Last night, I walked out of work to find a black puddle under my car. The same 20 year old car which recently hydroplaned out of a lane on the highway, resulting in a $400 investment in new tires, is now leaking gas from its tank. As I watch the narrow margin between my “real life” money and my “Appalachian Trail” savings and gear money dwindle, I face my next Appalachian Trial: doubt.
Perhaps instead of fulfilling this seemingly whimsical dream of conquering the eastern seabord, I need to stay home, fill out more job applications, save more money, and be a better grown-up. Perhaps I should get rid of the old car and invest in a new or lightly used model. A car payment would probably cost less than repairs at this point. Perhaps if I put the AT on hold and instead focus on finding a way to acquire the accoutrements associated with a materially successful life (the house, the lawn, the car, the matching furniture with no futon in sight), I will find another time to hike. After all, the trail will always be there and I (hope I) won’t always be a pauper.
And that is only part of the doubt.
I am a moderately experienced dayhiker and novice backpacker. I haven’t lived alone in three years and yet I am attempting a solo hike. Though I will be First Aid certified when I leave, that training will be insufficient in the face of any true emergency. What if there is too much snow? What if I just get plain bored? Perhaps it is less disappointing to myself and those I have told about my hike if I just don’t go at all. “It was too expensive to leave my life for six months,” I could say. “It was one car breakdown too many,” I could say. It would be so easy.
And so the doubt keeps talking, whispering insiduously in my ear. “Don’t go. Stay,” it says. “It will be cold. You will be tired. You are weak. You are going to fail,” it says. I can’t turn it off or turn it down and it gets louder every obstacle I face. Every 16 hour work day, every missed weekend, every opportunity I pass up to go on this adventure (this farce?), doubt looms its ugly head.
Who am I to attempt something this big? Who am I not to play by the rules of society – not joining the rat race, but looking outside the box instead? Who am I to tackle 2000 miles of wild trail with nothing but the pack on my back? Who am I to accept poverty in the name of a greater journey? Who am I to know if this is the right decision to make at this juncture?
Even as I type this I don’t know if I will win this battle of wills with myself. All I’ve learned so far is that it’s a funny feeling to know I have total control over my own failure, but not to trust simultaneously that I have total control over my own success as well.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.