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Writing, Community, Vulnerability, and a New Trail

I’ve been stuck in my writing since I’ve finished the Appalachian Trail in November. My writing was my connection to the outside world when I was in the green tunnel. Once I reunited with society I felt somewhat disconnected to that raw inner self that wrote daily and religiously on the AT. I missed writing, but didn’t know how to create time for it. I missed writing for myself as a way to process my experiences as well as an avenue to share my journey and self with my community.

Community felt both near and far while I was on the Appalachian Trail for 5 months. Blogging kept me connected to my friends and family while physically, there was a lot of distance. Thanks to my frequent updates though, I felt there was a lot of tacking and presence with so many people who were cheering me on. My community truly held me up during what felt like the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. During my hike there were certainly moments and days where I felt lonely and far away. I was grateful to have my written word to bring me closer to the world and feel connection in times when I was in a wet and cold forest trudging through mud for hours on end.

I think part of why my initial transition from solitude back into society felt pretty seamless was because I wrote to a world of people about my journey throughout my 5 month excursion. I felt a connection to so many through my blog, thus giving folks a window in which to see me at a deeper level - below the surface of the highlight reel on Instagram that makes everything look and seem ultra fabulous. Giving people this window made me feel understood, which allowed people to grasp the magnitude of my undertaking and see me through some pretty vulnerable times. Vulnerability opened the communication lines creating stronger synapses to those in my community.

Maintaining connection to my community and the outside world was a huge side effect of blogging that I was blind to initially. My writing was born out of a more selfish endeavor to remember my experiences and help me learn and understand my journey better. But keeping my connection to the people in my life alive via vulnerably sharing my thoughts, feelings and experiences has helped my reentry process tremendously.

Since my completion of the Appalachian Trail on Nov 21, 2018, I have been on quite the personal rollercoaster. Everything I once knew as stable and consistent, now feels wobbly and unknown. Many days I feel more lost than when I started the hike. I feel as if I am drifting in the ocean. Some days I find choppy waves, other days the sea is calmer. Many days though, I feel unsettled, scared and lonely. I know I am my most grounded self when my feet connect with the earth in the most literal sense of the word grounding. I feel less wobbly or unsure and more alive, strong and aligned to my truest self.

Life after the Appalachian Trail has put a brand new perspective on what it means to be brave or do something hard. The AT was hard and took courage, but some of the struggles since then have presented emotional challenges that make the AT pale in comparison. My community, support network, friends and family have all seriously risen to the occasion to lift me up and hold me in times when I feel most lost. Thank you for taking care of me beautiful world!

Life post thru hike has presented much bigger, harder and more daunting mountains to climb. I am able to put one foot in front of the other because I am held by the love of so many people. I plan now to do just that; put my feet back on the ground and walk. The trail provides a singular path allowing a small reprieve from the chaos of millions of paths colliding.

I am going to dip back into the woods for a little bit as a finale to my year off - this time carrying everything on my own. I plan to meet up with another woman I met on the AT to hike a section of the Colorado Trail. I hope to use this time for myself to heal, process, and connect with my breath, nature and the earth. There is a spark inside of me that feels excited about the challenge of hiking completely independently and self sufficiently, but it will no doubt be more challenging. I will now have double the camp chores plus some extra weight. But I will also get to experience complete self reliance as a solo woman hiker (something I've always wanted to do).

I know that I am taking care of myself by aligning my compass to what feels most important right now; spending time in the woods. Nurturing and caring for myself with the utmost gentleness, I will take my feet and pack to the trail and do some hard work to release some pain and stoke my inner fire to shine a brighter light on my path moving forward. Thank you to my wonderful community for all you do to make me smile, let me cry, and nurture me to be myself.

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