apr 23rd

      Thanks, George! If the perfect name appears, I’ll definitely consider it.

      Reply
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    Cekidd : Apr 3rd

    Best to you Zoe. You may change your mind ..about the trail name . Zoe is a nice name and all- life:) Aa trail name enhances the journey -, is fun! And well you will still be Zoe the ___, NC girl. &Enjoy your walk!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Mama : Apr 4th

    This makes me smile so much. When we first learned that we were expecting oh those twenty-something years ago, as it is for most parents, choosing a name was one of the most important tasks facing us. It had to be strong, for our little girl to own her life with a little jazz, perhaps. You have more than lived up to your name, my independent, brilliant, talented and capable daughter!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Zoë Symon : Apr 23rd

      Aw. Love you, Mama!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Mama : Apr 4th

    PS… And it seems that your nicknames over the years have all been variants of your name… Zoë-bird, ZoMo… Your name is rather insistent! Not to mention it has that fabulous umlaut. 🙂

    Reply

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