Heartache and happiness – life after adventure, part 2

Epilogue

Well, it’s been 4 weeks since I finished 9 months of hiking and I’m still trying to make sense of it all. The last few weeks have been quite a rollercoaster ride! I was completely ready to stop walking, but now – predictably – I really miss it. I miss the simplicity of that life, of knowing what you had to do each day – walk and stay alive. I miss my little Québécois who are in Malaysia, having more adventures before they return home…

I miss meeting new people every day and the variety and challenges that each day used to bring. I miss knowing what my life was about. I miss it all, and so much more that I can’t put into words. 

‘Anxiety is an urgent, deafening thing. No matter the number of logical reasons you have to remain happy or positive, when it is present, you can hear nothing else.’ | Beau Taplin 

To be honest I’m deep in the post-adventure-blues, even though this time I was prepared for it, I knew what to expect, I thought knowledge was power, I thought I could prevent it happening…it still overpowered me. The main problem for me is that I just want to hide away and not talk to anyone, and that’s kinda what I’m doing. I feel very isolated, very distant and out of touch with my friends and I feel like I’m spiralling, free falling, out of control. I feel like Alice falling down an endless rabbit hole of confusion and doubt. I have absolutely no motivation to do anything – just writing this post was a monumental task. But I also know now that this is something I just have to go through and it cannot be prevented or stopped. 

There will be an exit, I just have to find it. 

The post-adventure-blues is very real, it’s a type of depression, it’s a type of grief, a period of mourning – like losing something (or someone) that has been in your life for so long, having it suddenly ripped away from you. It’s sadness. It’s loss. It’s numbness. 

‘Listen to me, your body is not a temple. Temples can be destroyed and desecrated. Your body is a forest. Thick canopies of Maple trees and sweet scented wildflowers sprouting in the underwood. You will grow back, over and over, no matter how badly you are devastated.’ | Beau Taplin 

1 thru-hike ruined me, 3 thru-hikes mean I know I can never go back to a ‘normal’ life, not that I wanted to of course, but it’s a non-defined path ahead and the route takes a bit of time to figure out. 

After the hike, life goes on… 

We were lucky enough to have been offered a place to stay in Riverton, with Rebecca, Angie and Scott, so when we reached the end of the Te Araroa, Sandy, Colin and I turned around and started walking back on ourselves. “Shall we just carry on and keep walking north” I half joked. 

After we had walked a couple of miles back from the end of the trail, the little Québécois and I were able to hitchhike Riverton in 2 separate rides. The first guy took us out of his way, making his child wait to be picked up from basketball practice, he gave me his phone so I could text her and let her know! And, as luck would have it, our second ride knew the family we were staying with and, instead of dropping us in town, took us right to the front door. 

When I started the PCT southbound, a girl called Sarah – who later had the trail name Nuthatch bestowed upon her – had started 10 days before me. Of course the trail talks and we found out we both had the same plan to head to New Zealand after the PCT. So we connected on social media and became friends, but she remained about 10 days ahead of me the whole time and we never ended up meeting. But she took a trip to Stewart Island after her hike and Angie, who is our mutual friend, invited her to stay, so we finally met!

The following day we had a day of doing absolutely nothing, sitting and watching movies while it rained outside. Scott rescued a hiker who had taken the Matheison exit to escape the muddy forest and brought him back to the house. He wasn’t having a good time. He was cold and wet, he lost his wallet in the forest and then the dog ate his salami! But at least he had somewhere warm and dry to stay for the night. 

The next day Scott had to go to Queenstown, so the 4 of us were able to get a ride with him which was great. Even more great because I was able to see Erin again before she continued to head south to finish her hike, and I bumped into Matt (the guy that gave us a ride back to the other side of the Rangitata river). We all went out for dinner and the time came when I had to say goodbye to my little Québécois. It was tough, I had spent so long with them, and they are such nice and positive people, I had to leave quickly before I cried. 

Hitchhiking 

My next destination was Methven. A 6 hour drive on a straight shot. I was a bit nervous about hitchhiking such a long way, I’ve done quite a lot of hitching now but the majority of it has been with other people. I was nervous about getting a ride and I was nervous about being safe. Hitching as a solo female should be super easy, and definitely has its advantages. Anyone will pick you up, whereas if you’re a guy it’s unlikely a lone female driver will pick you up. But on the downside I feel that solo females are more likely to attract weirdos. It was drizzling a bit which worked in my favour, people don’t like to see a young girl standing alone in the rain on the side of the road!

