I recently read an article that touched on the effects thru-hiking has on your body and mind. The author’s approach was genius! She roped you in with an intriguing title, then further explained her outlook as you dove deeper into the article. The title: “How the Appalachian Trail Wrecked My Life,” immediately caught my attention. I continued to read. I shared the article. And soon realized so many of my fellow thru-hikers, men and women alike, felt the same way. I realized we are all still kin. We are all still feeling many of the same feelings post-trail. As much as I try to suppress these thoughts, feelings, or whatever it is that keeps happening to me, I end up going right back to memories of the trail and how I felt out there. In those moments how completely vulnerable, how free, smart, beautiful, confident, and open-minded and open-hearted I felt. The residual effect is never immediate. I thought I would feel different right after the trail. I’d heard stories of how much a thru-hike changed someone and was half expecting the same thing. I felt roughly the same when I finished, just better. But now, it’s there. It’s REAL, y’all! It literally comes in waves. I’m fine for a few months, then BAM…out of nowhere, I sink back into this trail brain where everything reminds me of my hike. I lie awake at night sorting through the memories in my head. Sometimes shedding tears of joy & happiness reminiscing over silly jokes my trail family and I shared, or the time I completely wiped out on a slick rock, scraped my legs, but never once missed a part of the story I was telling at the time I went down (Huggy!). I have vivid memories of the places we hiked and even exactly who I met on those days. I literally geek-out when I see another AT license plate on the highway & fight everything in me not to follow that stranger to their destination just so I can ask them about the trail. Everything continues to point me towards being better, more active, more open-minded to the things around me, and chasing after new goals and dreams.
I’ve been toying with this a lot lately. I’ve had a lot on my mind and been going 90mph, as I normally do. But sometimes I forget to just take a step back and assess what truly matters. Assess the things that are hindering this or that in my life and grab ahold of them, change something, and move forward. I’ve broken down my own barriers with deep and emotional conversations, tried to understand what truly matters in my own life, and hopefully inspire just one other person to ask themselves the same questions. And if I’m lucky, maybe even change their outlook on life or their perspective on something they are doing.
Many of us tend to beat ourselves up over the things we haven’t accomplished in a day/week/month/year. UM…guilty! But the cool thing about life, is you get to do it your own way. You get to pave your own paths and build your own foundations. Yes…these things come with a bit of help from our families, loved ones, coworkers, friends, etc., but you’re still the one in control, steering the boat to the next port. Those ports are your goals. The seas may be choppy, smooth, and sometimes swallow you whole, but that’s the beauty of it all. The experiences you create that get you to your next stop. And the crazy cool thing – your mentors (for many like me, our parents) – have been there, done that. It’s fun to be at an age or point in life where you now understand they’ve lived through similar experiences as you. Guess what that means? They have real-life advice readily available for you! Neat! So dive in. Ask questions. There’s no guidebook for life. Just as we prepped each day to hike, we referenced our guidebooks to help us reach our next destination. But everything in between was up to us. We could stop at this creek for water and lunch, or decide to camp here because we didn’t feel like walking anymore that day. It was all okay. It’s called a guide for a reason. It’s there to help, but not live by.
Let’s try not to beat ourselves up over the things we haven’t accomplished. Just set new goals. Figure out a way to reach them, enjoy the experience that takes you there, and keep on hiking! 😉
Let’s be pioneers of our own lives!
“Never let your memories be greater than your dreams.” -Doug Ivester
Check out Stacia’s guest blog post below. It will give you a great perspective on the life of a thru-hiker. Thanks for sharing with us, Chica & Sunsets!
Stacia’s blog: https://adventurelikeagirl.wordpress.com