I was contacted by one of the thru-hikers I met on the trail this year. I had left my email address on her trail journal guest book hoping to hear from her. It was Kat of Mike and Kat. I had met them on their first night of the PCT and my second. It was good to hear from her.
I asked about their post-trail experience. It would be interesting to write a book about that. The hike changes people inside and then they have to return to where they came from and somehow fit back in. It is not an easy thing and is not something most people write about after their hike is over. Most people reach the terminus in Canada and that is the end of their story. Their story ends and we're left to wonder what happened.
For Mike and Kat it has not been easy because they returned to exactly where they were when they left. They had to return from the trail quickly to go back to work. They did not have any time to recover. Kat said that it was a strange feeling, almost like the hike never happened. They have had to compartmentalize the experience in order to function. One day they are living the peaceful experience of the trail and the next they're right back to everything they were doing before the trip.
That seems sad to me. I believe the trail has something to teach the world. But the world does not want to listen. It wants us to stay the same. It wants to eat the Earth alive and we are forced to conform. We have to leave our experience on the trail behind in order to survive. We have to pretend the hike was a dream when we know it had been proven to be true reality, the way life should be.
The birds, flowers, mountain passes and creeks, the sunshine and cold mornings, the exertion and pain taught us what it is to be human and alive. Modern life wants us to put those things on calendars, save them for documentaries on TV, keep exertion and pain a weekend activity, confine and compartmentalize nature into parks, small islands in a sea of spreading development. Modern life wants us to believe that cars and microwaved food and cellphones and making lots of money are truer when they are not.
I struggle daily with re-entry. I feel the universe does not want me to return to where I had left off. But it's not leading me anywhere clear. I am very slowly forming a patchwork of jobs, but I feel like a drop-out. I know Tony is disappointed with me, but he keeps it to himself. I am disappointed, too. The only thing I seem capable of doing well is inspiring others, hiking and owning a web site about hiking. But nobody pays you to be an inspiration, to hike or to have a web site about hiking.
Sigh. Where does this nomad go next?