Where Does the Time Go on a Town Day?!
I just walked about 125 miles in the last 5 days. I’m tired and dirty. I want to talk with friends and family, and most of all – I’m looking forward to eating some fresh food. “Town days,” as I call them, can often feel overwhelming and filled with logistics. Sometimes it feels like the hours get sucked into a vortex and I don’t know where the day went. This was supposed to be my “rest” day, right? Where did all the time I thought I had to rest go?!
I thought I would share what I do on a day in town. Including a little bit of a numbers breakdown – just because I was curious. This day specifically was a stop in Waynesboro, VA off of the Appalachian Trail.
1. First things First – Eat
Many of us know that we can’t function until we have our basic needs met. Coming off the trail I am usually out of food. Eating something helps me focus on the town day tasks ahead.
Sitting down to a meal can also help me pause and regroup to plan the next section of hiking and my activities for the day. Walking into a town can feel overwhelming so having a moment to settle in can be important. Doing that over a meal can help to ease some of the noise and traffic overload.
Time: ~1 hour
2. Regroup and Make a Plan
I try to make a plan for the next section. How many days? Are there any restaurants along the way? How much food should I buy? How many miles a day?! Should I hitchhike into a town part way through or just carry more food and bypass that stop? So many questions to answer amidst spending time on your phone, eating a big breakfast, and the general sensory overload that can come with being back in a city.
It helps me to make a list of all the things that need to happen. Even those small things can feel like a lot of work. Especially once I’ve made it to the hotel room or hostel I am planning on staying at, it will be hard to leave the comfort of that couch or bed. For me, I try to do it all before I get to the hotel – so I can just chill when I eventually get there.
Time: ~30 minutes
3. The Chores
Okay! The list has been made. It’s time to take action.
The Grocery Store
One of the places that can feel the most exciting and also the most daunting. So many options – everything looks so good. Good thing I ate breakfast earlier – right?
Once again, it helps if I made a shopping list in that regroup time. Nothing super specific, but at least some general thoughts to guide me. Having my future self in mind is a mantra I repeat in my head when I am buying supplies at the store – or just in life generally. Ensuring that I buy some food and drinks I can consume throughout the rest of day is also key. I know that I just ate breakfast, but I will probably be hungry again within the next hour, and will need to stay hydrated.
Time: ~1 hour
A big task!! And one that can take time. Hopefully I got a hotel/hostel that has on site laundry – that can mitigate the time it takes to wait around at a laundromat for those hopelessly crusty socks to dry. I usually end up hanging out in my rain gear for that time (even if I am lucky enough to be in my hotel room) – keeping the sweat going…even off the trail.
Time: ~1.5 hours
Post Office and/or The Outfitter
Sometimes I will have a specific reason to visit the post office. I may have sent myself something or I may need to send something away. In this instance, I sent some of the warmer clothes I brought for the AT home (hoping I won’t need those again). Also, fuel is something I easily forget. Coming back to the list (hopefully I wrote it down), I try to make time/remember to visit the local outfitter or hardware store to pick up some canister fuel. I wouldn’t want to cold soak that mac and cheese meal in a few days.
Time: ~45 minutes
4. Relax, Get Clean & Personal Time
Wow! I always feel like this moment will never come. The time that I can scrub the dirt off my feet, call friends/family, write a blog post (ahem!) or put a picture up on social media. All of this is assuming it isn’t time for dinner, I’m not too tired, or it’s not time for bed. Once again, time seems to disappear and things always take longer than expected.
Time: Whatever is left.
Where Does the Time Go?
Just out of curiosity, I did a breakdown of the hours. For the tasks from numbers 1 to 3 there is about 5 hours of time. This isn’t accounting for the time it takes to walk between all of the locations – my feet are still my main mode of transport in town. So, let’s add an hour there. That is a total of about 6 hours of time. If I made it to town around 9am (after walking a few miles to the road that morning), then I could be completely done with all the necessary tasks by around 3pm. But, somehow it’s always a bit later. You know, I stopped for ice cream, I had a long conversation with the person at the outfitter…you get the idea. That leaves a few hours to chill, eat dinner, and then get to bed early. But, phew, where did all the time go?
Of course, these numbers are estimates. Every hiker is different and everyone does it their own way – just like the trail itself. As always, things come up and sometimes plans don’t work out as planned. Think about how easily you can lose an hour without realizing just by clicking around on your phone.
My big learnings: Time can disappear if I don’t have a plan or a list of tasks. Stay present. Stay hydrated. Keep your future self in mind at each point along the way.
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