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  1. #1
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    Default How did isolation affect you?

    While I continue to gather stories for my writing project, I have come across some interesting concepts. One is how differently being isolated from the "real world" changes or affects people. I am also considering how "civilization addiction" (I made this term up, not sure if it is a thing or not) causes anxiety, or even fear in many people unfamiliar with the natural world.

    For myself being isolated was cathartic, and allowed all the crap I was dealing with to get dealt with over time. As you all know, 2200 miles of walking provides ample opportunity for inner reflection. The trappings of society and convenience certainly encourage us to become dependent upon such things that are a matter of life and death, electricity, phones, grocery store on demand, permanent residence, ease of transportation and assistance 24/7 for anything we need or want. All that changes after a few weeks, or even days on the trail as we adjust our sense of need and want.

    I felt much more at peace in the woods, and still do. Going very long without a hike is tough on the spirit and I get restless and stressed. Yet as I drive north on the interstate to the Whites of NH and I get that first glimpse of Franconia Notch and Mt. Lafayette it all melts away.

    How did the isolation affect you? and do you have any anecdotes of someone you may have taken hiking that experienced fear or anxiety about being in the woods?

    Have a great day!

    sy

  2. #2
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    isolation on the AT? i never felt isolated out there

  3. #3
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    electricity, phones, grocery store on demand, permanent residence, ease of transportation and assistance. Are these truly a matter of life and death? I was assuming it was O2, love, shelter from the elements/"safety", water, food, sex, sleep, self awareness, and not getting into a motor vehicle with my sis at the wheel, late again for an appointment.

    I wonder if civilization addiction is the antithesis of Nature Deficit Disorder?

    I never am truly isolated in Nature even if there's no indication of humanity. Why? I do not hold the worldview the human animal is separate/disconnected from and above the rest of the environment. It is a worldview behind the basis for so much destruction and self serving interests outside of consideration of a larger whole. It's based on perceived separation and superiority. It's profoundly interwoven in U.S. German, Russian, and modern Chinese culture, as a few examples. It's significantly important to positive change understanding the role core beliefs have in making decisions. We most often dont know the extent of our beliefs and the role they play in daily assumptions of how the Universe operates and exists.

    On a LD hike or similar we get out of norms. I liken it to sobering up like any addict, coming out of being lost in the fog, we may not have known we were
    immersed. And, YES, in a broader sense we can become addicts to cultural norms; civilization becomes a "drug." Kind of redefines a War on Drugs approach when we start perceiving cultural norms addictions as drug addictions, hey?

    I try to live a LIFE as Mark Twain said:

    “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”


    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad

    What Twain was saying is get out of our norms, out of our comfort zones. As Snarky Nomad mused, " sadly, the people who make awful excuses are the ones who need to travel the most." Travel = getting out of norms.


    And, LD hiking can become a new norm too if we dont embrace a wide diversity and unfamiliarity of approaches and experiences - cookie cutter hikes.


    Here's your answer: I'm less prejudiced, bigoted, rigid, afraid, racist, discriminatory, sexist, narrow minded, anti and problem oriented, and more open minded to discovery and exploration, accepting, tolerant, forbearing, patient, loving, joyful, adaptable, adventurous, understanding, and pro and solution oriented because I'm willing to place myself out side of norms. And, it's not a me thing. Anyone(s) can have it! Throw off the bowlines. Take the noose off from around the neck.

    Those brief perceptions of isolation where we feel disconnected from the safety of the being tied to the pier results in the possibility of GREATER and more profound connections to a larger whole - broadened horizons figuratively and literally.

  4. #4

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    Smile

    Most ive gone without seeing another person has been 6 days....and that wasnt the AT. I think 2-3 days or so was maximum on AT. And thats cause a spell of bad weather stacks less hardy people up in towns.

    Ive never felt isolated, and in last 5 yrs the opportunities for solitude have been slashed on popular trails everywhere. Thanks facebook. Most people are in town every few days as well.

    Got to hike in offseason (winter) to not run into many people today.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 03-24-2019 at 22:19.

  5. #5
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    Superfly-SY isn't merely referring to physical isolation from humans but being somewhat isolated from civilization and it's societal and cultural norms. It's the basic definition of civilization. He specifically mentioned "civilization addiction." Civilization can be defined as the comforts and conveniences of modern life.

