When I came home, I was welcomed with open arms by my husband and son. My cat warmed up to me eventually.
Over night, I went from the majority of people I was around knowing that I was a thru-hiker to pretty much nobody knowing I was a thru-hiker. Even if I wasn’t on the Trail, people saw my backpack and knew what I was. I’ve shaken strangers’ hands in grocery stores. I’ve gotten a standing ovation at a pub. I’ve been honked at and given enthusiastic thumbs up. I’ve had to respectfully decline wads of cash from strangers in motel lobbies. I never felt like I deserved any of these things but I admit that I simply got used to them happening. I was a thru-hiker… occasionally mistaken for a homeless person… but still a thru-hiker.
What am I now? Well, I’m a lot cleaner these days so I no longer get mistaken for a homeless person, but now I’m just a girl with badass calves, and hairy legs and armpits. Yeah, jockface at the auto repair shop, the length of my body hair in no way impairs my ability to hear you speak out loud about me to your buddy.
Post trail depression is real. I did my research. I read journals. I read Appalachian Trials. I knew it was coming. There isn’t anything I can say about it that somebody hasn’t said already. It’s been just over five weeks since I came home and I am still adjusting. Instead of complaining, here are things that help:
Easing In To Being Social
I kept to myself for a little bit. In fact, as awful as this sounds, the very first person I saw, that didn’t live in my house, was a fellow hiker, Boot Scoot. We met up at a Korean festival (trying to find your Korean friend at a Korean festival isn’t as easy as it sounds), and we didn’t hang out long, but just knowing that I had someone that lives close by to talk to, if I needed it, was a huge relief. After that, I felt okay to start visiting family and inviting friends over. Some of these interactions went better than others and I’m glad I got to do them on a one-on-one basis instead of having a welcome home party where I was bombarded by everyone at once. There are still people I haven’t seen, and I have no excuse, but I haven’t forgotten them. I don’t know why I can hike over 2,000 miles but driving for an hour feels like an insurmountable task. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you—my brain is just currently on the fritz. Give me time.
Another thing that helps is to remind myself of things that I can only do at home. Such as…
I’ve said before that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to go home. I just didn’t want to leave. I want more than anything to be in two different places at the same time. The best way I can describe it is being homesick while you’re at home. It’s confusing. Pretty much every day starts with me waking up and realizing I’m not in my tent. Then I wish I was. Then I immediately feel guilty for not being grateful that I’m home. I am grateful. I love my family. I also love sandwiches delivered to my doorstep, instant potable water, and using my phone to control the temperature of the air without having to get out of bed. Trust me, I am grateful, but that doesn’t stop me from missing trail life.
I feel comforted by staying connected to the people I met on the trail. Facebook and Instagram are fun but require a self-imposed time limit to keep from doing NOTHING all day. We call. We text. We video chat. It helps. My favorite thing has to be my group text with my Katahdin family.
Sometimes, I even give in to my pathological relationship with Miss Janet and I text her. The other day I asked her to tell me that everything was going to be okay and she texted back a quote:
Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
It was what I needed to hear. It’s definitely not the end because I still have a ton of things left to do before I can start planning the next adventure.
- I need to go through all my trip photos and maybe get some printed for my mom since she doesn’t have internet.
- I’d also like to print out my online trailjournal into a decent little book just for me. It’s not going to be interesting to anyone except me but I enjoy the idea of having a tangible copy.
- Get the coolest A.T. tattoo to ever exist.
- Blog about my GPS tracks, mileage stats, and post-hike gear reviews. This alone should keep me busy for awhile.
- Unpack. I haven’t unpacked. I’ve been home for just over a month. It’s all in a pile on the floor. I took out the food one day when I wanted snacks and I threw the hydration bladder in the fridge so it wouldn’t mold.
That’s pretty much it. It is ridiculous and I have no idea why my husband hasn’t really complained about the pile of gear. It’s mostly because I’m lazy, and partially because if I unpack then it’s really over. But it’s time to start acting like I live here, and it’s okay, because I know everything is going to be okay. After all, if it’s not okay, it’s not yet the end… and these legs of mine still have miles to go before they’re done.