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Re-entering society after a long distance hike
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Roxanne Miller
(Roxie) - F

Locale: East Coast
Re-entering society after a long distance hike on 11/03/2010 08:08:38 MDT Print View

Does anyone have any advice on a good book or advice in general that I could share with a friend who is coming back after finishing the AT? I hear that it can be depressing and difficult. I know that I have struggled after just 3 weeks in the wilderness.


Mark Ryan

Locale: Somewhere. Probably lost.
Re-entering society after a long distance hike on 11/03/2010 08:37:49 MDT Print View

This isn't a self-help book but one that made transition to modern life a bit more bearable. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryce. Its funny as hell and is a real life account of the author attempting the AT.

My friend used when he completed the AT. Another hiker recommended it. He said it helped because he could relate and connect to the experiences while seeing them and AT hikers in a whole new light. It made fun of the hikers and this "accomplishment" while showing the fortitude it takes to do it. It also went through some of the readjustment of modern life and made fun of that situation. Making my friends life a bit easier.

I am not long distance packer but enjoy being out there. I read this book as my friend recommended it to me. Laughed my a$$ off. First couple of chapters basically state how crazy and stupid of an idea it is to take on the AT. Good book for anyone.

Laughter works. If it ain't fun; it ain't worth it!

Hope this helps

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Re-entering society after a long distance hike on 11/03/2010 09:01:14 MDT Print View

Having a job to come back to helps a lot - you have to snap back into your previous life.
If though you end up being aimless for another 9 months after.....

Brandon Sanchez
(dharmabumpkin) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Mtns
Re-entering society after a long distance hike on 11/03/2010 09:10:32 MDT Print View

I know this can be important. When I hiked the JMT I brought along a book to read. Unfortunately it was Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine which is a fantastic book but didnt have me excited about society when I got back.

My Recommendations:

Journey to the East by Herman Hesse
Its a book that is an allegory for our own spiritual journey. Not nature, but journey related so its relevant I think. The book is relatively short, a breeze to read, a personal favorite, and uplifting.
Quote: "For our goal was not only the East, or rather the East was not onlya country and something geographical, but it was the home and the youth of the soul, it was everywhere and nowhere, it was the union of all times."

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
About a person who's ship has arrived at port. He is about to leave his city forever and the people ask him to impart his truth. The book consists of his lessons spoken to the people.
Quote: "Life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love."

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Good chance he already read this but if not, its required reading.
Quote: "So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it... and tonight the stars'll be out, and don't you know that God is Pooh Bear?"

Jack G
(NomadJack) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re-entering society after a long distance hike on 11/03/2010 09:59:43 MDT Print View

I love Kerouac but reading him might make it harder to re-enter society by being drawn further to the road. Is there a book that describes how great a 9-5 and a mortgage and all the stress that goes with it are? Probably not, better read Kerouac.

Dharma Bums quote: "I wanted to get me a full pack complete with everything necessary to sleep, shelter, eat, cook, in fact a regular kitchen and bedroom right on my back, and go off somewhere and find perfect solitude and look into the perfect emptiness of my mind and be completely neutral from any and all ideas."

Edited by NomadJack on 11/03/2010 10:45:40 MDT.

Jacob Linton

Locale: Western NC
Screw society. on 11/03/2010 10:35:55 MDT Print View

This page from Mags is nice,

Edited by gardenhead on 11/03/2010 10:57:56 MDT.

Brian Senez
(bsenez) - MLife

Locale: New England
re: next trip please on 11/03/2010 11:34:21 MDT Print View

Best way to recover from a long distance hike is to start planning your next adventure. When I got back from the AT I was a little bit lost after spending so much time in the woods. Everything was so fast paced and people were so stressed about stuff that didn't matter. I still sleep on my pad on the floor every night (four years since my thru). When I am hiking I don't really talk about gear much, but when I am home planning a new trip gear is great!

Also on whiteblaze there are a ton of threads like this that might help.

Roxanne Miller
(Roxie) - F

Locale: East Coast
Thank you on 11/03/2010 13:12:47 MDT Print View

This is all really great information. Thank you!

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
Brian on 11/03/2010 13:57:35 MDT Print View

While i have not had the opportunity yet in life to do a long hike. I like to design my gear to be durable as well as lightweight, so I don’t have to worry about my gear when im hiking. I would instead be confident knowing it will work so I don't have to care when im hiking. When im hiking, I would prefer to think about nothing at all and just be there.

Patrick S
(xpatrickxad) - F

Locale: Upper East TN
re: Re-entering society after a long distance hike on 11/03/2010 14:14:01 MDT Print View

I think you might be making a bigger deal out of it than it is. The AT especially is a very social trail and you're in town generally every few days so its not like you've been out in the middle of nowhere alone for years. I took it easy for a few weeks after I came back from my AT thru, but it wasn't really needed. I don't think any of my friends had too much of a hard time either. Plus you're friend will still be in contact with all their trail buddies so they'll have people to talk to and relate to about any issues they're going through.

Roxanne Miller
(Roxie) - F

Locale: East Coast
Re: re: next trip please on 11/03/2010 14:41:13 MDT Print View

I agree with you! I haven't done the AT, just a few 3 week trips and I lived in a tent/earth lodge for a year, I wasn't hiking all the time but just living simply. I had a really hard time with walls. I missed feeling the wind and hearing nature. I found myself standing on the porch periodically just to see what was happening out there. I still do this, and probably always will.

And, I had a hard time with people getting all uptight about nothing. I felt like I was playing a game of negativity dodge ball. Supermarkets were really hard. But now I just keep going back to the peace I learned from time spent in nature and close the door on negativity when ever it comes at me. Continuously getting outside to hike, sit, garden, anything! really helps me too.

