I’ve been home for a week and a half now. The train ride home with Whistle was fun, but once we split up in Chicago where I headed north and she headed south, I was a mess. I felt like I had lost the last piece of my life for the past six months.
My brother picked me up at the train station. The ride on the freeway was fast. Too fast. When I got to the farm where I live, I was shell shocked. I was shell shocked for most of the next day too. People were excited to see me and I was just generally overwhelmed. It’s good to be here though. A week and a half since getting home, I’m comfortable riding in vehicles again and I’ve mostly relearned how doors work. Wearing cotton feels nice and I’m happy to be able to cook in a kitchen again instead of on a camp stove.
I went back to work a day and a half after getting back to Wisconsin and I think that helped me to avoid the dreaded long distance hiker depression that befalls many when they return home. The first few nights back in my own bed I didn’t sleep well at all and found myself rummaging through my stuff in the middle of the night, assembling large piles of things to donate to the Goodwill. Why do I have so many pens? Isn’t one pie pan enough? I don’t even like these water glasses, why do I still have them? Is it necessary to own five decks of cards?
I haven’t unpacked my backpack yet. I can’t bring myself to do that just yet, which is kinda gross because there are things in there that need washing.
I’m able to talk to my hiker friends daily about our shared experience of reintroduction to society. It helps to know that other people get confused at the grocery store too. What am I supposed to eat if not Knorr pasta sides and snickers?! The fresh fruit and vegetables have been one of my favorite parts of coming back. Tree-ripened fruit is always available right here on the farm and I can just walk to the neighbor’s to pick my own fresh veggies.
I miss the trail though. I had a dream about the trail last night. It kept calling me back and I didn’t have much money and kept protesting that I couldn’t make it if I returned. I miss the views and the peace and the walking and my friends. Yesterday I walked back home from the bank. It’s just three miles, but it felt good. I was very happy.
If you asked my friends and family if I’ve changed, I’m not sure what they would say. I would suspect they don’t see much of a difference. I feel calmer though, more confident and less restricted by constraints like money, distance, possessions and time. I also live more in the moment and don’t sweat the small stuff. I find I get annoyed at others who do sweat the small stuff. You’re in charge of your own happiness. Life is what you make it. Why not make it fun and happy?
When people ask me about my trip, I never really know what to say. “It was phenomenal,” just doesn’t seem to cut it. There’s no way I can do my journey justice. You just had to be there. Another thing people ask me is what my next adventure will be. I’d really like to do more hiking in higher elevations. Maybe go out west and hike the Pacific Crest Trail or spend a winter in Wyoming or go overseas. The truth is my next adventure is beginning much sooner than I anticipated and it’ll be another life changing event. I’ll share the details later.
The best thing I think I’ve gained from thru hiking the Appalachian Trail is a greater sense of freedom. I’m so incredibly glad that I set out on this journey. The relationships I developed along the way inspired me as much as the nature surrounding me. I feel so blessed and so grateful for each and every day and I’m excited for what life will bring me next.