Why Do The Woods Change Us So Deeply?

I recently wrote a blog about how the Appalachian Trail changed my life (you can read it HERE!).

The response to this blog was unbelievable.

I was inundated with private messages wishing me well and people telling me their stories of how they to want to separate from the 9-to-5 grind and get back to a simpler life.

I began pondering, why? Why did I have such a strong reaction to being out in the wilderness? Why do others have the same similar reaction?

Here is what I came up with for me (though I think many will probably relate).

We are taught from a young age that success comes by way of a great career, a house, cars and many belongings. The more you have, the more successful you must be, right? As a teenager, I used to drive through wealthy neighborhoods and wonder what they must do for work to be living so well. I wanted what they had. I was envious.

So, I spent years buying into society’s standard of success. Getting a college degree, working long hours, and acquiring lots of things with the money I made. The side effect of this type of living is millions of stressed out, anxiety ridden, overworked people who can no longer find time to connect with those around them. I was one of “them”.

I started taking a drug for anxiety 8 years ago. I was so overwhelmed with tasks and trying to keep up with the Joneses that I would have anxiety attacks. In order to stop having anxiety, I did what most of society does…I drugged myself. The drug provided me a way to manage my stress and anxiety without slowing down. It also left me unable to have real feelings.

But the woods, it has a way of slowing you down whether you want it to or not. On the trail, you aren’t competing. You want everyone to make it to the top and you help, encourage and celebrate when everyone gets there. There is no dog-eat-dog mentality on the trail. You don’t claw your way over people to be the first up the hill. You walk, talk, and develop friendships – you connect on a deeper level with those around you. It’s truly the way life should be…could be, if we stopped competing with each other on every level.

When you are stripped down to your very basic needs, you realize how important it is to have a sense of community, camaraderie and true friendship. The trail takes your stress, your anxiety and your negativity and absorbs it into its canopy. You walk off feeling peace and serenity.

I think this is why so many people are drawn to the woods and why they have such a hard time adapting back into society. Once you experience the type of life the trail offers, nothing else can compare. No amount of money or success can bring your soul the same peace.

Since getting off the trail and completely changing my world, I have taken myself off my anxiety drug (*Please, do not do this without a doctor) and am starting to feel again. I know that I will never join the corporate world again.

I will never be successful in the eyes of society.

My success will now be built on the foundation of friendships, life experiences and helping those around me.

Why do you think so many people struggle to adapt back into society? How did the trail change your life? I would love for you to connect with me!

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