Life Lessons On and Off Trail

The last three months have been a crazy time of lessons and personal growth. I think I have learned just as much about myself being off trail than on. My experience of hiking and leaving the PCT, along with a great deal of self-reflection, has shed some light on how I perceive the world. I knew from all my various spiritual readings that we see the world through the filter of whatever experiences we’ve had in our lives. Even having read this, I never really considered how my life experience might be affecting my perception of things. After this summer, I definitely have a better idea.

What makes some people stay when it gets hard?

After I left the trail, I continued to follow friends and fellow hikers on Instagram, and the one thing that kept coming back to me was, “why did I get off the trail when it got hard and they didn’t?” Why did they keep saying how hard it was, yet stay, and subsequently say how rewarding? This kept bothering me. I knew it wasn’t the trail, and I knew it wasn’t that I couldn’t physically do a thru-hike. So, what was it? All the times I had read, “it’s not the situation that causes us to suffer, it’s our response to it” finally sunk in. It wasn’t that I was having a different experience than everyone else, it was that I was responding to it differently. And I was responding differently, because I believed certain things to be true. I believed these things to be true, because that’s what my life experience taught me.

Doesn’t everyone feel like this?

I also believed, after leaving the trail, that everyone who did get off the trail, must have felt like me. Like it was a failure of some sort and that they must get back on the trail. But again, what I was seeing didn’t line up with this belief. People would get off the trail for good, but seemed content with that decision. At first, I thought it was just because they made it so much further, but then I realized, maybe distance had nothing to do with it, maybe it was just me. Maybe I was the only one who felt the way I did. Again, I was looking through my own life filter, and responding the only way I knew how. Which led me to think, what if I look at everything differently, more objectively? This allowed me to see each ‘failure’ as a lesson. I could take all of the information about how I reacted to each situation and use it to understand my filter better.

Our personal histories are unique, but we’re not alone

That being said, I know I am not alone in all of this. I believe there are other people who had this same experience and reacted in a similar way. What I’ve learned, though, is that there are many things about my life history that made me see it the way I did, and so I reacted the only way I knew how. Everything that has happened this summer has taught me to recognize that I have a filter, but also that I can change how I perceive and respond to the world around me. I now see many things so much clearer, and really, that was the goal all along. To learn some valuable stuff about myself, find the truth, lose some lies, and change for the better.

What’s Next on My Agenda?

PCT Days in Cascade Locks and PCT Washington section NOBO!

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