We did it!
We finished what we set out to do; a feat I never fully accepted would happen in my mind. It’s hard to imagine the past seven months as a trip because after so long it just felt like our lives. And now all of that is going to change.
During the last 700 miles of our thru-hike, Treasure Hunter and I would joke about getting to Springer and then turning around and walking straight back to Maine, hiking what’s called a yo-yo. These comments were jokes… but they’re also kind of serious.
It’s not because we want to live on the Appalachian Trail forever (although people do and they don’t seem so bad off). It’s because what we called “the real world” while we were out there is a scary place.
I am greatly altered by our time on the trail. There are wonderful things I found out there and within myself that I’m scared won’t translate into “real life”. The past seven months have been the happiest of my life.
For lots of reasons. To name a couple:
Firstly, Treasure Hunter and I overcame obstacles in our relationship while we were forced to be together 24/7-365. I carried the cooking stove and he carried the water filter, so we couldn’t just walk away from each other when there was a problem. We needed each other (in so many ways) and we were forced to make it work for the sake of the hike and ourselves. All the knock-down drag-out fights, screaming at each other in the middle of the woods, they resolved. It didn’t happen very much in the latter half of the trip because we found a way to communicate and come together. But is that going to walk off the trail with us?
Secondly, I’m in the best shape of my life. My legs are amazing. I wish we could just jump to swim suit season in December and let me show these bad babes off. It’s not just the muscle definition that makes me happy though. Something about all that exercise and hard work, repetitively, each and every day… makes a person happy. And having never been a fitness nut or a terribly consistent exerciser, this is a different kind of happy that I haven’t felt before and it springs from developing a strong and healthy body. That strength flows its way from both body and mind. But I’m not walking 15-20 miles a day anymore. There’s no possible way to get the same amount of exercise in “real life” as we did on the trail. Can I continue to commit to my body and hold onto this new sensation?
Then there’s all the bullshit that comes with normal life. One of the main things is having to talk to people. People often asked us as a couple: “Don’t you get sick of talking to the same person all the time?” To which I respond, “Well, sometimes we yell just to switch things up.” But in all seriousness, only having to talk to one person really simplifies things. It’s an adjustment to feel surrounded by so many people. And speaking of living simply, it’s a huge shock to go from a tent to a house.
We had one main activity in the past seven months (hiking and more hiking), and now that there are so many people and places, the options have been become overwhelmingly more open and complex. It can make your head spin if you’re not used to it.
We have to rebuild an entire life now. When Treasure Hunter agreed to go on this journey with me, he also agreed to give up the house he had been investing a mortgage in for 5 years. We sold most of our possessions in a giant yard sale before we left. We are starting over from scratch.
We need jobs. Being employed by another person will be an adjustment as well. For instance: having a schedule. For the past seven months we do what we want when we want to do it. No one tells us we have to be a certain place at a certain time. We’ll have to readjust.
So with all of this, the urge to turn around and run straight back to the AT and follow it up and down and ignore “the real world” is a strong one. We found a world where the commotion and stress of life is reduced to your partner and the homes you carry on your back. But, it’s also like Treasure Hunter said every time it came up: there’s more adventures in life than the AT. There are more trails, more trips, other countries, other programs to get involved in, amazing people to meet, and other lives to live. It is worth it to cope with it all and keep moving forward, not back. And certainly not North for God’s sake; SOBO foreva!
So it’s time to do the next brave thing. It’s time to go home.