Here are some thoughts I’ve had since coming off the AT after my thru hike attempt:
I didn’t expect it. I hit a point where I didn't want it anymore.
I had wanted it so badly, and I knew that if I wanted it, I'd have it.
That’s really the only difference between those who finish the AT and those who don’t. There are men and women still out there that were slow as snails, and I see their photos as they’ve entered New England. Their desire remained unchanged.
But that wasn’t the case for me. I lost my desire, and it became unimportant to finish.
A lot of people, if they are injured, will go home and take a few weeks off. Or they might hole up in a hostel for a week. I wasn’t sure of this, but I had the feeling that if I went home, I wouldn't come back. Or if I stayed in a hostel for a week or two, I’d worry so much about all the money I’d “waste.” I also couldn’t imagine my brain being able to handle being in a hostel for that long. It was hard not to keep moving, especially if it meant staying in a dumpy place alone
I don’t think it just boiled down to money, but I realized that I didn’t want to return broke. I hadn’t saved enough money to take a long break and still have money when I came back. People who complete the trail don’t look at the money they spend as a waste, but it started to feel that way for me. As the days went on while I was on the trail, I wondered if I could spend my energies on things that suited me better, toward places where I could win and not feel so defeated. I’m not at all saying that the AT is a waste, unless you are forcing yourself to keep going when you shouldn’t.
So once I got home, I held the two options in front of me: heal and later meet up with friends and hike the rest of the trail with them, or take the money I had left and invest it back into my life.
I had thought about this a lot while I hiked.
I received a wonderful amount of good from my hike, but after a while, it didn’t feel like the best investment back into my life. I realized I could take the money I had saved, return home, and for the first time work toward some things I really wanted for myself, that I’ve never given myself before: a warm home, a budget and plan for saving, a plan for my creative life. Yes, these all require money, whether I wanted to accept that or not.
It’s still difficult to think that this thing I had wanted for so long- to thru hike the AT- would be so difficult to attain, but I would have never known this unless I tried. I wouldn’t have learned just how much it would take to do.
In the end, I realize I wasn’t ready for it, but I believe that I will be able to try again one day, when I’m ready. I think about how different that experience will be, to hike with knowledge and wisdom. I really look forward to that day.