Odyssey (noun)- a long wandering or voyage usually marked by many changes of fortune.
For anyone who has yet to learn the news: I have suspended the hike.
I understand that there is the obvious question of "What happened?"
As I was training for this, I would hear about this being a mental endeavor, which I translated as BOREDOM.
What I overlooked was ISOLATION.
I am a social person. I love to make others laugh and to engage in conversation. Despite my convictions that I could "power through", my psyche got the better of me. This manifested in the form of upset stomach for over a week and eventually a loss of appetite. Even though I had been hiking for four weeks and accomplishing 15 and 20 miles each day, I had little to no appetite, which is dangerous for this activity. For countless days, the idea of stopping the hike weighed on me. I listed the numerous people who would be 'disappointed', fellow Rotarians hoping to meet and host me, family/friends/coworkers, the press who had been covering this story, etc. But I couldn't eat. I literally had free pizza in front of me and the best I could muster was three slices. THREE! Back home, I would eat three slices because I wouldn't want to put it in the fridge!
I have always been extroverted and a 'people person', but now I know, without question, that I need socialization for my own health.
Were there people on the trail? Sure. But I didn't have a trail family (tramily).There were some days I only had a cumulative 15 minutes of human interaction. Not to mention that I was going at a faster pace most were not. Also, I had arrangements with Rotary people to host me. That's a awkward circumstance to be in, to establish bonds and relationships and then suddenly bail on trail friends because I have Rotary people waiting to host me. I haven't forgotten that different areas are still having challenges with COVID-19. Even my participation out here and meeting with Rotarians could be argued as irresponsible.
What I'm driving at is that I experienced loneliness like I never have before. I learned a great deal about myself and the key is to use this information to improve and prevent further hiccups.
Meanwhile, we can celebrate what has been achieved:
We have raised $40K for polio eradication. After the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation match, that become $120K, which means 200,000 children will be vaccinated against polio!
I have also accomplished the first 428 miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Foot Trail.
I slept on the observation deck of Clingman's Dome.
Conquered the Smokies in four days without rain.
Hiked 34 miles in 13 hours, through the rain and over Roan Mountain (over 6,000 feet) to avoid nighttime freezing temperatures.
I also met wonderful people along the way.
So what does this mean for the Odyssey?
It is not over.
Details coming soon.
Please enjoy these photos.
You can also see all of my photos in the PHOTO ALBUM section of the website.