It’s been over a year and a half since I did the John Muir Trail. Three weeks of my life that continue to have an ongoing impact on me. Few other periods of my adult life have given me quite such a strong sense of nostalgia. Perhaps two or three other experiences can evoke as powerful a feeling.
Whilst I can go days and often weeks without thinking about it, the waves of longing, when they hit, can be incredibly forceful. It’s almost as if I miss a person, rather than a place or an experience.
Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.
And in some ways I do. I miss the person I felt myself to be on the trail. I miss the feeling of possibility, of boldness, and of confidence that I had during that time. I miss what I thought I might become and haven’t quite, yet. I love the person who prepared for that experience, and the person who did it. I still can’t believe it was me.
I miss the people that I met on the trail. From those I spent only minutes with, to those I walked for days with. One special person comes to mind in particular. Who I miss very much.
I miss the feeling of absolute certainly that there was nothing I’d rather be doing and nowhere I’d rather be. Even when I was tired, my back hurt and I was in dire need of some fresh food. The knowledge in each moment that this was one of those experiences in life that I’d carry with me forever. That it doesn’t get any better than this.
There are a few moments in your life when you are truly and completely happy, and you remember to give thanks. Even as it happens you are nostalgic for the moment, you are tucking it away in your scrapbook.
I don’t know what’s brought this on. Perhaps it’s remembering that I got my permit approved about two years ago. Perhaps it’s hearing from a trail friend today. Maybe it’s the weather (which is terrible). Or because I overdosed on a trail playlist favourite – Nick Drake – at the weekend.