Hiking isn’t Always Happy

As the date of my departure approaches, I am finding this time of my life to be more and more bittersweet. Don’t get me wrong; I am incredibly excited to be embarking on this thru-hiking journey, but I’ve got my reasons for feeling apprehensive about early March rolling around, as well.

Some back-story: this past year was an absolute roller coaster for me. In May, I graduated from the University of Oklahoma and started working full-time as a tennis professional at the club I’d been teaching at for the past few years. Everything was going pretty well for me—I had a degree from a university I loved and a job that was legitimately enjoyable (even if said job wasn’t even remotely related to what I studied during college). Sure, post-grad and life in your early twenties is a confusing and overwhelming time, but I was dealing with it as well as any semi-adjusted human being can.

Then, in early September, the unthinkable and worst happened: my father passed away unexpectedly. There’s never a good time for that to happen, but it hit me really hard because I felt like I was in this stage of my life where I needed all the guidance I could get, especially from the man who I had always trusted to give me helpful, wonderful advice and who would always support me and my goals no matter what. So, as any normal person would after experiencing the death of a parent, I went into this complete freefall down to the lowest point of life I never could have imagined myself at.

Long story short, I made it through that initial adjustment period and with the “life is short” mentality that I developed from that event, I made a complete 180 and did everything I could to make my life enjoyable. As a result, I find myself completely in love with my life and happier than I’ve ever been. Which brings me back to my original point: it’s going to be hard as hell to leave this place in a few short weeks and begin my hike. When I move away from Oklahoma in March, I’m not moving back. It’ll be back to my hometown to try and figure out how to put that ol’ undergrad degree to good use. So it’s hard to shake that feeling of “things will never be the same again.” And I know that I’ve made the right decision; I’m not regretting this thru-hike attempt whatsoever, but damn guys, this is an intimidating thing we’re doing.

People keep saying “you must be so excited!” and “I bet you just can’t wait!” and these things are definitely true, but it’s still hard not to feel sad about leaving this place and these friends that I’ve come to love so much. Knowing that nothing will really be the same for me in my hometown either, with the absence of my dad and many old friends who no longer live there, when I go there at the end of my hike is also a scary thought. I haven’t quite figured out how to balance these feelings of excitement and apprehension, so if anybody has all of the answers, I’d love to be enlightened.

Is anybody else going through something similar? Are you also struggling with the happy/sad rollercoaster that is the uprooting of your life for six months and beyond? I’d love to know that I’m not alone in this!

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Comments 6

  • Chelsey : Feb 11th

    You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again. -Azar Nafisi

    Sometimes its easy to feel that being sad is a negative thing. Sadness is a perfectly normal emotion that should be validated. Allowing yourself to be honest about the mix of happy and sad you are feeling will only make you feel better in the long term. What you’re about to take on is wonderful and powerful but that doesn’t out weigh the sadness of change. I hope your excitement will outweigh your apprehension soon, but apprehension is normal too. Best of luck!

    • Lara : Feb 11th

      That’s some of the best advice I’ve gotten, Chelsey, thanks so much!!

  • gillian : Feb 12th

    You are so not alone. For me there have been lots of ups and downs as I plan for my NOBO this year, and I don’t feel like I hear from others as much about the downs. I think we’re all trying to go into this with enthusiasm and excitement to help propel us through at least the first part of the hike, but it seems worth acknowledging all of the things we’re feeling. Thanks for your post.

  • sara : Feb 12th

    This is me right now. It goes between excitement to sadness back to excitement. I just keep telling myself it will all be worth it. Thank you for posting this-I needed to hear this from someone else.

  • Michelle Hand : Feb 17th

    It’s crazy, I thought I was the only one going through the downs instead of the ups. I thought I was going to be so over-loaded with excitement i would just get so much done! Turns out the opposite is kind of happening… I’m so anxious that I’m getting absolutely nothing done and sometimes want to cry a little. Thanks for writing this! I’m sorry for your loss – but inspired by your strength :).


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