|Coffee on the Amtrak|
Transition post trail is one of my favorite topics and I always enjoy hearing other hiker's experiences as they are all so similar, and so unique at the same time. When I finished the PCT in 2010, I was almost completely broke and did not transition well. I could not afford a place to live and was unemployed for a month and a half following the trail. When I finally found a job, I had to live out of my car for four months while I worked just to afford a security deposit and first month's rent. It was a hell of a learning experience, and I realized I needed to plan better. When I finished the CDT in 2013, everything fell into place perfectly. I was back to work within three weeks, and my living situation also smoothly worked itself out as I moved from Mendocino to Humboldt county in California. Life continued on without skipping a beat, and I was better prepared. After finishing the AT in December of 2015, I also hoped to quickly and smoothly transition, and everything was in place to do so. When the time came to make things happen however, I hit a wall.
I could feel the wall building itself within my being the last few weeks of the trail. I had to decide whether to head back to California, or move closer to home on the east Coast. Every day on the trail I would go back and forth in my mind. When I woke up in the morning and was feeling fresh and energized, I could not wait to go back to California and continue life's adventure out there. When the afternoon and evening would come around, I missed the comforts of home, and really began to miss being around my family. I was missing out on family gatherings, my nieces and nephews were all growing up and I was missing out on their lives, my parents were quickly getting older as well. I realized I was at a crossroads, and it seemed as though I was at a point of no return. If I moved back to California, there was a good chance I was never coming back. I was probably going to rarely see my family again. As it was, if I could afford it, I visited home only about once a year.
My parents thankfully gave me a little time and space to think things through post trail. My first week home in Maryland, I went back and forth in my mind as usual. I contacted my former employers in California and they gladly accepted me back. It looked like California was "a go" once again. I packed up my stuff and was ready to leave for the west coast when the DC area was suddenly slammed by a blizzard. I delayed my departure date and had three more days to think things through. Once again, I was set on leaving for California but my heart just was not in it. I set another deadline and decided to leave. When that day arrived, I realized I couldn't bring myself to do it. I was tired of always saying goodbye. That was it. I made the decision in that moment that I was going to stay in Maryland.
Thankfully, I was able to find work not too long afterwards. That transition was a little tough. I had to cut my hair short, shave off the beard, buy new clothes. During the job interview, I kept having what felt like an out of body experience. "Who am I? Where am I? What the hell am I doing here? I was just sitting around a campfire, sleeping in a sleeping bag, clothes in rags, hadn't showered in days, and now I am sitting in this office? What is going on?!! Am I in California? No, east coast!" I felt like a chameleon. I was terrified of driving and sitting in traffic. I would drive in the right lane and just sit there. Too dangerous to try and pass anyone. I am just now beginning to get used to it again. I have yet to drive in the far left lane on the beltway, but have made it to the third for now!
My parents have allowed me to stay home for a while as the adjustment continues to work itself out. It's not where I envisioned myself being at this stage in my life, but I am extremely grateful, and I dare say happy. I feel at peace with the decision, even though I do miss California, especially the redwoods.
I am excited what Maryland has to offer however. I am seeing my home state with fresh eyes. I hope it will become a home base of sorts. A place to plan future adventures out of. I hope to be able to continue blogging, the content will change a bit obviously. I've started measuring the heights of trees with a laser and clinometer, so that may be a primary focus. We'll have to see. I still hope to hike more trails in the future, and I imagine those details will work themselves out in time. I also may be back in California for a short while this summer, as all of my stuff is still out there in a storage unit. I'm looking forward to seeing the redwoods again when that time comes. However, for now, I am glad to be home...