One month after the walk
The time I’ve spent off of the trail this past month has been considerably more sedentary. I settled down in Dunedin, a seaside city in New Zealand’s deep south. It was quiet and there were seals and penguins nearby. It seemed like a good place to relax and take it easy. After all that time in the woods, I wanted nothing more than a warm bed, home cooked meals, city entertainment, and a new ROUTINE. It is here that I stopped walking and started writing.
Reflections on the walk
This walk was the most physically demanding experience of my life. A month later my body still felt battered. I pushed myself to go further, to walk in pain and exhaustion, and to keep going after I wanted to stop. This was the essence of each day on the TA. When I look back on it now, I think there may have been many days where I pushed myself too hard. I could have taken some of those tougher days a bit slower or set up camp a few hours earlier instead of pushing on until sunset.
I walked this trail half on my own and half with a good friend. Both were incredible experiences but walking by myself felt much more profound.
While walking with my friend I had a companion to laugh with, make jokes with, share stories with and make meals with. It was an unforgettable experience that deepened our bond and our friendship. We will share that experience for the rest of our lives.
I purposefully walked the second half on my own. I had never done anything like that before, other than solo day hikes and an overnight solo backpacking trip here and there.
Walking on my own meant walking with my thoughts. These thoughts almost always were of the people in my life. I thought about family, friends, and even brief encounters with people I'd met while traveling. I thought about their faces, exchanges of words and shared memories. I thought about my past and my many possible and varied futures. I thought about my sorrows and regrets. At some point in each day, my thoughts were taken over by physical pain or exhaustion. Sometimes it was the heat, other times it was my swelling feet, or losing the trail. The meal at the end of the day was always the best food I had ever tasted in my life.
The trail, through its simplicity, gave me a deeper insight into my own human experience. All that was in my head, the thoughts, the people, the physical pain taking over the thoughts, this was all the makings of my entire existence. What are we if not the culmination of everyone we have ever met and the experiences we’ve shared with them? Do we not always walk with our hopes, dreams, fears and sorrows?
Walking for 1,000 kilometers on wilderness trails was a metaphor for walking through my own life.The trail was a reflection of me, it was a mirror for all of those people and experiences that shaped me up to that point. There can be no truer beauty than that.
If I could give advice to anyone who is wanting to embark on a similar journey, I would simply say, walk some of it alone. Even if you plan on doing most of the trip with a partner, or a group of friends, walk some of it alone. Get the experience of walking in the woods by yourself. It is powerful. It will change you.