    Before professing never feeling isolated consider asking why? Did your hike have you routinely gravitating towards human gathering areas like AT shelters, CG's, going back home to the familiarity of family and friends and home 1900 miles into a 2200 mile thru hike, going into town, hostel bunk or motel room, crossing a road with traffic, hitchhiking getting a ride in motor vehicle, wayside milkshakes, Smartfart or cell ph use, familiarity of regular logisticalconsdierations(resupply pts, H2O, and regularly spaced apart man made structures(AT lean-to's) for example), and other AT conveniences and infrastructure comforts? That's gravitating towards civilization which Superfly-SY is also referring. Could you not pull yourself away? Maybe that's an indication of "civilization addiction?" It is a good question too!

  6. #6

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    Everything is about civilization.
    The trail......is a product of civilization
    Shelters are a product of civilization
    The gear you use
    The food you eat
    Its all civilization

    Your in town every couple days to resupply, eat, shower

    You arent Jeremiah Johnson. But one can pretend i suppose.

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    I have experienced a long period of isolation in my life, but the AT thru was not that, in fact the AT thru is quite the opposite, to me it is more living and more life then life off trail is. It is a social trail, it is connections with others, forming trail families, the trail removed barriers that are common off trail and a poor college student can talk on equal terms to a powerful CEO. Much more personal info is discusses that is usually taboo in regular society such as the condition of one's feet. And advice and help is freely shared, given and received (one's willingness to accept help, which is often denied in off trail society).

  8. #8
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    And some gravitate towards civilization more than others - civilization addiction.

    Not all hikes are defined by highly maintained heavily used single track, shelters every nine miles, frequent paved road crossings, frequent resupply opps, heavily relied upon kits,...Nor, even modern grocery, convenience store or gas station food. Some still forage for or "grow" food along the way. We most often don't want to readily throw off the bowlines, as Twain said. And, if we do we want it to be in a big worthy Carnival Cruise Lines ship with comforts and amenities or most often within sight of land. Few are sailors, explorers or adventurers into the unknown. Not all hike the AT in the same manner with as heavy a reliance on civilization.

  9. #9
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    For clarity sake, when I speak of isolation I am not referring to the act of being completely alone or hermit like. As thru-hikers,m the very nature of what we have done or are doing is an act of self isolation from the greater society. The essentials of
    "life" in a modern society include all the things I mention in my original post. The overwhelming majority of "modern" civilized humans cannot fathom a life without running water, electricity, wi-fi etc. The hiking community is a parallel, and often misunderstood, universe of existence to the "real world." It may be much different to hikers today than it was even ten years ago. Todays hikers are rarely without smart phones, wifi, data, hell you can resupply your entire hike with Amazon prime. So the sense of isolation may be a thing of the past, as others may have experienced it. But, being on the trail is indeed separating oneself from the daily grind of the mundane; and a removal from the stress and anxiety that society can encumber us. on the other hand, those who have never experienced the "wilderness" often see it as a thing to be feared or is a cause of great anxiety. I was speaking to a camp counselor in CT, that was a reform school of a sort for inner city kids. He told me that they regularly had kids suffering panic attacks when they were told about going into the woods to hike/camp. We can be surrounded by people, yet feel completely alone. On my hike I had to seek out solitude at times when I needed to just be away from others entirely. I must be more difficult to do that today.

    So I think of the isolation as being removed from the larger entity of society and its immediacy (instant gratification) of need/want. I remember the first time I saw the news on TV after I set out in 1999, at the diner at Mtn. Mama's. It was the Columbine massacre front and center. It was just such a contradiction to life on the trail, I couldn't get back on it fast enough. I wanted to be isolated from everything that was out there. It was a very different sense of belonging and security, and probably vulnerability I guess, than I had before. It's just something I am curious about. please feel free to reply via email if you would rather not post a public message. many thanks!

  10. #10
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    Some would call us deviants due to the contradictory nature of trail communities and the different social nature of the AT.
    Do you see this "openness" as a manifestation of hikers being isolated from the "regular society"?
    We are often less likely to be harshly judged by others, in my own opinion, on the trail. and I'm wondering how that separation influences
    our thoughts, ideas, beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and does it allow or encourage our "true self" to show itself more freely? Society is so set on telling us what we are supposed to be, do , look like, etc. Does the isolation of the trail, and I know it sounds like a contradiction since it is in the middle of a huge densely populated part of the country, even by that small distance change us?

