Getting Ready for a Flip Flop
Now that the NOBOs have set off, and the SOBOs aren’t quite ready to leave, the flip floppers will be departing in the coming week. The good folks of the ATC, including flip flop advocate Laurie Potteiger, have organized the very first ever Flip Flop Kick Off, which will be taking place the weekend of May 2nd and 3rd.
For me, I will consider my flip flop attempt begun on Wednesday evening, May 6th, when I board a Greyhound bus from my native home of Western Massachusetts, to travel south to the town of Marion, Virginia. I’ll be arriving in Marion early afternoon on Thursday the 7th. From there, it’s a mere few miles to the Appalachian Trail.
Why Am I Doing This?
Since I read Appalachian Trials last year, I have considered that question a few times. My answers have changed and evolved over the course of my planning this trip, and I expect they will continue to do so throughout the journey.
One of the lessons I have learned in recent years is that when you don’t do the conventional thing, people always want a good reason. When I graduated high school, and I made plans to go to college, nobody asked me why I was doing that, because the answer was self-evident.
Go to college to get a higher paying job, get a higher paying job to pay for the education that you bought on credit, buy a house, get married, and make babies.
However, this wasn’t exactly so clear to me at the time, and I wasted a lot of money attempting to avoid the fact that my heart wasn’t even a little bit in it.
Fortunately, no one else can really afford to pay back all of their student loan debt anymore, anyway, so I’ll be able to settle for a lower price. However, I still had to drop out of school twice in order to figure out that leaving higher education really was my choice, and that I was doing it for what I consider the right reasons.
Having to constantly defend my choices from people who think they know better for me than me has been a highly instructive experience. It has taught me to stand by my convictions, and do what feels right. It used to bother me, when I was less sure of myself, but over time that has slowly changed.
Pardon My ADD
I don’t think that was an actual answer back there, sorry about that. I can get a little off topic. So, basically the reasons that I am attempting this hike are many, and sometimes they vary in intensity from day to day. However, I’ll just list them in the order that they occur to me today.
The first one I think of is to become self-sufficient. I have operated at varying levels of independence throughout my life, from living in an apartment with a roommate, to having my car repossessed and needing to move back in with my parents at the age of 21.
It is very important to me now that I can learn to take care of myself, and be independent. The AT will hopefully be just the starting point to many years of travel ahead of me. If I can pass this test, I can quite possibly do anything and go anywhere I set my mind to.
Another key reason is to lighten my load, physically and mentally. I think learning to live with only the items on my back will give me a new, profound sense of freedom. I also believe that physical clutter is a manifestation of mental clutter, and I very much look forward to reducing both.
I additionally want to prove to myself that I can begin something, see it through, and complete it. And, of course, because literally nothing in the world can make me feel as happy to be alive than spending time in nature. Altogether, I haven’t spent enough time in my life doing those things, and I want that to change.
At the end of the day, I seek to learn about myself, and to grow and evolve. I am the type of person who constantly needs to be pushing myself to be better and do better. It’s not even about pressuring myself, really, I just thrive on experience and challenge.
Indeed, I know attempting this will be the most challenging thing I’ve ever tried to do, but I also know that it will be one of the most worthwhile, as well.
Getting Ready to Leave
For over a year now I have been working on accumulating enough gear to begin backpacking with. I now just about have the bare minimum amount of stuff to spend my nights outdoors.
My gear is mainly a jumble of hand me downs, stuff I’ve owned for a long time, things that are super cheap and came from China, and some genuinely high quality pieces mixed in as well.
For much of it, I’ve already been experiencing and relying upon the kindness of others to start my hike. I’ve received free gear and resources in exchange for reviewing them online. A close friend sold me some very useful gear for a next to nothing price. He was a 2,000 miler on the AT last year, and will hopefully be flip flopping as well this year. I owe him a debt of gratitude.
Because I also decided that planning for a six month hike wasn’t enough to keep my nervous energy in check, I have been planning a going away party for myself for the past month or so. It has been keeping me plenty busy, booking the location, sending out invites, and coordinating all the details.
The party will also be a fundraiser to raise money for my hike, as well as the birthday party I meant to have a couple of years ago. I’m really looking forward to it, and it should help kick start my hike with lots of positive momentum.
Again, though, I’ve had lots of help from the generosity of my friends, family, and the local community where I live. Even a previous AT hiker will be coming from all the way in Saratoga Springs, NY to perform at the event for no cost to me.
My plan was originally, selfishly, to sort of sneak off into the night. But now that I am really leaving, I want to do it right, and hold myself accountable to what I say I am going to do. And now that I’m really doing it, I’m already realizing that I can’t do it alone, that none of us probably can, and I think that’s a huge part of the magic of the trail.
More to Come
So far I have started a gear list in Excel that I will be sharing in the upcoming few days. One of my favorite things about this hike already is getting to indulge in the gear fetish. And opening packages from the mail of my latest AT hike purchase? My idea of heaven.
I’ll also be posting soon about the last time I was in Virginia, nearly two years ago, and how that experience has contributed to me being where I am today. It’s actually one of my favorite stories to tell, so look out for that one.
All in all, I’ve had my doubts, and my near starts and misses with wanting to take on this hike, but it’s finally happening, and it’s all coming together. I couldn’t be happier, and I certainly couldn’t be more grateful for the support I’ve received already.
*Article photo courtesy of morgueFile
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