I'll check whiteblaze out, thank you!

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: re: next trip please on 11/03/2010 15:17:44 MDT Print View

> I found myself standing on the porch periodically just to see what was happening
> out there. I still do this, and probably always will.
Sounds good to me.

Yeah, after spending 2 - 3 months walking in Europe we have a few days recovery. Ha - some of which is spent tidying up the house and weeding the garden. And washing clothes. And ... relaxing.

> Supermarkets were really hard.
Resources, (food) resources ... :-)
A bit of mental discipline is all that is needed there. And a check on the prices.


Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
A shower? on 11/03/2010 16:12:35 MDT Print View

Sorry, but when I saw the title of this thread, I was expecting something along the lines of how to get a shower and clean clothes before entering the first restaurant post hike!!!!

The phenomena y'all are experiencing is exactly the same as ex-patriot workers call "culture shock" or "reverse culture shock". Since you will indeed experience it, you need to expect it, and don't let it throw you. It is simply the shock your minds goes through when changing (social) environments.

There have been many books and articles written on this - read some before you leave, and you should be well prepared when you return.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Re-entering society after a long distance hike on 11/03/2010 16:19:57 MDT Print View

My longest distance hikes have been 3 weeks, and I've had two 3-month trips to Europe. I still have troubles "re-entering." It doesn't help that, being retired, I don't have to go back to work. In some ways, it was better that I did have to go back to work, because I had no time to relax and feel sorry for myself!

I posted this info on a regional forum just this morning in answer to a similar question:

It's discouraging that I arrive home with unpleasant chores facing me--house to clean, laundry to do, lawn to mow (most of the year), bills to pay, etc. Even if I've groomed my dog and vacuumed the house (in that order) just before leaving, somehow big drifts of Hysson hair emerge from nowhere while I'm gone and are all over the floor when I walk in the door!

I always have problems sleeping indoors the first 2-3 nights after a backpacking trip. I do appreciate the hot shower, fresh green salad, a steak fresh fruit and ice cream , but I'd prefer to go right back out that same night!

It really does help if I force myself to get out on a dayhike for a couple of hours every day (nice thing about living right next to the Columbia River Gorge). It also helps to start planning the next trip right away! No matter what, though, coming home from an adventure is really a downer!

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re-entering society after a long distance hike on 11/03/2010 18:14:59 MDT Print View

As usual, I have a contraian view. I have done two 6-month trips (many, many years ago) and many multiple week trips.

For me; you just accept the fact that the adventure is finished. To be honest, I really looked forward to going back to work and it never even dawned on me that there could/would be some sort of "postpartum" blues.

But then, as a kid, I was thrilled when summer vacation was over so I could go back to school.

A good friend of mine did the entire PCT about 8 years ago. He had quit his job to do it. When he got back, he was anxious to get his old job back and just jumped back into society without consequences.

Peter Longobardi
(paintplongo) - F

Locale: Hopefully on the Trail
Tougher then most people think on 11/03/2010 22:42:42 MDT Print View

When I got off the AT just over a year ago, it was pretty tough. So many choices and options that I wasn't used to having. Also, decision making beyond how far to walk and what to eat.

My advice is be patient with your friend and just listen to his stories. Beware all of his stories will relate to the trail for the next year.

Robert Cowman
(rcowman) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Skurka on 11/04/2010 00:02:18 MDT Print View

We should ask him how he does it... his trips are a bit more intensive than most peoples

Roxanne Miller
(Roxie) - F

Locale: East Coast
Re: Re: Re-entering society after a long distance hike on 11/04/2010 08:53:10 MDT Print View

I think I have finally gotten used to the transition/culture shock of coming back from any long trip, but it took me 10 years of experiencing it. I get it now and can "walk between both worlds", which is how it feels. I now refer to the world of people/society as the "other wilderness". But there were two trips that totally threw me. I came back and realized that I didn't fit in the world I had left. Relationships ended, jobs transitioned, and I spent a lot of time wondering what to do with my life when everything seemed so unimportant. All I wanted was to be back out on the trail, or on the river, or bumming around South America-aka living what felt like a free and simple life. I think it would have helped me to have had someone to talk to who understood what I was experiencing when I came back. Maybe would have helped me transition gracefully.

All aspects of life are an adventure.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
returning from a long trip on 11/04/2010 09:20:13 MDT Print View

"Best way to recover from a long distance hike is to start planning your next adventure."

+1 on that for those both willing and able. In fact, the best way for me to know that I'm still interested in long distance hiking is to start thinking almost right away about the "next trip". If I can stomach --- or better yet look forward to --- a multi-thousand mile hike right after having finished one, then I'm likely to be okay going forward with it.

I also sort of agree with, I think Patrick said that a person can make too big a deal out of it. Partly it might be just how "epic" your friend thought his adventure was. The more a person buys into the "glorious thru-hiker" hype, perhaps the more jarring is the transition. If instead you think of yourself as a somewhat monied hobo, then returning home is pretty nice indeed.

Expectations are a factor; there's a tendency to dream about the comforts of home when things are less comfortable on trail, and forget about any negatives. It's just going to be hard for any real home to live up to what the hiker might be looking forward to.

I think I'm not alone in almost thinking of myself as two people, the "at home" me, and the "on trail" me. Heck, I even have two different names, a different set of friends, (somewhat) different clothing, etc. I don't know if that helps or hurts the transition, but it's a factor.

For me personally, I've found it all too easy to just slip back into the ruts that I left before a long trip. There are always good intentions to shake things up a little back home based on the experience, but the inertia and habits of home are powerful. And seductive (I can get quite lazy ...).

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: returning from a long trip on 11/04/2010 23:18:03 MDT Print View

Just finished the cdt today. Re-entry is overrated!