I must warn you, this post is nothing like my happy, excited posts I have written over the past 6 months. Rather, it is a reflection of what it is like, for me, to come back into mainstream society after the most beautiful journey of a lifetime. It is very common for people to have a period of sadness after such a long hike, and I am no exception. So if you are here to be uplifted, read no further. It’s all part of the journey, and this is my experience.
I have been “home” for just over two weeks now and have been working through so much mentally, emotionally, and physically. Each day is a challenge in a whole new way that I never experienced on the trail, and it may be just part of this great journey – another challenge I didn’t expect. A very dark one.
While I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail I felt the most happiness I’d ever felt in my entire life – I attained true bliss. I learned that real happiness comes from not knowing what each day will bring, but having the faith in myself that I will confront obstacles and get through them as they come. It is invigorating to wake up each morning not knowing the beauty I will see or the challenges that will arise, but taking each step one at a time and living only as fast as I can walk and only concerning myself with a few simple things: eating, caring for myself, sleeping, resting, filtering water, and most of all WALKING.
Coming off the trail is like coming into the world for the first time. It is a noisy world of fast cars, unhappy, unhealthy, and upset people living lives that contain them in little boxes, only occasionally dreaming of doing what they really want – all the while telling themselves they cannot, because their responsibilities seem to own them. It is a world of anonymity where people barely even look up at one another in passing and think you are weird if you take a moment to say hello to them. After being embraced by a community of happy, healthy people I feel so alone in this world of strangers.
Life here has me dwelling on the past, stressing about others and the chaos that surrounds me, and just plain feeling stuck. I feel as though this place that I call “home” is merely a waiting room. Waiting for my next adventure, waiting to see what the future holds for me, waiting to move out and be independent again. My real home is the trail. The trail is home to all of us, you may just not realize it yet. It is a place where life is simple, options are limited, and friends are everywhere. Every day you are blessed with the beauty of going with your own rhythm and accepting every single moment for what it is and nothing less. On the trail we walk in God’s country, a place of perfect beauty and what may seem to most as mere legend. The earth is a magnificent place but our busy lives within our concrete jungles make us think that wilderness is only a dream, or perhaps a place to visit – but it is our home. As the Tobasco Donkey’s put it, “Civilization is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” I’d rather be hiking up the hottest, most endless hill, or walking through freezing rain and snow than living such an average life. This feeling must be temporary, but I know I will never see the world the same again.
My feet are buzzing constantly and I have nowhere to go. They said it would be hard to come home after my hike, but I had no idea it would be this hard.
The trail gave me a gift. One that no one can ever take away from me. I know how I want to live. After a lifetime in school, I finally discovered what it feels like to be free and now I am determined to live a beautiful life of adventure, and not settle for anything less. I have so much life left, and I will spend it discovering the world. I may not have discovered the strength to do this had I never hiked the trail. The realization that I have what it takes to follow my dreams has pushed me to make some very ambitious and difficult life decisions. I sacrificed my relationship with the man I love to nurture my independence and further challenge myself with living the life of my dreams. It is both terrifying and exciting at the same time, it is also very lonely and I miss him deeply. It is quite simple. He is focused on building a settled life and I can no longer swallow my urge to fly. Perhaps one day our dreams will align, but right now I have no choice but to feed the hunger of my soul to experience all the different flavors life has to offer.
“When it’s time to die, let us not discover that we have never lived.” Henry David Thoreau
Some things I am dreaming of…
1. Finding a community of happy, healthy, inspiring people to live among (out of San Diego)
2. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail AGAIN (and the entire thing this time)
3. Hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT – 1200 miles long, from Montana to the Washington coast), among many other lesser-known long distance trails.
4. Living in beautiful, inspiring places – maybe other countries
5. Seasonal Park Ranger opportunities in other states (Such as Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, etc.)
6. Learning to play a musical instrument
7. Living well, following my heart, not letting the world get me down, being inspired
8. Eventually, settling down somewhere beautiful where I can live simply
I will start working again soon and I don’t know what the next chapter will bring, but I know it is not going to be easy. Being here has me trying to make future plans, but my life is too unpredictable for it not to be in vain so I will do what worked for me on the trail – I will play it by ear and see where the path leads. All I do know is that I am going to follow through with what truly satisfies me, no matter what I have to do to manifest it. And let’s not leave out the most important part… I know that everything is going to be okay. Everything is temporary.
Thank you for following me. I hope my adventure inspired you to get out and do something you have always wanted to do.
3 thoughts on “The Brick Wall”
Thanks for articulating your thoughts and feelings in such a lovely way — I can relate to how you’re feeling after thru-hiking the PCT and CDT. I really relate to “home” as a waiting room — but I try to think of ways to create adventure and find true contentment in my “real” life as much as possible, because therein lies the larger challenge, right? Anyone can go on a long hike, but to live within the confines of civilization without buying into the hype is probably much more difficult than any obstacle we might face in the wilderness. After the PCT, I found that the memories didn’t fade, and the experience stayed very very much alive in my daily life — and I find that somehow comforting when I sometimes catch myself not in the present moment but instead somewhere in my thoughts of the trail. I wish you the best of luck, and can’t wait to dig through your blog archives.
LoveNote, I am so glad you enjoyed my writing and could relate to my experience. I hope the archives were enjoyable, too! The trail has never left me either, and I hope it never will. Images flash through my mind every day and I am really coming to understand what you said about how the greatest challenge is finding happiness and contentment within society that is so easy to have while hiking long distance. Keep hikin the trails! Maybe I’ll see you out there. 🙂
Abby…no words of wisdom,this one has been hard to respond to, just be happy, follow your dreams 🙂 I’ll be here to offer what support I can, and to follow along as you chronicle your new adventures …keep me posted ok!!