Hitch 1: I had been told the best place to get a ride was just outside Queenstown at Frankton, but with it being a holiday (Good Friday) there were no buses and it would have taken me a good 3 hours to walk. So I found the right road out of town and stuck out my thumb. Straight away a guy pulled over and offered to take me to Frankton where the ‘best hitching spot’ is. And when I got there, there were already 4 other people trying to get a ride. They all had signs. I didn’t. I have mixed feelings about signs. Most of them I don’t think are legible from a car so they are a bit pointless, and if you put your destination on the sign it means you can’t bail early if you feel uncomfortable in the car. However, I have seen people with generic signs saying things like ‘I don’t smell’ or ‘recently showered’ which are a great idea! 

Hitch 2: Anyway, within 5 minutes a car pulled over, a Dutch guy on his way to Wanaka. The guy hitching next to me with the ‘Christchurch’ sign got in the car first and I ran over to jump in too. Unfortunately the guy with the sign smelt very bad and I think the Dutch guy was regretting picking him up, especially when he changed his mind about going to Christchurch and decided to go to all the way to Wanaka with him instead! I was pretty quiet in the back while he dominated the conversation, but when the Dutch guy found out about what I had been doing he treated me a bit like a celebrity, which completely weirds me out when that happens! He dropped me off in Cromwell and went a bit out of his way to take me to the ideal spot to hitch my next ride from. 

Hitch 3: I just put my bag down when a guy pulled over. A man on his way to Dunedin to see his kids for Easter. Dunedin was the opposite direction to the way I was going but he took me a couple of miles down the road to the highway to a better hitching spot, where everyone passing me would be going my way. 

Hitch 4: This time I hadn’t even taken off my pack when a car with 3 women in pulled over. Nicki and her 2 daughters were on their way back home to Christchurch after a week in Queenstown. They ‘never pick up hitchhikers’ but lucky for me they decided that today was going to be the first time they did. I was with them for about 3 hours! We stopped at Fairlie, which has the best pie shop in the whole of New Zealand, it really was a very very good pie. They ended up taking me all the way to Methven, which added an extra half an hour on to their journey, but that’s a common occurrence, once you’re in the car people often take you exactly where you want to go, even if it’s out of their way. 

I had nothing to worry about. Hitchhiking was easy as. 

Methven

The reason I came back to Methven was to see that boy, Rory. My original plan after the hike was to go to Stewart Island with Julia, but obviously that didn’t work out, so I took a chance on this instead. For about a week we had a really nice time, but one day something changed and it went downhill fairly rapidly after that. I’m not going to go into detail, but a lot of it was because Rory was – in his own words – a ‘self-absorbed, selfish twat’. 

I really know how to pick them, don’t I? 

Leading up to seeing him again I was trying to play it really cool and pretend I was indifferent to how it worked out, but really I had pinned more hope onto it than I should of. This time it will be different. This time it was meant to be. But it wasn’t meant to be and it hit me harder than I was ever expecting it to. I thought I was numb to this kind of thing now. 

‘Perhaps there were no soulmates, I thought, and love was neither written in the stars or planned by the gods, but a choice, one built on hope and sweat and blood and trust. Not served on a silver platter by a whim of fate, but something that must be earned and fought for.’ | Beau Taplin. 

I was staying with Rory at the campground, we were living in a van, something I’ve wanted to do for ages, but not a van like this, a van properly kitted out for van life, with at least a mattress in the back, less ‘hobo’ like. After about 10 days we weren’t getting on at all, so one day I decided it would be best if I moved and went to stay at a hostel. 

I was getting really bored and so I found some things to do. I volunteered in the Red Cross charity shop for a few days, and in return I got 2 t-shirts and a checked shirt to add to my very small collection of clothes, which includes a NZ$3 white jumper, also from the charity shop. 

I also helped out in a cafe for a few days which was really fun, and I felt like I got to be a part of this small community, getting to know people. It felt nice to be in one place for a while. 

Detox – sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine

As you know, my diet has been terrible for the last 9 months, ok probably for the last couple of years, and a priority for me was to cut out the sugar. I think every single thing I ate, apart from the cheese maybe, contained sugar. So luckily for me, Rory is a very good cook and extremely passionate about real food and genuinely enjoys cooking – a concept very alien to me! I have developed a bit of a fear of food, I don’t know what to do with it, how to cook it, what foods to put together. I panic at the thought of it. 

The week we were together I ate very well thanks to him, and, apart from a few glasses of wine and a slither of chocolate on Easter Sunday, I went cold turkey on the sugar. Studies have shown that sugar is 8 times more addictive that cocaine, and after going through withdrawal that’s a fact I can understand. 

