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[at-l] Hiking and mental status
It has been my understanding that the issues following the end of the trek
are the most profound in leading to depression. In general - the big
let-down. A major goal has been accomplished - what to do now?
Many hikers have formed lasting bonds and friendships from their thru-hike,
the hike itself has forced many to be fixated on a goal or destination, and
the lifestyle that they have finally adjusted to has come to an end. Each
of these attributes could leave many feeling depressed once the hike is over.
From the business world we can learn a few lessons to be applied here. If
you treat your adventure as a start-up business you'll need a business
plan, a financial plan, and an exit strategy. Most folks accomplish the
first two points - it's the last one that many omit.
The exit strategy is essentially a plan for ending your involvement in the
business itself (this is normally the dream of selling one's business for a
huge profit and running off to early retirement) in our hiking example this
is a way of returning to the modern world.
A good plan of how to celebrate your success with others who weren't with
you on the trail would be important, so would a plan for documenting the
events of your hike in a more formal fashion, finding a new job, and so
many other tasks that get left hanging . . . Setting up a new set of goals
and objectives for the homecoming would be important in preventing those
Your stress levels are likely to rise upon your return to the modern world
(for lack of a better analogy), some financial issues are likely to be
facing you, and restoring your old lifestyle will be major obstacles in
front of you.
While I was in the Navy I had to take several "Med" cruises on
warships. They are six to seven month adventures away from home and quite
an experience. However, over time your way of life gets altered - weird
work schedules, weirder eating habits, and a rapid acclimatization to
noise. What happens to many sailor who return home is that they discover
that they can't sleep at night. Hard to explain but it leads to increased
stress at home. The cause is directly related to going to a noisy
environment to a quiet one. This "culture shock," as it is sometimes
called, leads to our weary sailors falling asleep instantly in front of a
noisy TV set (which mimics the shipboard noise environment). It takes a
few weeks for the "shock" to wear off but it is a constantly recurring
issue. The smarter ones know to have some music or other soft noise ahead
of them for sleeping hours to help keep them on a routine sleep schedule on
return to home.
Best to have outlined a plan for use at the end of the trail to help keep
you as focused and purpose minded as you were on the trail. But like the
planning on the trail - one must keep their objectives in a flexible
schedule. Things and events will lead to changes and it would be import to
establish one's expectations rationally so not to be overwhelmed by the
stuff to do.
I think that this is where the internet has become a great tool for these
types of situations. It allows one to maintain some of the relationships
they formed following the end of their hike, it allows a forum for their
story to be told - either by personal webpages or trail journal sites, and
it allows those who accomplished an impressive feat to share and mentor
those who will follow in their footsteps.
So, don't stop the planning with the mail drop list . . . go a step further
and develop your own exit strategy that will help keep you up and running
and moving in a productive manner once you get off the trail.