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How to Thru-Hike in Everyday Life

Updated: Dec 27, 2023

Even the schedule on trail is loose and lackadaisical. It is challenging, but attainable. You start from Point A and eventually end at Point B. It’s so simple, routine, and ritualistic, like breathing in and breathing out.

The life a lot of us live pre-trail is muddled with anxieties and confusion. If it were water it would be murky and hard to distinguish.

You may ask questions like, “Why can’t I just drink from the stream?” Or better yet, “Why do I have to answer an email past five?”

The longing for simplicity is an all too common struggle. Anybody from the weekend-warriors to the fun, definitely smelly, and almost always filthy thru-hikers wonder, “How can I let the trail-life bleed and blend into the day-to-day?” Well, below are some tips on just that.

Don't Wash You Clothes

As a child, you began to notice that the clothing on cartoon characters never really changes. SpongeBob has those same little pants, and you, day after day, have those same shorts, shirt, socks, and underwear: at work, the club, and the grocery. Yes, it smells. Not like a nice musk either. Tents ought to be named stink shacks. Yet, when you rotate into a second pair of said socks or underwear, feelings of newness and ‘take me out on the town’ confidence bubbles with the webMD-induced paranoia of trench foot subsiding. That is if you fancy yourself the grams. Although, sometimes you just don’t have underwear at all. After all, the breeze feels nice in hiking kilts. When doing laundry, though, Poet recommends wringing the “chocolate milk” out of the wool socks before they go in the wash.

Sleep on the Ground

Buying mattresses and bed frames is cumbersome. Sure, they come in all sorts of compressed foam that Bezos can get delivered to your door, but how is that fulfilling? The slight discomfort and fulfilling challenge of then doing an activity not fully rested just isn’t there.

So, just don’t do it. Don’t buy a mattress, and if you have one, sell the damn thing. Don’t downgrade to a Japanese futon, either. Instead, commit to the eggshell foam pad from the get-go. After a long day dipping and dodging Karen at the office the last thing you want is to blow up your sleeping mat at home anyways.

Sure, your partner may question your motives, and they may even dip. Don’t listen to the haters though. Bed frames are for the faint of heart, and you are not that. You are a thru-hiker in this life, not the next.

Plus, think of all the room for activities.

Drink Your Dirty Dishwater

Next time the instinctive reach for the soap and scrubber at your nice white farm sink comes to the hands, think twice.

“What if I just drank the dish water?”

A ridge runner named Cinderella told me of such a brilliant solution, as I was questioning about proper grey water disposal. Face it, you need those calories. Down to the last drop. Just don’t think of it as instant potato water. It’s nutrition and fluids to replenish your daily ritual of caloric deficit and dehydration.

“Ah, buttery!”

Also, if that doesn’t get all the tasty bits into the garbage can stomach biome you’ve created (I ate string cheese off the side of the road) then do as the wise, woods wizard Guacamole does, and finish your dishes with an exquisitely clean and refreshing tortilla.

Immediately Accept Food and Rides from Strangers

The daily commute can be a grind, let’s face it. No e-bike or mid-life crisis Harley Davidson will make it better either. The solution to this problem is astoundingly fun, exhilarating, and like most things in this country, questionable on a state by state basis.

I cannot stress this enough though kids, but don’t try this at home. Also, Mom, it is definitely not me doing this, but a songbird does in fact sing. Step to the end of the drive and hold out the thumb: it’s called hitchhiking. Sometimes signs help or even writing on a case of beer the destination you desire. The proximity may be off, but you can’t rate hitches like Uber drivers. You shouldn’t either.

“If it’s free, it’s for me,” states a young, ambitious Shower Beer.

That goes for food too. Walking into a parking lot and having complete strangers hand you pale ales before a steep-ass climb (again questionable) is an absolute delight. Like trick or treating all year. Which checks out because trail names and clothes are essentially Halloween costumes, but none compare to “Bourbon Batman.” It can be a mere sandwich and sometimes it’s the plain Jane hotdog, but every now and then it’s a cooler of beer, soda pop, and kimchi fiddleheads, which, I was informed by an 80-something year old stranger, stand straight up in the morning like an organ. Damn, good for him.

So, even if you aren’t holding the old thumb out or looking for food, don’t fret. It’s not a trip to Never Land like my friend Lost Boy says, but it’s probably just some nice strangers looking for a chuckle and to pay it forward. America’s oldest form of ride-sharing and philanthropist meals are alive and well.

Trauma Dump on People You Just Met

Therapy is a great and useful tool for sure. It has become more accessible in recent years; thus, you no longer have a singular friend you share too much with. I’m sure they’re relieved. However, if they aren’t a close friend at all… something about that wall of conversation and the thought of, “Well, I could never see this person again,” makes the belly gurgle like the Chinese buffet in Gorham. Instead of crab Rangoon, it is emotional word vomit that the lady in the checkout of your local grocery store doesn’t care about. But hey, you may never see them again.

On trail it’s, “What are they going to do? Walk faster? Do a flip-flop? Yo-yo Maine?”

Like a shelter mouse, they are cornered with your life story, and you should always share it. It puts friendships in warp drive. Try it at the DMV next time.

The Conclusion

No matter how satirical this all sounds, in reality, the points made are still perplexingly simpler and beautifully more pleasant than a marimba alarm and a coffee pot with an automatic timer. The trail doesn’t explain, but it leaves the lasting impression of confidence in the unequivocally now certain self.


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