The Economics of the Appalachian Trail: Part 2

20130719-161806.jpgOur experience thus far on the Appalachian Trail has provided us a glimpse into another kind of gift economy. “Trail Magic” is something we’ve already experienced a few times – where a hiker unexpectedly receives something they need, or just something that changes the course of a difficult or trying day. Whether it’s an orange, a ride into town, or an ice cold beer on a 90 degree day, the generosity and warmth of strangers is really the gift we receive. This type of giving also engenders further gifting – whether we can share food, shelter, or knowledge it makes us more human, and more humane.

Something that has fascinated us as artists is the idea of open economies – ones that rely on equal exchange and are inclusive rather than exclusive. We often engage in gift or barter economies, trading favors and skills for necessities – a painting for a week of lodging, a song for supper. But this type of gift extends beyond just artistic communities – it includes ordinary working folks, the gentry, the grocer, the poor, the poets, and all of the people who comprise the multiple facets of any community. It requires a leap of faith – the ability, and willingness, to see beyond our preconceptions of others.

Gift economy is a practice we wish to take further, imbibing our daily and artistic gestures with the same generosity. Thinking about our community in Seattle; the artists, family members, colleagues and strangers who have given so freely of their time and resources, we are thankful to be among friends.

Thank you unknown hiker for the DEET, Michael from Geeneville for the beers and the ride, thank you couple from Mass for the peaches and ice cold beerz, random hikers from Virginia and Mass who we passed on a deserted logging road for the orange, and our fond Canadian friendz for the snacks.

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