Hiking Is For Quitters

Y’all, these past few years have had me BURNT. OUT.  But I know just what my tired soul needs (not more cowbell, although good guess): 2,200 miles of walking in the woods!  You know what they say, nothing more rejuvenating than wearing your body to the absolute limit.  So I put in my 2 weeks notice as a construction project manager, packed up my life in CA, and set off on this grand Appalachian adventure.

We All Fantasize About Quitting Our Jobs and Hitting the ‘Ole Dusty Trail, Right?

Whether that fantasy was about hiking the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, or some other long-distance trail – if you’ve ever felt a hankering for hiking when you were supposed to be diligently creating value for your corporate overlords, you know what I mean.   The thoughts slowly creep in: “My job is a waste of time…” “Is this what I want to do every day for the rest of my life…?” “Wouldn’t I be happier hiking in the rain (or snow, or hail, or apocalyptic plague of locusts) right now…?”

Welp, I’m finally listening to that voice.  I’m turning 30 this June, and I couldn’t bear the thought of spending that birthday continuing to complain about a job I despise.  I grew up hiking in the Shenandoah’s, and always imagined I would attempt an AT thru-hike one day – what was I waiting for??

Baby Boy Scout Boy

Front row, left: here I am demonstrating my inability to wait for anything (probably)

I know many people have had similar awakenings during COVID, and good for us, I say!  Something so bleak has to be good for something.  In my case, it brought into stark focus how unhappy I was arguing with general contractors all day – didn’t I want to be a writer?  Wasn’t this job supposed to be a means to an end, so I could pursue my real dreams?  It’s amazing how you can start a job with that mindset and keep yourself so busy, you don’t even feel the passage of 5 years.  Meanwhile, I kept getting grumpier and more bitter.  Yikes.

Let’s Start Over

So I’m getting back to the basics.  Back to the goofiness and weirdness that makes me, me.  No more white-knuckled 60+ hour workweeks.  And when did I get so dang serious?  That’s not me.

Baby Boy Seaweed Head

I can keep ’em coming all day, folks

I’ve loved the world of words since I was but a wee lad, and I’ve always known that I wanted to be a writer.  I studied English Literature and Philosophy in college, with that express purpose: to support myself through writing.  But when the time came to strike out on my own, I withered under my fear of failure.  In my OCD/perfectionist brain, if I wasn’t Hemingway, I was nothing.  Worse still, I was sure I’d be stuck living with my parents forever as I slowly came to hate the oppressive gift of their continued emotional support and gentle encouragement to get a more “stable” job (yes, many people have it much, much worse).  So I took a different path, one that I cared a hell of a lot less about, and focused on building wealth, not happiness.

But I’ve finally saved enough to feel comfortable quitting my corporate job.  I’ve finally put in enough time doing something I hate to feel like I deserve to do something I love.  I’m finally thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.

It’s Nearly Time!

I’ve bought the last few pieces of gear and I’m tinkering with the setup.  I’m biking/hiking/walking as much as I can and trying to pack on a few extra pounds before my body goes into starvation mode.  I’m hugging my dog Alta and fiancé Emily as much as I can, knowing that I’ll soon be separated from their warm, furry bodies (Emily loves that one).  My start date of Sunday, March 6th is registered with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), and I could not be more excited and afraid – but I’d rather face my fears than flee from them.

If you like the cut of my jib, subscribe to follow along on my journey!  I’ll be out there, singing loudly in the woods, meditating in low places, and peeing off of high places.  If you’re on the trail, and you see me – say hi!  Just don’t ask where all my hair went – that’s a story for another day.

 

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Comments 18

  • Wendee Theilemann : Feb 3rd

    You are spot on laddie…now, go get em!

    Reply
    • Willy : Feb 3rd

      Thanks Wendee! Whenever it’s raining, I’ll channel Carl and say to myself “I’m in SCOTLAND”

      Reply
    • SloMoe : Feb 5th

      Willy
      Word of advice from a long ass section hiker aka LASH’er. Always hike your own hike. If you get into a grove of people that has the same goal they make you go to fast and you miss stuff. That’s not good. That affects your hiking flow and enjoyment. I have always noticed, when I hiked my 400-600 miles sections that those hikers always pop up back up. You always want to do your pace. If others want to do it a your pace then by all means bring them along for Willys ride of a life time. Paragraph of the day. SloMoe out. Enjoy your hike. You’ll never forget it.

      Reply
      • Willy : Feb 9th

        I appreciate your words of advice SloMoe – it’s good to be reminded to HYOH. I’m an only child and natural loner (i.e. not a “joiner”), but I can imagine it’s pretty tempting to give up your independence for the sake of some company from time to time. Hopefully I’ll find some people to hop on “Willys ride of a life time” (I like the sounds of that)!

        Reply
  • Roykee : Feb 4th

    Wow, I’m excited for you. Sounds like an adventure that will feed you with warm memories for years to come.

