View Full Version : Readjusting to society

10-05-2003, 17:05
I am a filmmaker interested in making a documentary on thru-hiking the AT and the effects the trail has on society. In doing my research, I am trying to discover what is was like coming back into society. What hardships did you encounter? How did your views on society change after thru-hiking? How do you feel the trail makes you a better individual in "civilized" society? I am not a thru-hiker myself (yet), so I am very interested in your thoughts. Feel free to email me at [email protected] as well as posting responses to this thread. Thanks so much for your help.

10-05-2003, 19:54
Here's a good thread on the subject:


10-05-2003, 22:04
After youve been in the woods you realize what you really dont need in order to live. You think that you will change your life style when you return to the "real world". Some probably do, I got caught up and am right back where I started. You find yourself missing the freedom. With simplicity comes freedom you know. Not answering to anyone, coming and going when you please. Also that little ego trip of being a thru hiker. When your finished you become a hasbeen hiker and know body really gives a rats ass about your hike but you. So you sit at the computer and try to relive your hike over and over, remembering bits and pieces but not really able to grab it back. Then you realize that time is slipping by and that six months of dream world that you lived in has come and gone along with another year of your life. What to do? Just think back on your hike with fondness and plan your next adventure.As long as you keep something in the future your not really over. Eat a Liptons from time to time. Look at photos and email your friends from the woods. I guess the one thing I took away from it all was knowing that if you want to do something bad enough, you can make time in your life for it and you can achieve it. Does that mean theres still hope for me and Cindy Crawford. Well, most things can be achieved.

10-05-2003, 22:22
coming back to society????

why would one want to do something like that???....

Spirit Walker
10-05-2003, 23:14
A lot of folks are much less materialistic after they get off the trail -- at least for a while. You look at all the STUFF that is out there that people consider necessary and you laugh and think, no, I just want what I can carry on my back. I think most hikers become more tolerant too, at least for a while. You meet all kinds of folks on the trail, and run into so many good people that you might never have met in ordinary life. You don't worry about their politics or background, just about whether they are a good trail companion or not. All hikers become brothers and sisters. And you know what it is to be really crazy -- so you don't worry about other folks quirks and insanity. Also, you know that if life gets to be too difficult, in ordinary life, there is a place where you can be happy, it's just a matter of getting back there. That can make a lot of things bearable -- for a while. But it can also be difficult to put up with a lot of BS that is normal in ordinary life -- because you know it isn't necessary. On the trail you focus on what is real - hunger, thirst, pain, tiredness, rain, heat . . . the rest of the world is far away and not real. In ordinary life, so many people focus on what isn't real - status, politics, success, security -- it can be hard to take it all seriously. So you may find yourself very bored with a lot of talk about stuff that isn't important to you any more. And you can feel alienated from the folks around you who seem to have no clue of what really matters. We have touched the sky -- and sometimes touched the face of God -- and noone else knows or cares. Except maybe our hiking friends, just a little.

Blue Jay
10-06-2003, 07:31
Although the last three answers are excellent, you really have to thruhike to understand. If I were you I'd wait until after you do it to make any legitimate statements.

10-06-2003, 09:03
It really is hard to put into words how I felt after finishing up this summer. Or still feel, for that matter. People have already pointed out some of the main things. I try not to think too much about this summer. Everytime I do, I recall how great it was and this makes me sad as I compare it to how I currently live. Towards the end of my trip, I was ready for it to be over. But,not ready to go home. There was (and still is) nothing meaningful for me to come back to here in Indiana: just my job and my stuff. I really miss the simplicity of life out on the trail. It was good for my soul; but that is over, for now.

I'd go out and do a long hike, a month or more, before trying to get a handle on re-entry. Hiking the PCT this summer was the best thing I've done in my short life. I'd like to top it next summer, but I don't know if that is possible.

Lone Wolf
10-06-2003, 10:12
There isn't much of a market for this type of documentary. Readjusting to "society" after hiking is hardly traumatic or considered a hardship. There's enough videos and books on the AT as it is. Now a documentary on an 18 year old Marine or soldier returning from Iraq after being in combat and killing would be a damn good documentary.

10-06-2003, 12:33
Thanks so much to everyone who has responded. You are a wealth of knowledge that cannot come from books, but only form your own personal experiences.

I just have a slight addition to my original post. I am planning on thru-hiking the AT in the next year or two. But before I pursue this idea of a documentary and hit the trail, I need to do my research. This is where all of your wonderful responses come in. The topic of readjusting to society is not the main idea of the documentary. It is only a point of learning for me so I can better understand the effects of the trail on those who hike it.

Although there is not much of a market for documenting the hardships of societal re-entry from the trail, there is a need to tell people about the importance of the outdoors and the importance for its conservation and protection. The Appalachian Trail is one of the most famous long-distance trails in the world. People who complete it come out with a better understanding of themselves. I feel documenting the desire to seek solitude in the woods for 6 months would help convey the idea to unknowing people how important our natural surroundings are and the need to preserve them. The outdoors are not just a larger zoo for tourists to gauk at, but a place people come to understand themselves and the world they live in.

Thank you again for all of your responses, and please, keep them coming.

10-06-2003, 12:46
solitude in the woods ????

duriing thru-hiking season>>>what???

10-07-2003, 03:29
It's been over 12 months for me now and I still haven't readjusted, and I'm one of the lucky ones who doesn't have to return to work for someone else.

One of the biggest problems I faced which I'm sure others have as well, is that none of your friends or family really understand what you have gone through during your hike physically, mentally and spiritually, and what you are going through after your hike.

The only people who understand are those that have been that way before. That's why so many former thru-hikers read the journals of this year's hikers and join in the forums.

On the trail you only had a few things to concern you... Is my body ok, have I enough food and water, and where will I stop tonight? Also, the friendship and camaraderie from other hikers is something to treasure and something we all miss after the hike.

It's about sharing common goals and no fuss friendships. It's also about discovering that country people are wonderful.... they give you rides, they take you home and won't accept anything in return. And they talk to you, the stranger, when they see you on the street.

Back in society your are quickly reminded that people in the street don't look each other in the eye, driving and traffic noise drives you crazy and material possessions aren't so important anymore.

On the trail, lving is simple and every day is an adventure that one can buy at very low cost. No wonder people have trouble settling back in to normal society.

10-09-2003, 10:11
I've been back since July and I miss it everyday. Any day on the trail is better than real life (although I wouldn't have sworn to that many a rainy, cold day out there). I never thought I'd be one to gloss my experience but everything else seems mundane in comparison (maybe thats because I started graduate school and spend every minute studying :)). I hope I never fully readjust because I loved who I was out there and don't want to lose that!
Good luck on your thru-hike and documentary!