Many long distance hikers can be blindsided by what they experience after their hike is over. Some call it ‘post trail depression’ or post-trail blues.
I like to call it trail-sick. It’s kind of like if you’ve ever been home-sick for the comforts of home. You can also get trail-sick for the joy, freedom, and community that come with the hiker lifestyle.
Some hikers will fall into depression after their hike. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the language to talk about what we’re going through.
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What we usually say is something like ‘I miss being on the trail. Like really miss it!’
Which doesn’t mean much to our friends, family, and coworkers who have not lived on the trail.
How is your body and mind post-trail?
You have to acknowledge what your body just went through and will go through post-trail. If you’re a thru hiker, you just spent all day, every day backpacking! Burning calories, releasing endorphins, building muscles, nurturing your brain by being out in nature and having new, challenging experiences every day… and then?
For many, when they get off the trail, they return to a very sedentary lifestyle and boring, unrewarding, disengaging daily routines.
After making that drastic transition, of course your body and mind are going to become unwell! But you can take some small steps to keep riding that hiker-high you had while you were on the trail.
It’s been over 4 years since my long distance hike and I still think about it every. single. day. and wish I was still out there! So trust me, I know what you’re going through!
4 Ways To Ward Off Post Trail Blues
Have a post-trail plan.
What will you do when your hike is over? Where will you go? Where will you live? Are you going back to a job or be looking for a new job? What people will you turn to – family, friends, significant others?
You don’t need to have all the answers right now, but do consider your options. Too many people get caught up on ‘how to survive on the trail’ or ‘how to afford a thru hike’ but not many think about, how will I survive after the trail? Will I have enough money to hold me over until I find work again?
Self-care. Self-care. Self-care.
Try to resist the urge to continue your hiker-trash diet of carbs and candy bars, most likely, you won’t be burning enough calories in your everyday life to handle that. So eat well! Load up on fresh fruit, veggies, and all the healthy food you couldn’t carry with you on the trail.
Stay as active as possible. Your new workouts will pale in comparison to climbing mountains all day with a 30 lb +/- pack on, but do your best to incorporate new, engaging, physical activities into your daily routine. I promise you won’t regret it!
Plan and create new adventures.
Even if they are just short two-day trips in your home state, having something to plan and prepare for can help keep you motivated. If you’re lifestyle allows for it, start planning another long-distance hike or a long term trip around the world!
Take advantage of the experience you just had.
Acknowledge how much you’ve changed, grown, and learned on the trail and help your friends, family, coworkers, potential employers see the new person you’ve become.
People who have not been on a long-distance hike have no idea how much you have had to persevere, how much you’ve learned to live without, how organized you must have been to take care of yourself and your gear on the trail, how quickly you created community with strangers along the way, and how quickly you learned new skills and adapted to ever-changing life on the trail.
If you want a little extra support and encouragement during your transition back to ‘the real world,’ join my Facebook group Conquering Post Trail Depression.
For more insight on the psychological side of hiking, check out these posts:
- What To Do After Your Long Distance Hike Is Over
- What I Wish I Knew Before Hiking The AT Alone
- Why Some Thru Hikers Quit and Tips For Your Success
So, what’s next for you?
Let me know in the comments what you’ve been up to since your epic hike and anything that helped you adjust to ‘town life’ after the trail.