Coming back from the AT, it seems as though I’ve been plopped in the middle of a bustling street as I wander slowly, a bit lost, through the throngs of people who have a destination. There’s an odd disconnection I feel that can’t really be explained. A trail friend was complaining how it’s been hard to participate in small talk. You can no longer ask people how many miles they did, talk about how gorgeous the view you all passed that day was or what they’re cooking for dinner. Even talking with some friends, I feel slightly off and removed. There’s this fog I’m trying to see through that appears to have no end. I’m stuck in the thick of it. I can hear others, but I can’t quite reach them properly.
As life does, it moves on while you’re gone. People have grown, moved away, gotten married or had children. I think this is all part of some culture shock that should pass as I spend more time away from trail life. Nonetheless, being done with a thru-hike has me feeling these type-a ways:
Shoot, it’s time to find a job.
I’ve spent nearly 6 months in the woods occasionally talking to the animals lurking within the forest. There was a stretch of 10 minutes where I did a call and response sequence with some crow on a branch. A crow. Luckily, no one saw me. Unfortunately, it’s clear that some signs point to slight delusion. How am I supposed to dress up, talk properly and impress someone in an interview?
How can I adventure while being stable?
There’s a sense of accomplishment and duty that comes with being employed. You have a purpose, you’re working toward goals and, hopefully, giving back to society in a way. Jobs are good. Adventures are good. Finding the work/rad adventure life balance sounds daunting. Some people have a hard time finding availability to even go to the gym let alone bag wild trips to beautiful mountains.
Welp, it’s me. Living at my parent’s house. Broke and alone.
It’s the millenial dream, right? Just hanging out. At home. With your parents. So what I’m saying is, if you’re around and are equally bored, please hit me up.
Did the hike even happen?
There’s only so much time I can spend talking about the trail, reiterating my stories to my parents (because, let’s be honest, those are the only people I’m hanging out with these days).
People will ask about it by saying “how was your hike?” I can only muster an “ it was great.” How can I begin to condense my entire hike into one elevator speech? It almost diminishes the hike to summarize it, but no one wants the 6-month-long explanation. So, you answer a few short questions and the conversation moves on without a sense of actually relaying how the hike made you feel. It was amazing, it sucked, it struck you with emotions when you least expected it. There were moments when a view made you hold your breath for fear of ruining the stillness. Friends ebbed and flowed as you let a variety of people enrich your trail life. Trail angels filled your world with hope, happiness and help. On the fourth climb of the day, your body screamed while your legs pushed on. Teeth bared, you make it to a summit and the strain is all worth it.
All of that seems so far away now.
Don’t let hiker hunger take over.
On trail, you eat like an animal. Get. Those. Calories. Men become emaciated, and ladies get cut. However, back at home, you’re not walking 20+ miles each day. I have to actually eat normal-human portions, and lift weights.
(I pulled a sneaky, BYOA – bring your own avocado- in Hot Springs, NC. Dedicated to the ‘cado)
It’ll all be fine.
It sounds like I’m floundering, I am a bit, but life will work out. I’ll get a job and make it a priority to go on sweet outdoor adventures. (Hello, PCT hike eventually?)
Let me know what you think about transitioning from adventures back to “real life!” If you’re interested in following more of my adventures on Instagram, hit up @SeeBagsGo.
Congratulations on your thru!
From what I’ve seen, I’d say it’s perfectly normal to feel the way you do during the post-trail Transition. Yes, people who haven’t been there won’t be equipped to understand the depth of your recent experience. But, it _did_ happen.
It can take months and months to come up with a plan and get on a track that puts you on that next adventure. In the meantime, I’d suggest volunteering on local trails to give back and stay part of a hiker community.
In any case, the trail has changed your life, and that’s a beautiful thing.
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Thank you!! It’s good to know that this is relatively normal haha. I’ll definitely try and volunteer for the local trails!
Bags: Thank you for capturing how I feel. Your eloquent expression is comforting. Please do not stop.
It has been 42 days since we summited Mount Katahdin (Thanks for the great pic).
I have been blessed by family and friends with wonderful receptions back home. My wife has been terrific in helping me re-enter and even my cat has been more affectionate than ever. 🙂
Still, I say that I am a Stranger in a Strange Land, but have grown to actually accept my new existence. Once a close friend told me that the word Holy meant to be separate, something that I can relate to now. Indeed with my longer beard and hair I look more and more like an Old Testament figure and one of my Jewish friends told me that I looked like his rabbi LOL.
I hope my still sore feet eventually will get better, but I do not want to lose that I am somehow forever connected to our wonderful Trail. On Katahdin, you asked me “How do you feel? All that I could utter in that great moment was, “I feel”. I made a solemn vow to myself never to lose that sentiment.
So a new day has come. I have just become a grandfather to little Morgan Danae Minarik and she is beautiful. So bring on life, not that we can stop it, I am happy to see things differently.
I think I’ll go for a short hike now…
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