Appalachian Trail Happiness: Post Trail Depression
Hiking the Appalachian Trail is an amazing thing, primarily because of the hiking community that you encounter. I encounter the same sort of thing at the Burning Man Festival that I have attended a number of times and have written a piece on the similarities between Burning Man & The Appalachian Trail.
Like being on the trail, at Burning Man you meet an incredible group of people. People who are kinder than the folks you normally encounter, giving, open and people of a similar mindset to you in many ways. The normal stresses of life are put on hold and you get to relax in a way you never get to in your day to day, default life. One of the things that you notice at Burning Man is that after the week is over, once people hit the tarmac, they start to revert to the same behaviors they normally exhibit off the playa and it begins to bum you out. Then, once you get back to the default world, you quickly remember why your time at Burning Man, or on the trail was so special. You quickly get disillusioned with society and the people you encounter. You long for the community you left behind and it leads to in the case of Burning Man, to what I call Post Playa Depression and the link will lead you to a piece I wrote on this years ago called Burning Man Disconnection.
Now that you’re off the trail you’ll feel some of these same feelings, we miss our trail family. Life is now much more complex and not nearly as satisfying as life on the trail. Being on the trail we had clear, defined and simple goals – hike to that point from this point. We feel bummed out by all of these things, so what do we do?
The very first thing I would say is be careful with any big decisions you have decided to make. If it’s something you’ve been thinking about for months on the trail you’re probably ok. But if it’s a sudden decision your making, one you haven’t been considering on the trail, be careful my friends, take your time before acting and make sure it’s a good decision and not one born out of your longing for the connections you’re feeling distant from.
Stay connected, your trail family is still out there and they’re feeling the same way you are so reach out. Give them a call, drop them a note, plan a hike somewhere with one or all of them. Write about your experiences, in a book, a blog, or even just in your own journal. Remind yourself of all of the positive things you have just experienced. Then, start planning your next adventure, you’ve just done something completely out of the box and utterly amazing, what’s next for you, the possibilities are endless.
Stay in shape, don’t underestimate the positive impacts of the daily exercise regime you’ve been implementing for the last few months. Sure, you aren’t going to replicate walking eight plus hours a day with weight on your back, but you can stay active, walking, biking, running or the gym. Keep exercising daily, exercise will not only keep you fit and keep off post trail weight, but regular exercise has an impact on your mood. Likewise, get off your trail diet and back to eating less and more balanced.
Finally, stay happy, do the basic things we know help make people happier. Exercise, express gratitude, get enough sleep, smile, be altruistic and tell people about what you just did. People love hearing about the trail, they love to live vicariously through our experiences, it will make you feel good and get you more than a couple of free drinks.
Also, feel free to reach out to the hiking community, that includes me, find someone to talk to if you are feeling down and I mean this my friends. If you need to talk, I’m here and so are your fellow brothers and sisters from the hiking community. We were there for each other on the trail and we can be here for each other off the trail and make sure that we’ll all continue to have happy days my friends ~ Rev Kane