Clocked Out, Walked Out: It’s Time to Hike!
I am now gainfully unemployed for the next six months.
When my latest travel nursing assignment was coming to a close, my coworkers asked me the question you hear a hundred times as a travel nurse: “Where are you headed next?” Without any hesitation, I answered, “I’m not taking another assignment. I’m taking six months off from work to hike the Appalachian Trail.” To which they then responded with a question that aspiring thru-hikers hear a hundred times: “You’re going to go hike…for six months??!?” Yes. Although it sounds crazy to everyone else to leave a stable travel nursing gig to spend six months unemployed while walking with 30 or so pounds on my back through 14 states over 2,198.4 miles from Georgia to Maine, it sounds like bliss to me, and I can’t wait!
Well, there are a few whys, actually.
I have loved hiking ever since I was a kid and my parents used to take us camping and hiking in Maine every summer. I fell in love with the trails, the rock scrambles, the ladder rungs, the lakes, and the breathtaking views. The harder the trail, the more fun I had. The better the view, the more rewarding the trail was. Hiking is in my blood, and it was practically inevitable that one day, short day hikes would no longer be enough to quench my thirst for the outdoors.
My mentor (basically my second dad) is a backpacker. When he offered to teach me how to backpack (rather than just hike), I was over the moon. He took me on my first backpacking trip ever: a section hike of the Appalachian Trail. I’d heard of the trail before then, but I had no idea it was so long or could even be thru hiked. From that first rainy day on trail, I was hooked. I fell in love with the Appalachian Trail the more sections of it I hiked. And with each section I hiked, I found it harder and harder to step off the trail at the end. I vowed that one day, I would hike the whole thing.
I’ve worked in healthcare since I was sixteen years old. Yes. You heard right! I got certified as an Emergency Medical Technician when I was sixteen and rode third person (essentially non-licensed) on the ambulance until I was eighteen and could act as the primary provider or driver without someone else looking over my shoulder.
When it was time to go to college, my mom convinced me that nursing was the next logical step in my career, so I jumped into a nursing program. After four long years of blood, sweat, tears, and an insane number of long papers, I graduated with my BSN and shortly thereafter passed my boards to become a registered nurse. From there, I decided to do the thing that seemed the hardest: work as a new grad nurse in the medical (general) intensive care unit at a large teaching hospital.
And then the unthinkable happened: a global pandemic, and WE were the frontline. We were voluntold to be the COVID unit. So we did what we were trained to do: mask up, gown up, glove up, and go save lives. Only…we couldn’t save many of them. And that was hard. I found that in a world in lockdown, my one escape was the trail. In nature, I found solace and the strength to go on gowning, gloving, and caring. Backpacking saved my mental health, but I still have some repairs left to undergo. Six months on trail sounds like the perfect solution to me.
Being able to say that I hiked 2,198.4 miles in less than a year sounds pretty freaking awesome to me, so why not?
Will you come back to nursing when you’re done?
Don’t know. I have six months to find out. After I clocked out and walked out, I set my sights on Springer Mountain, and I’m not looking back until I stand on Mt. Katahdin.
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