[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: 96 thruhikers, part 1

>I have read many of you entries since this one (see below) and have many
>questions. I am planning a hike to begin in 6 weeks. My two main questions
>  1) how did you hike change you emotionally/mentally? what have others said?
>     (read in one of your entries that you have spoken w/ MANY thru-hikers)
>  2) did you hike while married and if so, how did it affect your marriage?
>     again - what have other hikers said?
>My wife and I have a strong relationship and she is supportive, but I know
>I will worry about her (back home) a lot. I'm concerned that this will
>affect my hike. Any thoughts?

Wayne -

Welcome back.  But - 800 messages ??  Prolific group, aren't we?
I haven't been ignoring you - it just came down to a time crunch at
work and I haven't had time to get back to you.

When I first read your questions, I had no idea how to answer them.
I had to think about it - I'm still thinking.  Good questions!!

I'm going to start with a number of caveats -
1/ I'm one of the "fringe" people whose life changed drastically, and
        what happened to me is not the norm.
2/ This will be my personal opinion, experience and observation.
        There's nothing scientific or even necessarily logical about it.
        And that's more than passing strange for someone who spent most
        of his life making Spock look emotional and illogical.  But then,
        people aren't logical, are they?
3/ Advice is worth what you pay for it - and this is free.
4/ I won't guarantee you'll like everything I have to say.
5/ As a thruhiker I am, by definition, insane and therefore cannot
        be held responsible for anything I say.
6/ I may wander off in strange directions
7/ I'm not going to explain anything in any depth.

So let's start with your first set of questions -

First, all of what I previously quoted from Larry Luxenberg's book
applies to me.  I think it applies to all thruhikers to a greater or lesser
degree.  Just for reference, here it is again:

After more than two thousand miles on the trail, you can expect to
undergo some personality changes.  A heightened affinity for nature
infiltrates your life.  Greater inner peace.  Enhanced self-esteem.  A
quiet confidence that if I could do that, I can do and should do whatever
I really want to do.  More appreciation for what you have and less desire
to acquire what you don't.  A childlike zest for living life to the fullest.
A refusal to be embarrassed about having fun.  A renewed faith in the
essential goodness of humankind.  And a determination to repay others
for the many kindnesses you have received.
                Larry Luxenburg  "Hiking the Appalachian Trail"

So what other changes did I experience?  Let me count the ways -

I think most thruhikers re-order their priorities - the way we
use our time and energy, what we want out of life and what we're
willing to do to get it.  In my case, personal survival became a priority.
The Trail gave me the time, inclination and ability to look inside myself
and I found someone I liked - me.  When I got back, I wasn't willing to
bury that person in the life that I'd lived before the Trail.   I learned
that the level of anger and paranoia that I'd lived with wasn't necessary,
desireable or even normal.

I learned to trust God.  One of my Trail lessons was that God knows what
He's doing.   There were too many really improbable "coincidences" for
me to believe otherwise.

I learned that there are times to seek change - and times to rest and
assimilate past changes.

I became restless and curious - there's more of the world than I can see in
what's left of my life.  I want to see as much of it as I can.

My reactions/habits changed.  My reaction to emotional pain, disappointment,
etc changed from anger or brooding to - "Let's go to hike it out".

I learned that happiness is here and now.  Not yesterday or tomorrow or
something material or a future event, but what I am and what I have right
NOW.  I don't have any other time.   There isn't any other time.

I became softer - more people oriented, more tolerant, more loving and much
more open.  Before the Trail you'd never have asked those questions, because
I wouldn't have given you the opening to ask them.  I occasionally revert.

I became harder/tougher.  Physically yes, but also mentally and emotionally.
I learned (again) that physical and/or emotional pain is sometimes the price
for what you have to do.  Emotional pain is far worse than physical pain, but
I learned (again) that it won't kill you - even when you wish it would.

I learned (again) to listen to that small, still voice inside that tells me
I'm headed in the right direction - or the wrong direction or when a situation
isn't right, or when someone's lying to me, or when it's time to change plans,
or stop for the day, or ..........  I learned that my sense of timing is better
than I ever imagined - as long as I'm listening to that voice.  Part of it is
what some people call "sixth sense".  But it's more than that and I'm not
going to try to explain it in this context.

For those familiar with Meyers-Briggs Personality Type testing, I was an
INTP before the Trail.  I was tested 3 times in the 5 years before the Trail.
After I came back I was tested again - and I was an INFP.  There was a
distinct and definite personality type change.  That's not supposed to happen.

There were physical changes as well - my sense of smell, for example,
became much sharper and my tolerance for perfumes of any sort was
diminished.  I can't use scented soaps or laundry detergent, I can't be
in the same area as anyone who uses heavy perfume and I can smell
things that other (civilized) people aren't even aware of.  I became a
lot less civilized, a lot closer to being 'wild'.  I like it that way.

I'm not sure this is what you were looking for.  But for better or worse,
I did change and I think it was for the better.   All of the above have had
profound effects on my life.  And I'm happier now than I've ever been
before, although that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.

You're right - I have talked to a lot of thruhikers, and a lot of them
have experienced the same general kind of changes.  But everyone is
different, everyone experiences different changes and different
degrees of change.   And we all deal with the changes in our own ways.
Just remember that I'm on the far end of the bell curve - there aren't
many of us who were affected to the degree that I was.

I just read through this and realized how long it's gotten, so I've
split it and you'll get it in two parts.   But you probably won't
get the second part until next week.  My lady's coming back from
Atlanta today and I WILL pick her up - snow or not.  It's been a long,
lonely week without her.

Walk softly,
Jim Owen
Bald Eagle, AT-92