8 Things to Consider When Announcing Your Thru-Hike
Today was officially my coming out day! My closest friends and family are already well aware of my intentions, but today was the day I went totally public. It came quite unexpectedly as my boss (and also good friend) caught wind of my plans. I had previously discussed with her my desire to hike the AT, but was unsure until just a few weeks ago if this year was the year. She text me last night asking if we should talk about planning for my exodus in the coming months, so we met today and I spilled the beans. To my surprise, and great relief, she wasn’t upset at all and the friend half of her was incredibly happy for me! So I sent out an email to my colleagues giving them a heads up and everyone was really supportive, although I’m certain the lot of them secretly think I’m bat shit crazy, but you’ll have that.
So now that the cat’s out of the bag I’m super excited and am now spreading the word like wildfire. I posted my intentions on Facebook promptly after telling my bosses and it’s already been incredibly motivating. I know making this announcement at work and on social media is going to play such a big role in helping me to get through the hike. As I was reading Appalachian Trials a few months ago, there is a section about publicly stating your mission where Zach explains, “having to explain my failure seemed far more difficult than walking.” That really struck a chord with me, because I knew although it would be incredibly stressful for a moment, it would also be really beneficial to make a public announcement because then the pressure’s on and it’s so much more real. Today was stressful, but the relief and excitement I felt afterwards was so worth it.
So, as I’ve been going over this day in my head for a while now, here are some things to consider when you’re announcing your thru-hike to various audiences:
Family and Close Friends
- Expect mixed reactions. This applies to all groups really, but you will likely care the most about the feedback from these folks. I happen to be an incredibly lucky young lady and have an amazing family and the best friends anyone could ask for, so naturally they were all very supportive. However, because they care for me there is also some worry that comes with me completing the hike solo. My best advice here is to just be patient with them and know they are only questioning your motives, sanity and safety, out of love. You will hear every worst case scenario (bears, creepers, injuries, etc.) and it might behoove you to actually think through these scenarios with them so you can be better prepared and also give them some peace of mind.
- Be solid in the plans you share with them. If you seem uncertain about your commitment to completing the trail or if you appear to be poorly prepared, they will pick up on this and it will cause unnecessary stress. It is best to share as much information (that they want to know) about your plans so they know you have put some serious thought into the logistics of your hike and the realization that you will be away having a life-changing experience for six months.
- Let them know how much you appreciate and need their support. This is going to be a tough hike. I have accepted the fact that not all days out on the trail are going to be fabulous. With that being said, I think there will be many times when receiving positive support (and care packages) from loved ones will help with the mental battle. Also, when returning from the trail, your loved ones will be there to help you transition back into the hustle bustle of society and likely will play a role in helping you get back on your feet after 6 months without employment. They deserve a ton of gratitude.
- Don’t announce your plans until you are positive you are thru-hiking. I prematurely came close to telling my boss several times about my plans to thru-hike. In hindsight, I am very glad I waited until I was certain this was what I wanted to do. This is true for several reasons, (a) it’s not fair to your employer to be indecisive about staying with the company or not, (b) if you give them the opportunity to talk you out of it, they will, and (c) there is always a chance they might fire your ass when you tell them your plans, so you want to be sure it’s worth it.
- Give them as much notice as possible. Now this is tricky. Depending on your strategy for employment after life on the trail, you may only want to give two weeks notice. I have decided (somewhat unexpectedly) to give my employer two months notice before my launch. I did this to ease the burden as much as possible on my supervisors and coworkers as well as give myself the best opportunity to apply for a position there when I return if I so chose.
- Have the necessary discussion about what ending your employment will entail. Sit down with someone in HR and figure out all the details of terminating your employment, including things like when your insurance will end, options for your retirement fund, cashing out vacation days, etc. All of this information will play a role in your pre-trail planning.
- Only share as much information as you would want a stranger to know. Yes, this seems like a no brainer but I think it’s also a good reminder. I made my announcement on Facebook today, and kept it very simple. I didn’t give my specific launch date because I have the slight paranoia and I didn’t want people to know when I will be taking off solo on the trail – highly unlikely anyone would use this information for any malice reason, but there are some cray-crays out there.
- Keep it classy and stay positive. I’m hiking the trail for happy, healthy reasons. I’m thoroughly happy with where I am at in life right now and I’m heading to the trail for personal growth, for the challenge and because I don’t want to have any regrets about the adventures I didn’t take while I was young. I’m not certain everyone’s reasons are so simple. If you’re leaving as an escape from stress, a relationship, or from grief of any kind do your best to refrain from ranting because people will only be excited for you if you’re excited for you.
There you have it – my best advice on how to handle the big announcement! No doubt the experience is different for everyone, but it’s always important to enjoy the journey. Every challenge is an opportunity for growth!
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