At the same time as quitting sugar I stopped taking painkillers, and I had been taking them everyday for the last 9 months. So my body was withdrawing from 2 things at the same time – I’ve never been one to do something half-heartedly! 7 days in my headache was so bad that I felt like my head would explode with every pulse of my heart, I felt nauseous, tired, irritable and emotional. So I fell off the wagon, popped a pill and devoured a 250g bar of salted caramel chocolate just to try to lessen the symptoms.

Despite his own admissions, Rory can’t be held entirely to blame for how things turned out. Feeling lost, anxious, and confused, combined with all the chemical and physical changes happening in my body can’t have made me an easy person to live with. Two confused people it turns out does not make a great combination. 

On to the next adventure?

One of the ‘cures’ for the post-adventure-blues is to not stop adventuring! Lots of my friends have started their next hikes, mostly on the Contineltal Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail and I am insanely jealous of every single one of them. I dread what is going to come up in my Instagram feed and regularly look on Skyscanner at flights to the USA (they aren’t cheap!). The PCT of course will forever and always hold a special place in my heart, it was my first long distance trail, of the last 2 years 10 months of it has been lived on the PCT. It makes me feel sick when I see all the people starting out this year, most with absolutely no idea how it will destroy (in a good way) their lives. It’s a bit like falling in love, or a first kiss, you will never be able to recreate that magical feeling of standing at the border and having no idea what lies ahead. Seeing other people’s starting photos makes me feel physically sick!

My next adventure was potentially going to be rowing across the Indian Ocean. I had got myself into a team as a reserve, so if anything happened to one of the 4 crew between now and launch day (June 10th) I would be in Australia and ready to jump into the boat. It was difficult being in limbo, not being able to make any real plans in case I was needed, but the row has now been postponed until next year, so although disappointing, it’s removed some of that anxiety of the unknown. 

I was also hoping to volunteer on a Just A Drop project, but I was disappointed to find out ‘they don’t do that’. 

So now the world is literally my oyster and I can go pretty much anywhere and do pretty much anything. But I can’t seem to make a decision as to what I want to do. I realise this is a major first world problem and I need to get a grip. 

‘It’s going to be ok, it might not feel like it right now, but, in time, all pain passes on. In time, all rainclouds break for the sun.’ | Beau Taplin 

Feijoa farmer 


Right now I am in Blenheim, learning how to be a Feijoa farmer at Feijoa Folly Farm

Before coming to New Zealand this was something I had planned to do with my time after the hike. I wanted to experience a different way of living, explore sustainability and permaculture. Understand more about where our food comes from and how it’s grown. 

There is this thing called ‘Helpx‘ which is a help exchange – you help someone do whatever they need to do and they provide you with accommodation and food. 

I’ve been really lucky to have been able to stay with 2 very nice people, Dean and Jess, for my first experience. They want me to make myself at home although it’s a bit weird to be in someone else’s house, looking through their kitchen drawers. 

I’ve spent a lot of time on my own which I wasn’t expecting. Last year they had 5 pickers, but this year the weather hasn’t been very good so there is just me. Jess and Dean both work so I have spent a lot of time in the orchards by myself. They only expect 4.5 hours work a day, but I’ve often stayed out picking into the afternoon because it’s nice to be outside and it’s nice to have something to do. It’s been frosty in the mornings, but the days are gloriously clear and warm. I’ve enjoyed being out in the orchards with the company of my own thoughts, the dogs and the Fantails. 

One of the orchards
Lots of Feijoa
The fruit starts as a flower
This is what’s left of the flower after the fruit matures
Inside a Feijoa
 

After we pick the Feijoa and sort them into premium (the good size and quality fruit) and processed (the ones with marks on which get turned into things like smoothies), the crates get takes to a pack house in Blenheim. From there they will go to a distributor in Nelson and they will get sent to Christchurch to be taken all over the country, including coming all the way back to Blenheim. Crazy. 

It’s been a great experience and I would definitely look into doing other Helpx opportunities around the world. 

Reckless Abandon 

I’ve had a few people ask me about Julia. Well, we aren’t friends anymore. I haven’t heard anything from her since she picked up her resupply package at Arthur’s Pass. No apology. No explanation. 

It hurt. 

I don’t need someone who is that disrespectful in my life. She quit the trail and went back to Canada early, just like she did on the PCT. And that’s all I have to say about that. 

‘We demand closure as though our lives were put together as neatly as novels, but the fact of the matter is they’re not. In real life relationships are messy and poorly written, ending too early or too late, and sometimes in the middle of a sentence.’ || Beau Taplin 

This blog

It’s been nice to take a break from the blog for a bit. I wrote every day for 9 months straight and it’s exhausting. I also open myself up to be judged and criticised, and a lot of the time I lay myself bare which isn’t always easy.

