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.

Fear

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?

Excitement

This is an opportunity for me to find my strength, to know that I can cope!

Pride

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.

Anger

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.

Loneliness

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!

Bio:

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. 

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Comments 12

  • Megan Landstine : Jul 17th

    Thanks for your post, I look forward to letting my husband read this before I depart SOBO in two weeks.

    Reply
    • Jessie : Jul 18th

      Thanks for your message. The very best of luck with your trek – you may cross paths with my husband (Wild Thing) he is NOBO and currently in the Whites. The best of luck to your husband too 😊 I wish you happy safe hiking and a speedy stay home for him!

      Reply
  • Rachael Upchurch : Jul 19th

    Thank you for this! It is good to know we are not alone in the “leaving spouses behind” aspect of hiking the trail. After much discussion and even convincing from my spouse, I will be leaving my husband to thru hike the AT NOBO next year in February. Obviously it is hard to find people who have experienced something even remotely similar to what we are going through, and honestly it is one of my biggest stressors while planning. But It will be an amazing experience for me, and I think he is (slowly) realizing for him as well. I will definitely be having him read this soon. Thanks again XOXo

    Reply
    • Jessie : Jul 20th

      Wow, best of luck to you both. It is a really tough decision for both sides but ultimately I feel this experience has bound us together more than ever. Although I haven’t shared his hike, I know I am a hugely important part of it. Be safe and have a wonderful adventure 😊

      Reply
  • Jennifer Williams : Jul 19th

    Great article. I was actually the one who left the husband and child at home to hike the AT. Did I feel guilt? Yes, every day! Would I have finished if the husband did not support my decision and go out of his way to make sure he and our son saw me as often as possible? Absolutely not. It’s healthy for couples to have different interests and support eachother. Of course, it’s all my husband’s fault that I thru-hiked in the first place because he claims I would not shut up about it until I actually did it.

    Reply
    • Jessie : Jul 20th

      Yes I have to say I was getting sick of talking about it before he left 😁 Congratulations on an incredible achievement

      Reply
  • lorrie hess : Jul 20th

    Thanks for your post. It’s a good reminder to be sure I also support my husband’s goals, since he encourages my plan to hike the AT in 2018 wholeheartedly – and is going to cover my lost income as well. No way I would feel comfortable going next year if he wasn’t behind me. He is the one who suggested 2018 instead of later, saying something to the effect of “When you push off dreams to some day, sometimes they don’t happen at all.” I just hope he doesn’t get to used to me being gone, because I definitely want to come home to him!

    Reply
    • Jessie : Jul 20th

      I agree wholeheartedly – if you put it off it could never happen. I really have been such a part of my husband’s hike in many ways and it sounds like your husband will be an enormous part of yours. Good luck, be safe and have a wonderful hike 🌞

      Reply
    • Brenda Sanders : Aug 8th

      I am so glad to see that I am not the only crazy woman wanting to hike the AT without their husband. I have been talking to my husband for the past two months about hiking the AT next year. I guess he had no idea what that entailed because at dinner on Saturday night I said “Aren’t you going to miss me when I am gone for 6 months next year?” He looked at me super funny and said “what are you talking about?” I said “when I am hiking the AT, weirdo, I’ve been talking about it for months.” He said “I thought you would be gone for no more than two weeks, whats this 6 months thing? Why would you want to be gone from your family for 6 months?” Well that went over well.. I might have talked my youngest son to hike it with me, he’s 14 and will be 15 when and if he hikes with me. We homeschool him so I think this would be a great opportunity for him to grow. I haven’t spoken to the rest of my family about it yet, they will think I am nuts. Hope to see you out on the trail. Cheers from Texas!

      Reply
  • Backfire : Jul 20th

    I’ve hiked the AT twice and always enjoyed the full support of my wife. I think we appreciated each other all the more when I returned. Three years ago we hiked the southern half together and learned a lot about being a team.

    Reply
    • Jessie : Jul 21st

      Twice!!! Wow she is a better woman than me 😁 I am not ready to think about anything like this again just yet but doing something together is on the cards. Thanks for your comment and we’ll done.

      Reply
      • Jessie : Jul 21st

        Sorry – well done !

        Reply

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