I sat on a toilet rather than hovering over the rim. I slept in a bed rather than on my tattered baffled sleeping pad. I showered under flowing, warm water rather than my half liter bottle of barely-above-freezing water. I hung out with friends rather than animals and strangers. I held verbal conversations rather than an inner dialogue. I hugged people, made contact rather than condemned to isolation, praying just to even just brush by another human in a doorway.
I cannot describe the loneliness and isolation that I felt at the end of this past trip. It started out subtle, overshadowed by the excitement for adventure, and then grew, and grew until I was ready to come home, but unwilling, simply because of the prospect of more adventure. I started driving a few days ago and made the 30+ hour drive at my own pace, but when I felt the presence of home, started hearing the familiar accents, knowing the cities and towns, seeing the state lines tick by, I started racing home, covering nearly the last 16 hours to get to my parent’s place in Blacksburg in one huge straight push.
I drove the last 3 hours to Richmond this morning and am so happy to be home and with friends and family. I can’t even express how good it is to be back. It was an incredible trip, truly a once in a lifetime epic, but I am human and crave the civilized life from time to time. I chalked my sentiments up to the tease of civilization that constantly surrounded me. On a backpacking trip I can completely get away, jump into the mountains for a time, away from the lights of town, the lit up Pizza Hut sign and scattered free wifi to allow me to check in with friends and family. But living in my car nearly always near a town, the civilization was always just a tease. I would simply rent out a booth at McDonald’s, but sitting and writing and reading without interruption was impossible. So to be here, laying in my comfortable bed, the gentle breeze of warm air rushing out of the vent above me, to be able to rinse off in a sink and slip back into bed a few feet away, simply amazing. To have a home. To know I won’t be woken up and sent away by someone telling me I was illegally parked and can’t sleep here. Tonight, I’m going to bed knowing that I can sleep here. And on that note, I wish you all good night.
4 thoughts on “To be home”
Hi, I’m a transfer student from USMA at West Point, currently studying at George Mason University who really wants to take on hiking the Appalachian Trail. However, I would have to take significant time off of my studies to complete the hike (6 months accross 2 semesters). I am also a Bioengineering major whose career goal is to be a physician (so I want to get into medical school). From your experience as a long distance backpacker and medical student, do you think it would be worth it to take time off in the middle of college to do this? Or maybe wait until I have completed my degree and take a gap year before med school?
Hey thanks for checking out my site! It’s awesome to talk to another backpacker into medicine! I actually took a year off after my freshman year at Virginia Tech to attempt a winter thru-hike of the AT. I think it all depends on the individual. For me personally I needed a break and couldn’t wait any longer. I truly think it helped turn me around and get me on a better path and really helped my studies. I will say though that you don’t need two semesters off. You could do a SOBO hike starting in June and be finished by November or NOBO starting in March and be done by the end of the summer. But that’s of course up to you and how fast you want to hike. I think you can’t go wrong either way. But be prepared to have your life changed forever! Best of luck with whatever you decide and keep in touch about your trip if you decide to write about it. I love to live vicariously through other hikers on the trail.
I have decided to do a thru-hike of the JMT instead! I somehow was lucky enough to get permits this late in the year for a mid-June start 🙂 I think it will help me as well, taking a break from school and allow time for myself to live simply. Thank you for your insight on this blog!
Awesome! I did the JMT a couple summers ago and loved it! I wrote up a couple posts but I never got around to a full day-by-day post: http://graysoncobb.com/tag/john-muir-trail/ I hope it’s helpful but please let me know how your trip goes!