But it’s nice to write again…

Advertisements

14 thoughts on “Heartache and happiness – life after adventure, part 2

  1. Alex, it was so nice to read your post this evening. You write so well and so honestly, which is perhaps what makes your blog so interesting. In fact, I must thank you for your daily writing this past winter in particular: when I was laid up with a broken arm, your daily activity was a welcome escape to the outside. Yes, I can understand the amount of time and dedication you have put in over the past few years writing at the end of an active day when you must have been exhausted. Writing is perhaps something for you to pursue? I would be inclined to purchase your publications. Best wishes! Jane

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Alex, I have followed you for a long time and I enjoyed reading about all your adventures, the joys and hardship of hiking, meeting other people, becoming great friends, saying goodbyes…discovering everyday new, beautiful places, enjoying simple life and finding out, how little do we need, to feel really happy and fulfilled…. I want to say a big thank you, for taking me for a little adventure so many times. I admire you for your passion, courage, mental and physical strength and wish you all the best for the future… I hope, you will soon discover your place in life….it might come with falling in love and starting a family, or just in starting a new and exciting job…
    If you ever come back to Salisbury, I would be happy to meet you in the town and have a coffee somewhere or go for a little walk around Old Sarum…
    You are an inspiration and you would do great as an adventurer, just talking to children at schools, passing some of your passion and proving, that things are possible to achieve, as long as we believe and try hard to achieve them…. You could show the children other, beautiful world, other reality, where money does not matter, but simple, friendly smile, optimism and being open to others, can change everything.
    I remain your admirer, wishing you well, always.
    Barbara from Amesbury

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aw thank you. There a lot of nice stuff in there! Very kind of you to take the time to write to me, thank you for following along and for the advice.
      I’ll let you know if I come back to salisbury!

      Like

      1. It won’t happen any time soon, as I have just read… Ha, ha, I am not surprised…
        Good luck Alex on your new, very exciting biking adventure! Enjoy it and continue writing all about it…:)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Alex,
    You are certainly experiencing a life of conflicts and ups and downs while you try to find a path where you feel you fit in and can live a worthwhile life . We often think of you and all the challenges you have faced and over come so remain true to yourselve and you will find a worthwhile course to follow.
    June and Mike

    Like

  4. 😊I was wondering how you were and what you were up to. Sorry you have been doing it ruff. Your ruff sounds like more adventures than most people have 😊I recon you will find your Mojo soon 😉Thanks again for your blog . We will be following in your footsteps 1st of October and as I do not and never have written well can’t decide if to just do photos and words for family and friend or us this blog page I have started to set up …..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Are you hike the Te Araroa? Best of luck, it’s not always easy but it’s an awesome trail. Keep a blog, you’ll be pleased you did when it’s all over, but don’t let it be all consuming!

      Like

  5. Hey there
    If you make it back to Blighty, I can put you up in Teddington for a while (and even pick you up from Heathrow). The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is beautiful this month and there’s always Bushy Park and the river to cheer you up. Chin up! You will make it through the other side (though I’m still waiting myself)!

    Like

  6. Do you want to go to Russia in July to climb Elbrus? )

    I thruhiked PCT in 2016, then, because I pretty much follow in your footsteps, I summited Mera Peak and now I’m going to Elbrus.

    Like

  7. Hi Alex,

    Reading your blog I just had to reach out and give you a virtual hug. I’ve been following along since your PCT NOBO hike and really enjoy reading your journey and adventures. Your struggles are palpable and your emotions so raw and real. I admire you for your honesty and bravery in opening up about what it is you are struggling with and how you are feeling. I know we don’t know each other but I wanted to reach out and say to you what I wish someone had said to me long ago. What I tell my children now.

    If you’re feeling frightened about what comes next, don’t be. Embrace the uncertainty. Allow it to help you grow. Allow it to lead you to the next place you are meant to be. Be brave as it challenges you to exercise both your heart and your mind. Don’t waste your time with regret, with what might have been and with “what if’s” if it was meant to be it will be. You will know when it is right because you won’t have to change who you are, how you feel or what you believe in in order for it to be yours. Enjoy the present, each moment, as it comes, because you’ll never get another one quite like it. Calm your mind, take a deep breath and retrace your steps to the purest place in your heart…where your hope lives. You’ll find your place in this world.

    Who knows, maybe there’s a proper camper van in your future 😉

    You are a powerful, vibrant, beautiful woman. Good luck in all that you do and if you ever find yourself on the North Country Trail in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, drop me a line, we’d be happy to host you!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s