When I see people walk out of the woods or trek down a mountainside or yank a kayak out of a river, I can’t help but sidle up to them and fire a dozen questions their direction. In fact, that’s how I recently ended up chatting with a hiker named Daniel inside a Wilmington, N.C., grocery store.
Daniel was standing at the deli counter, looking a little bit weathered, with a well-worn backpack, boots and a relaxed stance.
Me: “You through hiking”
Me: “You going camping?”
Then turning to me, he said he was on a trek from Asheville, N.C., to the coast, mostly on roads and sometimes the interstate. Seeing that I was still paying attention, he continued. “I just got back from over a year in Afghanistan. I’m walking to meet friends and visit family — but mostly I’m spending some much needed time alone.”
I get that. I tell him that’s fantastic.
Daniel gives me a puzzled look and tells me I’m the first person to tell him he’s doing something positive. Everyone else, he says, is telling him he’s wasting his time, living dangerously and achieving nothing.
I wished him well on his journey and we parted. But my limited interaction with Daniel reminds me of the importance of