    Be safe as you can and wishing you fun, good health and time for frequent updates.

    Reply
    • Willy : Feb 4th

      You and me both – thank you!

      Reply
  • Scot : Feb 5th

    Good for you! Wish I had done the same. 5 years to go and then a surfing and backpacking life for me. First up? A long delayed AT stroll from GA to ME. Looking forward to your progress. If you hear bellowing, off key Pink Floyd catterwalliing, say hello. It’s me warming up for the biggie.

    Reply
    • Willy : Feb 9th

      Scot – nearly there! You sound like a man after my own heart. A life of surfing and backpacking sounds like a perfect balance to me. Thanks for following my journey, hope we cross paths. It’s a bit of a Pink Floyd deep cut but – “walk with me Sydney… I’d love to, love to, love to but I got flat feet, fallen arches, baggy knees and a broken frame!”

      Reply
  • Kevin : Feb 5th

    I have done the A trail in North Carolina, Virginia, all of Pennsylvania where I live, New Jersey and New Hampshire. I envy your attempt and I will give this piece of advice, thru hiking the trail is like life, it’s not about getting to the end it’s enjoying the moments along the way. I will follow along and try to be a good trail Angel when you get into the Rocky he
    ll of Pennsylvania.

    Reply
    • Willy : Feb 9th

      Thanks Kevin! I will definitely appreciate any and all trail angels along the way – even if it’s just a high-five and an “attaboy”. Yes, I’ve heard that about Pennsylvania – that’s about where my familiarity with the AT stops (I’ve spent waaaaay more time on the southern half). I’ll look for some words of wisdom!

      Reply
  • Fireboss : Feb 5th

    If you have nothing to be proven, no standards to be met, and no results to be generated, you can devote yourself to the experience without preconceptions. This will get you much closer to freedom, right from the start. Further, you will have the broadest possible perspective.
    Less pressure means more room for learning, understanding, growth, and enjoyment.
    Best of luck to you!

    Reply
  • Freeway : Feb 5th

    You are already a good deal of the way to Katahdin even though you haven’t yet summited Springer.

    How is that possible?

    You have already done your pre-trail reflection, taking stock of your young life and firmly developing your “why?”

    It’s the “why” that you need to pack the most … It doesn’t weigh a thing yet it’s sometimes the only thing that will keep you going through the pain and the rain.

    I know because I went through it all at 21, except for the final 5 miles up at 31, which is why I second Slomoe’s wisdom! Slightly different situation than yours as I was a single college dropout on 99% of the AT. However, I was pretty much in your shoes at 30 when I felt my career going nowhere and I just wanted to bicycle across America and journal my way to a fresh career, so that’s what I ended up doing as I tackled Katahdin on the way! Throughout the hiking phase, I was totally taking stock of my life amidst a national crisis (just sub 9/11 and war for COVID-19) when I should have been doing something “more productive” with my life.

    Trail is especially on my mind these days because my father and stepmother, who supported me on the trail when I was young, are leaving for Georgia with as little weight on their backs as possible. They are booked to start on February 12th but are planning to start slow, so you guys could very well cross paths. Can’t tell you who they are yet though as they are choosing to let their trail names find them out there!

    Best,

    Freeway
    AT Flip Flopper/LASHer
    GA–> VA ME 2003-2013

    Reply
    • Willy : Feb 9th

      Man, Freeway, that’s awesome to hear. I’m trying to get my head in the right place for this adventure, and it’s great to hear from someone “on the other side” of a similar journey. Yup, I’m definitely going against the grain of conventional wisdom for an almost-30 year old – I’ve had a couple people ask me expectantly how I’m planning to monetize this hike (ha). But right now, I’m just focused on doing exactly what I’ve always wanted to do – which sounds like what you did, as well!

      Well I hope I run across them! You’ll have to comment some hints as they make their way up the trail. I’m similarly curious to find out what my trail name will be…

      Reply
  • Shoes : Feb 6th

    Congratulations mate, And Happy Trails I’ve hiked a bit of the AT. Look forward to reading your blog.

    Reply
  • Thomas : Feb 7th

    Great man! Wish I had your courage!

    Reply
    • Phil : Feb 7th

      I’m a middle aged man that just recently got into hiking himself. I consider myself a newbie by every definition of the word. There’s something I’ve learned in the short time I’ve been a hiker (am I even qualified to use that word?) and that’s how freeing it is to be in the woods. Going into the woods is such a simple, life-changing experience every single time. Enjoy every moment, and I look forward to following your blog.

      Reply
  • Tracy : Feb 8th

    Someone I used to work with told me she’s doing the AT this year too. Good luck, I’m looking forward to hearing about your trip. I envy you, I’d love to be able to take that trek too.

    Reply
  • Eric Ewing : Feb 20th

    So glad we saw you! AimeeGinger and I will be with you every step of the way plus a little extra! 😁👍🏼🚶🏼🚶🏼🚶🏼🚶🏼

    Reply

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