Walking through thick soup

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It dawned on me at work a couple of weeks back, that it had taken me the best part of a year to decompress and sift through all my experiences of the previous year on trail in a somewhat subconscious, walking through thick soup kind of manner.

I was working with one of my colleagues, in a workshop behind the scenes, in the department store we frequent on a daily basis 5 days a week to get our wage. We were preparing Christmas tree’s that were due to go out on display the following week. We were discussing various subjects and joking around as usual as we worked, trying to ward off complete boredom. When suddenly my colleague piped up ‘Oh wow, do you realise we were doing this exact same thing last year, this exact week’.

Your probably thinking, so what. But it was significant because it was the same week I had returned to work the previous year after completing my thruhike. I had come back and Christmas preparations were in full swing. I introduced myself to a new work colleague, who had joined the team whilst I was away and that week, together, we had set about preparing the tree’s to go out on the shop floor display.

We had come full circle to the exact task at work, and it freaked us out somewhat, I guess thinking ‘Shit, what have I done for a whole year to land back at the same exact task’.

For me it was definitely a realisation that I had spent a whole year working through what I had been through and accomplished the previous thruhike year. I had now got to the point where quite reluctantly, I was well and truly back into the swing of a modern 9 till 5 society.

Up until this point I have done very little in respect to writing about my time on The Appalachian Trail. It was always my plan to get back and write non stop about all my experiences, filling my blog on a daily basis with long descriptions of my favourite spots and anecdotes of campsite shenanigans. But the honest truth is, I couldn’t. With the pressure of having to fit myself back into a clean and professional work society, after spending 6 months living in the woods and mountains, living by a whole new set of behaviours. To say I struggled would be a major understatement.

I felt like a wild animal plucked from the forest and forced to perform in a maddening circus parade.

There I am the wild animal, hassling the local ice cream parlour.

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The last thing I felt I could do at this point was bring up all my fantastic memories for all to read, so I did the worst thing I could, I piled them into the depths of my mind to sit there and stew for a year. Not my greatest life choice. Idiot.

I had 100% completely underestimated the difficulty of working your way back into the ‘real world’ after such an experience.

I became depressed (post thruhike blues) and I am certain on a few occasions at work, I was dangerously close to having a nervous breakdown. A lot of the time I got confused as to what month it was as a whole half-year of my home and work life was missing. I would find myself thinking of tasks to do in the garden thinking spring was just around the corner, then realising no it was October and just the beginning of winter. But I just about managed to pull off my day-to-day challenges under the façade of my jokey, happy-go-lucky manner. Although I know at certain points for the first 3 to 6 months, the colleagues that know me, knew for sure I wasn’t the same guy. I was longing to be back out there in the wild.

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I did the odd piece on my blog, and I did look through my photos quite regularly, but it was only recently that I felt I could sort through them and put them into albums. I am only just coming round to the idea of writing the whole experience up and I am hoping one day I can perhaps draw on all my posts and form some sort of book with photography interspersed.

It has been an interesting post thruhike year all in all. I have continued to grow as a person, working through difficult times. The relationship with my wife has also grown. We are not the same couple as before my hike, as is to be expected after spending 6 months apart, and to come home and feel like a stranger in your own home, that’s got to change anyone’s relationship. But we are all the stronger for it.

We tried buying a plot of land that didn’t work. For an action packed couple of months back in May/June I started jumping out of planes for shits and giggles taking my skydives to 5 in my life time so far. We also attempted to buy a beach chalet quite spontaneously and up until Friday just gone was looking quite likely but a cash buyer slipped in just at the last moment and that was the end of that. I think one lesson I have learned from last year and I am still learning is, just get out there and try things. Because you never know, you may just a)succeed and b) have an awesome time while doing it.

The year just past since coming home, has been a long bumpy path almost like the roller coaster ride of emotions on The Appalachian Trail. But I have taken it in my stride and I am now set to take on a whole new challenge. Now moving to the beach is out of the question, I have my mind firmly set on my next thruhike, The Pacific Crest Trail. My gear is almost up to scratch and I have a rough date of the second week in May 2015. All that is between me and the trail, is a Christmas and New Years in retail then I will soon be on my way again.

During that six month on trail something worked its way into my blood and my soul. Once that has happened, for whatever reason and no matter how hard you struggle to fit back into society, it just will not work. Soon enough you will be back out there living the life you were born for, following a trail or climbing a mountain somewhere.

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