8 Reasons Why I’ll Be Quitting My Job to Hike the Appalachian Trail
Where to start?
As it happens, my story begins at the end. In August 2013, a childhood friend and I drove to Maine on a whim and hiked Katahdin. We were ridiculously underprepared, but what we lacked in food, hydration, trail knowledge, and parking passes, we made up in dopey-faced joy at climbing huge boulders and navigating the mountain’s long, narrow, (kind of scary) knife’s edge ridge line. I hadn’t done much hiking before, but I was hooked.
Fast forward about 7 months to the beginning of May 2014. I was out on a hike with a close friend lamenting my current career trajectory. I knew that change was needed, but wasn’t sure what direction to go in. “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could fit the AT in between jobs?” I asked. Without hesitation, she said I should go for it. A little validation from a trusted friend at the right time, and now I’m half a year from embarking on the adventure of a lifetime.
Here are my 8 reasons for quitting my job and hiking the AT:
1) Love of Hiking
Maybe you can relate? You are, after all, roaming a hiking site. I could list the reasons why I love hiking, but, instead, I’ll summarize in two words: sheer happiness. I’m never happier than while out in the woods hiking. To some extent, my 2015 NOBO attempt is a way of seeing whether too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Time will tell!
2) Hard Date for Quitting
I fell into a job in finance about half a decade ago that I happen to be good at. I think there are other areas that might offer a better cultural fit – nonprofit, education, or outdoor recreation, to name a few – but it’s hard to pull the trigger on leaving a career path that offers such clear financial incentive and upward mobility. In deciding to hike the AT next year, I set a hard deadline for quitting a job that I’m not psyched about.
3) Prior Experience with Self-Powered Travel
The only experience that I’ve had that might compare with the AT is cycling across the United States. It was incredible, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I got a lot of fulfillment during that journey, both as a result of meeting the physical challenge and cycling through incredible scenery. When weighing a similar experience – the AT – against spending the same amount of time in a cubicle, it’s a no-brainer.
4) The People
My friend has a theory on why the folks that you meet while hiking are always so approachable and happy. We’re high, he’d tell you, on the increased levels of oxygen that we’re subjected to. I’m not sure where I stand on that, but one thing’s for sure: the trail should be full of interesting people with colorful personalities, many of whom are navigating unique transition points in their lives.
5) Self-Imposed Adversity
This may sound strange, but I’m looking forward to being jobless and having to figure things out. On a day-to-day basis, I work hard, but in a broader sense, the last few years have been pretty easy. I’ve been too risk averse, so I think it’s time for me to scrape by for a bit and reclaim my sense of personal and professional agility.
Hiking over 2,000 miles will let me eat 5,000+ calories a day. Here’s a picture of the food I brought on my recent (1st!) overnight shakedown hike. What’s not to love?
7) Minimalist Living
Thoreau wrote, “It would be some advantage to live a primitive and frontier life, though in the midst of an outward civilization, if only to learn what are the gross necessaries of life…” Over the past several years, I’ve spent as though I’d be continuing my career in finance. I’ve acquired a dizzying catalog of material possessions, most of which I’m selling, donating or trashing prior to next year’s hike. The AT will be an exercise in living with little and may serve as a bootcamp of sorts toward a more minimal brand of life.
8) Because It’s There
When English mountaineer George Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, he famously responded with, “Because it’s there.” The Appalachian Trail has wedged itself into my consciousness. In an inexplicable way, I simply need to hike it. It’s there, and if I let this opportunity pass me by, I’m sure that I’ll regret it.
Why are you interested in hiking the Appalachian Trail?
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I love this idea. I want to do the exact same thing. I just need to get some personal things arranged first. I would like to do it next year.
I’ve been talking about doing this for a long time
Maybe next year,I’ll be brave enough to do this