It sounds so dramatic to say that I’ve been ball-and-chained now that I’m living in a city apartment and working a corporate job, but it’s the truth. I think about my hike on the AT this summer and it makes me want to cry. Maybe I didn’t hike long enough to the point where I was ready to be done, maybe if I had finished it I would have felt like it was time for that part of my life to be over. Whatever it is, I didn’t finish the trail and I was NOT ready to be done. I AM NOT ready to be done. Living outside is the ultimate freedom. I was perfectly and beautifully free of the world’s expectations – I only lived according to what I wanted. Now, you might be thinking ‘well of course it’s easy to be happy outside – you can do whatever you want’, and yes. That’s true. I had no bills to pay and no desk to sit at. Long-distance hiking is sort of a fleeting perfection, which makes it all the more special.

trail magic

^ Trail magic in a parking lot = heaven

shelter

^Home for the night!!

So I can’t hike and live outdoors for the rest of my life, I know that. But I need to find something sustainable that makes me feel the way the AT does. On the AT, magic is real. Trail magic. Relationships are so pure – you automatically have so much in common with everyone and everything that surrounds you. You don’t worry about how you look, which allows you to let your personality show how beautiful you are. That, in turn, allows you to see how beautiful everyone else is by way of their personalities. It’s easy to surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself, and easy to get away from those who don’t. You carry only the basic necessities and can finally see consumerism for what it really is – a trap that weighs you down (to this day, I’m still bewildered by the sheer amount of products for sale at big stores like Wal-Mart or Macy’s…what a waste!!).

Backpacking just brings a true appreciation for the simple joys in life – a singing bird, a flat rock to sit on, substantive conversations with complete strangers. A goddamned hot shower! Ice cream! I take a shower every day in my Boston apartment and I don’t think twice about it, while over the summer I would savor every drop of water that ran over my skin during my sweet, semi-frequent, precious $2 showers. How quick we are to forget that access to running water and a four-walled structure is a privilege.

trail

^Lovely lovely trail

washing hair

^Pit stop to wash some hair!

But, isn’t that just part of the human condition? To become accustomed to what we have? Is that inevitable? Perhaps I simply don’t have time every day to think about how thankful I am for each of my blessings. Or perhaps that was a very white middle class thing of me to say and I should check my privilege. My point is, living outdoors and walking with a heavy bag on your back every day makes every emotion so much more powerful, and it brings gratitude to the forefront of it all. Relief, joy, exhaustion, frustration, impatience, fear, peace, love, gratitude, everything feels so much bigger and deeper on the trail. You just feel more. If feeling emotions is a third of what makes us human (the other two thirds being free will and self-awareness), don’t we want to feel a little more like our true selves?

rock hoppingfranconia

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2 thoughts on “Musings on 800 Appalachian Trail Miles

  1. I didn’t complete my thru-hike in 98..I wasn’t ready to come off either, it’s a longing that never subsides. Almost 20 years and many shorter trips later I am beginning my redemption hike this summer. It never goes away, I suggest you just start planning your next attempt at pure freedom.

    1. Wow I commend you for setting out again to thru-hike! Congrats and good luck on the redemption hike 🙂 I’ve just started my first full time job and for now I’m going to see where this takes me, but I’ve already been able to tell in the few months since I finished my attempt at half the AT that this longing will never go away. It’s almost a blessing and a curse. Happy hiking and thanks for your comment!

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