I’m writing this as a kind of footnote to my next blog which is already very long. This helps to describe people you’ll meet during a thru-hike, compartmentalized into very absurdly generalized categories.
In talking to people over the past 7 months, it’s funny the types of people you meet. I’m talking about strangers here, where it’s easy to lump them together. Hikers. Non-hikers. And dreamers. Or possibly adventurers/non-adventures would be more appropriate? It’s probably terrible to lump people into these categories, but for the sake of this story, just go with it.
A hiker/adventurer, you can spot instantly. When you’ve been on a journey, long or short, that has significance to you, it changes you. I don’t know how and it’s difficult to explain, but you can see it in people. In a simple “hello,” there is a difference in the way people interact. When you say hello to a hiker/adventurer, it’s an instant spark of recognition, like talking to a favorite cousin. You’ll immediately fill each other in on the past few months of your lives. And offer any food or beverage you have in your possession.
When saying hello to a non-hiker/adventurer, it’s a curt acknowledgement. Enough to be polite, but not enough to get to know one another on any level. This kind of person will ask about your hike because it scares them on some level. They want to share in your experiences for the main purpose of confirming that they never want to try it. This isn’t to say they don’t get out and do things, they just prefer to enjoy fun in a responsible fashion. Responsible doesn’t include vanishing from your life and job, then running out into the wilderness and doing everything your parents taught you not to do. For example, hiking alone, eating mounds of junk food, hitchhiking, talking to strangers, accepting food and candy from strangers, getting into windowless vans. It goes on like this. But you’ll never what this person does for fun because you are a stranger and they don’t want to talk to you.
The dreamer often finds themselves right in the middle. They’re a little scared and a little too set in their life to make the journey. But they often become adventurers because it all sounds too good to pass up. Or they live in comfort while finding excitement in the adventures of others. Dreamers are often caring, generous, and encouraging. They may even talk others into adventures but still not go on any themselves. It’s a fine balance, but the scale is easily tipped because they’re just waiting for the right inspiration.