Everything’s Intimidating Until It’s Done

If you are about to start hiking the AT and are beginning to second-guess your outdoor abilities, or generally feel like you are crazy for quitting your job to pursue this dream, I’m here to tell you, just jump in and enjoy the ride! Soon enough you’ll be so comfortable with that pack that you’ll wish you could just keep hiking, and what’ll seem crazy and intimidating is trying to get back into the working world.

Last year I did just that. I hiked the whole 2,192 miles of the Appalachian Trail with my wife. From June 11 through December 5th. It was wild and wonderful in so many ways.

Yardsale and Where’s-My on day 177, just steps away from our ending at the Amicalola Arch.

This year I’m networking and applying for jobs, and I find myself wishing I could just keep hiking. As I have networking conversation after conversation, and read job descriptions one after the other, all kinds of doubts enter into my brain… Is this right for me? Can I do this job? Are they looking for someone like me? Will it be enough to keep me interested for years? I honestly start to second-guess my work experience and skillset, and generally feel a little crazy for ever getting off the trail. Sound familiar? This is my new long hike – landing a job that I love – and it seems like a mountain ahead of me.

While reflecting on that feeling, and the absurdity of its premise—that backpacking through the mountains for six months while carrying my tent, food, and necessities is somehow easier or less intimidating than landing a new job–I realized something important:

Everything is intimidating the first time you do it. And anything new will seem more daunting than something you’ve been doing.

It’s funny to have to remind myself of that. I fancy myself an innovator, and someone who gets excited to figure out a new way of doing X or a better way to impact Y. That’s actually kinda what I was doing professionally before jumping onto the trail. But finding a new job to pour myself into is a daunting task after 7+ months out of the working world.

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail seemed like an absolutely ridiculous feat when we decided to do it, and I think that’s partially why my wife and I were drawn to it. But we never had much confidence that we would be able to pull it off. Who would?! The sheer absurdity of the mileage involved—over 2,000 miles, by foot—and the time commitment—likely 5+ months in the woods—made it seem like something that was largely beyond our control. Nobody could feel confident about attempting something like that. All we could do was start the hike, tell people that we were going to try to finish, and keep on keeping on.

Our first month on the trail last June was really tough. We did a flip-flop thru-hike starting in Harpers Ferry, and that meant that our first month was through what’s affectionately known as Rocksylvania—pretty much everyone’s least favorite state. Our feet hurt like hell. The rocks definitely stabbed our soles and twisted our ankles with every step. We weren’t picking up mileage at a pace that I had planned for. Our packs still felt really damn heavy. I wanted to go faster while she needed to go slower. We hadn’t found our rhythm as hiking partners. And we were struggling to wake up before 10 a.m. some days! Yeah, it turns out a sleep-deprived body can really play some catch-up on trail. And all around us were thru-hikers who had started months ago in Georgia, knocking out 15- to 20-mile days with regularity, seemingly in the groove, and all part of their own “tramilies” already. We were the nube couple with glaringly clean and unused gear that woke up after everyone else had left camp.

In a lot of ways that’s the phase I’m in now as a recent thru-hiker trying to find his footing in the working world again. All of this networking seems a little foreign to me. It feels like my friends and past colleagues are way ahead of me and cruising along in their careers. And it honestly feels like we need to play a lot of catch-up.

I’m just taking it day-by-day, not confident enough to say I’ll land that ideal next career step. Just persistent enough to know that I can only put todays miles in today, and tomorrow is a new day. I’ll get up and try to push forward again, and keep on keeping on.

I hiked the Appalachian Trail. One foot in front of the other. Side by side with my wife. It took a long ass time, and it was hard as hell. But we did it. When I think of it that way, I know I’ve got this job hunt in the bag – its just a matter of time.

June start in Harpers Ferry; September summit of Katahdin; December finish at Springer.

Whether you are just starting your hike, or are picking up the pieces like me and plotting your life after a big hike, it’s worth reminding ourselves of one simple fact of life:

Everything’s intimidating until it’s done.

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Comments 1

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    yet2b : Feb 26th

    After having run into you and your wife at Katahdin (at the end of my hike and the half way mark for you) I ended up following the second half of your journey. As I predicted, you did run into some nasty weather in NC/GA. I agree that thru-hiking the AT was intimidating at the front end (well actually even intimidating at many points along the way – being 67 might have had something to do with that). It is amazing what we are capable of accomplishing when committed. I believe it was my ‘stubbornness’ that was the primary attribute that allowed me to finish what was a 7.5 month trek for me. I am in the process of rebooting my psychology practice and it has been a little more challenging than I had predicted, but like you mentioned in your article “it’s just a matter of time”. Good luck to you guys in all of your future adventures. yet2b

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