Setting Out on My Rite of Passage

I’ve known about the Appalachian Trail for a couple of years. I knew that it was very long and that crazy people sometimes would walk the whole trail in one season. I didn’t know that I wanted to do that.

2018 was a year where I started thinking about a lot of things. My past, my future, the meaning of life, and the airspeed velocity for an unladen European swallow. I’m not unhappy with my life in any way—I have a wife I love, great family and friends, I am privileged enough to work in a field with high demand for skilled workers, and I have a great job doing something I love to do.

A Drama Queen?

I’m 43 and while I’ve never had any medical problems and I have always been in decent shape, I’m starting to feel some things on my body creak. Over the summer I started feeling like I needed some “rite of passage” into middle age. Laugh all you want or call me a drama queen—but that’s how it felt. I started thinking about maybe changing my career and lots of other dramatic things.

My wife and I got into hiking over the last couple of years and I felt great doing that—just walking, feeling free, and having the space to think. I have always loved walking and I consider myself pretty good at it, if something that fundamental is something you can brag about.

Once the idea of going on a long hike started to settle in my mind I talked to my wife about it and she was very supportive. Yes, she’ll miss me, but she also knows I’ll come back much happier and fulfilled. I bounced the idea of going on the AT off a great group of women who met at a small gathering that we call Pause. The idea behind Pause was for all of us to reflect on our lives and careers and support each other making decisions going forward. That weekend with the Pausers made me realize this:

  1. I need to insist on having fun in everything I do. It’s what drives me and I’ve been forgetting how to have fun. I need a fun reset.
  2. I can totally do this if I set my mind to it (thanks for the support, Pausers!).

So Why Are You Doing This?

I’ve gotten that question a lot. I think I answered it a little bit in the above paragraphs, but here is a list. I read Zach’s The Appalachian Trials about mentally preparing and it tasks you with making three lists that you can look at when things on trail are shit. When I am wet, cold, hungry, and wondering why doing this seemed like a better idea than sitting at home on the couch, I’ll consult this list to remind myself of my purpose.

I Am Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail Because

  • It’s going to be a fun adventure.
  • It will be a break for thinking.
  • Because I totally can.
  • I love walking.
  • It’s something to finish. Finishing things is not my forte, but I’ll show myself this time!
  • It’s a non-multitasking, focused thing over a longer period. I think it’s going to be good not to have The Dodo, YouTube, Netflix, Instagram, and Twitter distract me for a while.

When I Successfully Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail I Will

  • Feel like a goddess.
  • Be able to do anything. Seriously. I’ve just walked 3,500 kilometers.
  • Have a fresh and different perspective on a lot of things.
  • Be in great shape.
  • Feast on lobster in Maine with Addi.

If I Give up on the Appalachian Trail I Will

  • Carry a mental cone of shame.
  • Miss out on feeling like a goddess.
  • Have yet another project I didn’t finish.
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