It is well over a month now since I completed the AT. I have been working on settling back into “reality” and I’m not sure if I’m being successful or playing the avoidance game. I have enjoyed being home so far, taking advantage of the finer things in life like a change of clothes and a soft couch to relax on, but there are some aspects of the trail that I miss. I still don’t really feel like I did it, like I hiked the entire AT, but when I see pictures from the trail on facebook I start feeling drawn back to the White Blazes. The other day the “friend suggestions” section of my facebook page was full of profile pictures from Katahdin, a lot of hiking buddies! In the “real world” there are so many choices and distractions in the day that I miss having the simple goal of walking north on the trail. Just a few minutes ago my hiking buddy Meat posted “Whoa! Where’d the simple life go?”, and I agree with him! When I wake up here in Santa Barbara I have a hundred things to do each day, most of which will not be done. On the trail I had one thing to do, walk. That was nice…
Walking around town the past few weeks I’ve found myself leaning forward like I am compensating for a backpack that isn’t there. When I did walk with an old high school backpack I felt like I was missing a hip belt and frame. I am still having a hard time running on sidewalks, my feet and joints feel the pounding. I recently told a fellow hiker that instead of waiting to feel better to run, maybe I should just make it hurt until it feels better. I did that this past weekend by running a 31 mile trail race, and on most accounts I feel better now than I did before! My toes still seem to be a little numb though, and I hope that changes soon.
While driving around town the other day I passed a guy with a cardboard sign asking for money. As I looked at the man with the sign and considered giving him some cash I realized that he was making more money than me! At the end of the day he’d be finishing with more cash than I have! Is he “working” harder than me? How do I make some money? I have also found myself walking around town checking out the homeless people’s backpacks and gear, a habit that I am sure has carried over from the trail. A pointless observation, I have yet to see an ultralight homeless person, they all seem to have a lot of heavy gear.
Spending lots of time at home gives me plenty of time to think. Some ideas are productive, others…not so much. The other day I was drinking filtered water because it is better for me than tap water, and I thought “If it is better for me, shouldn’t my dog drink from the Brita as well?” Thoughts like that probably won’t help pay the bills…
I wanted to meet up with SpAcE (AT 2009) and I told him that I was available whenever since I am currently unemployed…he replied “You are not unemployed, you are FUN-employed!” I thought about it for a minute and said, “OK, maybe I am self employed” and he corrected me again, FUN-employed. I have been spending the majority of my days working on projects or doing research in my specific interests with the goal of having a business that I enjoy. So far it isn’t making money, but I feel like down the road it is not impossible to make a living doing something I love. I just finished reading Yvon Chouinard’s book “Let My People Go Surfing”. The book is about how Yvon started and grew Patagonia into a global brand and in the book Yvon included the quote below. I think it illustrates my thought process of “work” after the trail.
A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both. – Francois Auguste Rene Chateaubriand
If you can’t tell, lots of my time now is spent pursuing ways to “make money” without getting a “real job”. I’m not sure how it will happen yet, but I wake up early every day and start the ball rolling…at some point I hope it rolls in the right direction! Well…I guess it’s back to work…or play…or FUNemployment…whatever you want to call it!