So I basically broke while editing my next video so I figured it’d be a good time to make a post about this finally.
A lot of people say the trail doesn’t change you really, and I agree with that to a degree. I’m not a different person really despite a few new small additions to myself. I had no real personal motives about going out and hiking the PCT. It wasn’t so much a challenge to myself, I wasn’t doing it to find myself or fix emotional issues. I just hit a wall in life where I realized that I was living dishonestly, that I had a dream I’d wanted to live through for years and never did because I was afraid to. I felt bad somehow that I wouldn’t be following a path in life that was encouraged for me by other people since I could understand language. It felt wrong and selfish so I didn’t do it. I kinda went crazy and decided to break through the wall and live the way I felt was best for me, and that’s it.
The result of that is I did incidentally find myself. It was a part of me I always knew existed but was never allowed to see the light of day in day-to-day life because so many parts of you are being demanded by other people, you’re not free to just be. Being alone out there and living almost completely by my own terms: I felt whole, I felt real, and I knew where I needed to be in life from that point. That part of me that needed to do this got in the way of me progressing in society in a lot of different ways because I was horrified that I would just live for the sake of living rather than using my time in life to really live the way I knew I needed to. I became a very bitter and depressed person as a result living in a cage of my own fear.
My time on the PCT was real. Every step was quantifiable to me, every horrible moment I went through was worth it, and I was finally my full self for the first time in years. I realized I wasn’t insane, I was just out of place for so long. I learned it’s okay to live on my own terms and be completely unapologetic about it.
Beyond that there’s the obvious change in just living outside for months at a time. You get used to the serene quiet, the beautiful views, your feet crunching in the dirt, the feeling of slight vulnerability of living in the wilderness and just being utterly humbled by it all. You’re just walking and I didn’t really know why I was doing it and I didn’t need a reason why, it was just the world I was now a part of. That world has no ‘whys’, you just are and you just do without needing to explain a thing. People were happy, my faith in others skyrocketed, I just felt safe.
I came back home and I found myself slipping back to the same stagnated routines I used to follow and it scared me. So I went out and lived on the road for a little while which helped ease my worries but I know I have to go back. Now that I’m back, nothing really feels real to me. I go out and everything is just noise: Advertising, cars, apocalyptic news broadcasts, the air of frustration and anger hanging over cities. My head just buzzes while I go shopping and I try to pretend that I’m walking through a forest. I don’t mean to sound like I feel I’m above anyone, but I just don’t understand why the world is the way it is. There’s little substance to living in the day-to-day if any. Why are people dedicating their lives to something that grants them little to no personal satisfaction? A lot of people live their lives in a way that feels utterly wrong to them but they do it because everyone around them tells them they have to, and everyone tells each other that because someone higher on the societal tier says they have to. All anyone ever wants in life is to just be happy. The part I understand however is happiness means something different to different people, but what frustrates me is not a lot of people pursue that because it’s deemed wrong by people who’s sole purpose of existing is to control how others live.
All the little things I used to enjoy before I realize now were just distractions for myself so I could ignore that I wasn’t living a full life. I can’t do them anymore, this website and my videos are as close as it gets really. So now that I’m home I don’t really have anything to do with myself which is horrible after having a sense of fulfillment and contentment every single day on the trail despite what was happening. I don’t get that now that I’m not living in a tent and walking every day, so there’s become a divide between the me who hikes and the me who gets out of bed every morning for reasons I can’t fathom.
Beyond that – and this has been discussed quite a lot in hiker circles so I won’t get too in depth with it – your body is chemically different when you hike every day. Endorphins become a bit of a drug that are pumping through your body constantly, it’s a natural high you become accustomed to. When I stopped hiking 20+ miles every day, I just felt like my body completely shut down. Exercising immediately after I got off trail would have been the smart thing to do, but I didn’t. Now I know!
That’s about as best as I can explain it. Of course the good news is it gets better and you learn to apply ‘trail-life’ things to ‘normal-life’ things after a while and you come to accept living in both worlds. No matter how bad I feel I know that I can always go back out there, and I have every intention of doing so for as long as I can stand it. I’ve had a taste of what my life can be and I’m going to chase it until the day I die. Knowing what direction you need to take in life is an overwhelmingly positive thing and worth all of this.
There’s a couple of comics by PCT hiker RocketLlama that do a good job of summing it up. If you haven’t checked out her comics I absolutely recommend that you do, they’re awesome. Here’s a link: http://rocket-llama.tumblr.com/page/87