He’s Fine and so am I: Perspective of the Spouse Left At Home
The following is a guest post courtesy of Jessie Wild. Have a story to share? Submit it here.
What is the right response when your husband/wife/partner/loved one takes a deep breath and announces their plan to leave for six months? Their plan to hike the Appalachian Trail? Looking back three years, I think mine went something like “Oh… Ok… cool… do you want a coffee?” It was such a surreal and nebulous idea at first, and came so out of the blue. There didn’t seem to be any alternative response.
Having said that, I always suspected that one day a big wilderness adventure was in the cards – the night we met, I was regaled with hilarious tales of wild camping trips with his haphazard college friends, not to mention his choice of hero…. Ray Mears and Bear Grylls. There are many many valid reasons why my husband is currently choosing to walk the AT but this is not about him, nor is this about the AT – this is about me and for all those who stayed behind. I wanted to write something from a different perspective –so here it is… from the heart.
I came to terms with this plan early on, but one thing I found really tricky is people’s reactions and questions while they try to get their head around it—What does he want to do that for? Why would he leave you and the kids? How will you cope? Or passing comments with a jagged edge: Well, we’d all like to live our dreams! He’ll owe you when he gets back! And the classic I can’t believe you are letting him do this.
I decided early on that I didn’t want have to justify his choices to others, and in many ways it feels unfair that people expect me to. So I don’t justify it, other than a few stock responses such as wanting to support his dreams. The truth is much more complex and personal of course, and brings with it a whole range of emotions. I thought I’d share just a few.
What accidents may befall him? Will he fall in love with that life and never be able to return? Will he not complete the hike and forever feel a sense of failure? How on earth will he return to the minutiae of ordinary life? Will I get too used to life without him and struggle to have him back?
This is an opportunity for me to find my strength, to know that I can cope!
I am so very proud of him for having the guts to go for this and to see him fulfil his dream with such energy and positivity is a joy.
It would be a huge fib to say I have never felt any anger or resentment. It is an immensely tough job being both Mum & Dad to a teenage girl with daily yo-yo emotions and to a tweenage boy with his ever changing body and a transition into high school – not to mention working and scraping by on a part time teaching wage. I’ve done basic car maintenance, plumbing and decorating and in the process gained huge respect for all single parents out there. It is worth asking yourself if you can handle this particular emotion – whilst living your dreams is admirable, the sacrifices are often made by those who stay behind. I had to settle that within myself and to be honest it has not always been easy.
You really do find out who you friends are when you are an AT widow! Before Wild Thing left I had countless promises from pretty much everyone that I could rely on them for help and company. Only a very small handful of people have stayed true to their word and although it doesn’t really surprise me, I won’t forget it. Luckily I am usually too busy to be lonely but it is worth considering – six months is a long time to be without the person you have chosen to spend your life with!
I feel like I have just scratched the surface of this, and of course everyone’s experiences will be different. I haven’t even touched on the upsides for myself—the sense of independence gained… and a double bed to myself.
My final thought is this: it is an incredible achievement to walk the AT, but believe me, it has also been an achievement not to!
Jessie is a secondary school drama teacher from the midlands (of the UK), with two brilliantly independent kids and two very needy cats. She met Lawrence at drama school, after which they toured around the UK as jobbing actors. They have always both loved the outdoors and camping, and it is their dream to run the perfect campsite… probably in Wales. Lots of people keep asking me what she plans to do when Wild Thing returns, and it “isn’t quite so grand” as walking the AT, but she would love to complete a cycle ride across Rajasthan for charity.
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.