The Journey Continues Post-Trail

Everyone always tells you that adjusting to life post-trail can be difficult. Be aware, they say; don’t get caught off guard, and understand that your journey doesn’t have to come to an end at the terminus. I knew that going into the hike I would have the time of my life. I would live simply, enjoy the beauty that nature had to offer, and establish long-lasting friendships. And as with any vacation, I kept that small ounce of thought in the back of my mind that each day closer to achieving my goal was also one step further to being at the tail end of my time away.

Regardless of how quickly that journey flew by, the trail has given me a perspective on life that I don’t feel I could have achieved elsewhere. It can be an odd feeling to hitchhike into towns and walk among others going about their daily lives. Your clothes, the dirt on your skin, the smell of not bathing for days—you tend to stick out like a sore thumb. Not to mention every motel, campground, or restaurant you’re asking about their rumored thru-hiker discount or loitering outside on a picnic table or sidewalk. Accepting free rides and being hosted by strangers is a different feeling when you’re not used to it. At first it can make you feel embarrassed or awkward, but eventually you grow into your own thru-hiker skin and go about doing these things with confidence.

I notice this new sense of confidence as I’m walking around the airport. I’m tired and anxious to just be home and recently mentioned to my partner that if I felt I wasn’t going to get in trouble for blowing up my sleeping pad at the gate, I would do so without a second thought. The trail teaches you to care less about what others think of you, and that’s valuable in my opinion.

As I sit here, I reflect on how that will help me moving forward. I’ll be jumping back into the professional world one interview at a time. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had these past six months, not only in the sense that they have enhanced my life tools but in the way they have given me perspective. Sure, I’m a bit stressed to enter the real world again and all that entails, but I’m not worried. In fact, I look forward to reintegrating into society and living with the comforts I’ve forgone on trail.

Being the creatures that we are, routine becomes a part of trail life as well, so yet again I’ll just be replacing one routine for another. Wake up, take down the tent, pack up camp, eat breakfast, walk, eat lunch, walk, eat dinner, set up the tent, blog, sleep, and repeat. Now my life will follow a different pattern—wake up, make coffee, make breakfast, style hair, put on makeup, get dressed, drive to work, work, eat lunch, work, drive to the gym, drive home, make dinner, shower, watch television or read, sleep, and repeat. Even seeing it written makes it evident that life will inherently become more complex.

For now, I am excited. Maybe it’s simply the change I’m looking forward to, or possibly the chance to physically relax and not walk 25 miles per day. It could be the lure of starting a new chapter with my partner that I met on trail and the excitement of planning for the next adventure. I’m sure it’s a combination of all the above. Friends that have been off trail for some time warn me that I’ll be reminiscing about my previous life soon. I don’t doubt their credibility. I’m sure that time will come and my mind will flood with six months of intense memories and emotions will run high, but first I’ll enjoy this next chapter.

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