On the trail we develop habits. Some may call them bad habits, buts that's only when they are in the context of society. On the trail they are more like necessary survival skills. Obviously you have to eat that Jolly Rancher even though it fell in the mud or you will most likely starve to death before you can get to the next all you can eat Chinese buffet. In the real world that might be frowned upon. In the mountains, Jolly Ranchers are valued just below toilet paper and just above tortillas. So a little mud isn't going to stop anyone from enjoying the treasure that is a Jolly Rancher.
I've talked with fellow hikers many times about what life after the trail will be like. Nobody really knows. I hope I will be able to take some of the things I have learned out here and apply it to my life every single day. No matter where or when I might be. I have learned so many things about myself and others. About nature, endurance, kindness, generosity, flexibility, resourcefulness, perseverance, and attitude. I want to take the best of all these things and carry them with me wherever I go just like my heavy, smelly pack.
I was talking to Not Swedish about how quickly we adapted to life out on the trail. It wasn't long after leaving Springer before we were setting up camp, cooking with a cat food stove, and hiking up and down mountains with relative ease. We are very comfortable in a tiny tent and if we can find some flat ground we are living life in luxury. I've realized that it takes very little to make me happy right now and because of that I am ecstatic so much more often than I ever used to be. It's really incredible.
Adapting so quickly and easily to this new lifestyle is both amazing and troubling. On one hand, I am very glad I was able to adapt quickly because it was necessary. I had no other options once I started walking north from Springer. Maybe that is why it was easy. On the other hand, maybe people are always quick to adapt to their surroundings. Whatever the surroundings may be. In that case, if I'm not careful, returning to a life full of unnecessary and wasteful conveniences will lead me to forget how I was living out here and return to my pre-trail self. I have to make a deliberate and concious effort to not adapt back to a life that is unappreciative of the little things that fill me up with so much joy out here in the mountains.
I'm going to work on that very hard when I come back from the mountains, but I'm sure I will bring back some of my "bad" habits too. So if you see me eating things off the floor, putting trash in my pocket, or putting anything and everything into a tortilla to make a kind of weird burrito, feel free to laugh or make fun of me. You might see me walking everywhere I go, going outside to pee, or forgetting to flush the toilet because I'm not used to indoor plumbing. Please politely remind me I am back in society. If you see me carrying around my own toilet paper and hand sanitizer everywhere, wearing the same clothes everyday even though my shorts might be slightly inappropriately short, refusing to shave, shower, or wear deodorant, just pretend you don't know me when we are in public together. My ability to be embarrassed has greatly diminished, so you may hear me singing loudly at the supermarket, trying to talk to everyone I walk by, or practicing my whistling everywhere I go. Just have some ear plugs handy.
I've developed so many more "bad" habits from sharing food, drinks, and utensils, to asking for second opinions on how bad my clothes smell to see if I really need to do laundry. I mean a rain storm is kind of like laundry and a shower right? And for free!
Re-entering society will be a challenge, but so was leaving it.