  11. #11

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    I dont overly romanticize it.
    Its a decision by most to not shave or cut hair, etc. They are in town weekly, if not more frequent.
    They have time.....to buy disposeable razor...they choose hangout or party with other grungy individuals.

    I know many people that go camping....for much longer durations than hikers are between towns. They dont go claiming to be "changed". My wifes family and friends camped for weeks at a time growing up. Moms and kids camped, dads worked and came to join them on weekends.

    What changes people....depending on others, and strangers. Proceeding with only loose plan and trusting it to work out. Meeting and talking to all manner of people you might never talk to off the trail....simply because they are only other people around.

    You got running water...streams or piped springs. You got electric lighting headlamps. Little gas stoves. Most people stay in little houses in the woods as well.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 03-25-2019 at 13:13.

  12. #12
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    The OP referenced thru hiking the AT. It seems fair to assume he was asking in that context. Some say they aren't changed after thru hiking the AT. VASTLY more folks say the AT thru hiking experience did change them. He's asking how in respect to being isolated. He's defined what he meant by that. If you did an AT thru and haven't changed that's fine too but he's asking if it did "how?"

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starchild View Post
    I have experienced a long period of isolation in my life, but the AT thru was not that, in fact the AT thru is quite the opposite, to me it is more living and more life then life off trail is. It is a social trail, it is connections with others, forming trail families, the trail removed barriers that are common off trail and a poor college student can talk on equal terms to a powerful CEO. Much more personal info is discusses that is usually taboo in regular society such as the condition of one's feet. And advice and help is freely shared, given and received (one's willingness to accept help, which is often denied in off trail society).
    Very much this. I feel far more isolated in my own town. I'm not original to the town, so I didn't grow up with the townies. The rest of the town are very rich people who are off by themselves doing expensive things.

  14. #14
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    That's what you get when you live in a 1974 single wide with sheets on the window in a town where the median home value is $250K.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    That's what you get when you live in a 1974 single wide with sheets on the window in a town where the median home value is $250K.
    The median price of homes currently listed in XXXXX is $395,000. I rent a one bedroom cabin, on the most expensive street in town, I'm pretty much invisible here.

  16. #16
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    Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.
    - Our National Parks, (1901), chapter 1, page 1.

    Consider Muir was referring to masses of over civilized people more than 115 yrs ago. Asa nation are we more or less over civilized as a Nation 115 yrs later?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Puddlefish View Post
    The median price of homes currently listed in XXXXX is $395,000. I rent a one bedroom cabin, on the most expensive street in town, I'm pretty much invisible here.
    Ohh, you are far from invisible. You don't blend. You stand out as an oddity, an island in the stream. Standing out you may become isolated as you present unfamiliarity an oddity from the norms which people often find fearful.

  18. #18
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    I found my hike, not exactly isolating, but maybe insular? I make it a habit to uproot my life and move every year or two, often to a new continent, but I generally stay well-connected to family and close friends through modern technology. Even thousands of miles away from familiar faces, I don't typically feel isolated.

    But on my thru-hike, not only was communication limited by battery life and reception, but also I was very ill my last two months on trail and it left no scrap of physical or mental energy to look outside of my little bubble: me, the woods, and the hikers in my immediate vicinity. On bad days, I hiked, got to a campsite, and collapsed. And on good days, I tried to stay present in the moment, with the things and people that I loved on the trail. So in both cases, civilization and my "real life" stayed locked up at the very back of my mind.

    So that was the isolation of the trail for me. I didn't feel that the woods were isolating me from modern conveniences. Instead, it was the immediacy of the experience that isolated me from everything else purely by consuming all my energy and attention, leaving nothing left to think about the world that existed outside my tiny point on a line from Georgia to Maine.
    A.T. 2018 Thru-hiker
    Follow along at www.tefltrekker.com

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    I thought insular and isolated are synonymous.

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    I interpreted “insular” as meaning “within oneself”, i.e., how I prefer to be. “Isolated” connotes “away from others”, and I saw that as being more of an external action, something that I may not have much control over.

    When I hike, I often spend a lot of time in internal conversation with myself. I am insular. I am focused inwards.

    When I’m out on the trail, at other times I feel isolated and without the opportunity to reach out to others. I feel isolated — yet I wish to be connected with others.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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