How It Feels Postponing Your Thru-Hike
I was less than 30 days away from embarking on the AT when the news came. April 15, 2020, was my start date. John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads was constantly streaming in my apartment in preparation.
For the past three years, I had been meticulously planning, researching, and awaiting this exciting day. It was all encompassing. It was a part of my identity. However, I was devastated to announce that I would be postponing my AT thru-hike for another year. Receiving the email from the ATC about COVID-19 and their request on March 17 broke a piece of my soul.
The feelings I had reading the email is hard to explain. I quit my job for this trail. I got out of my lease, and sold all of my furniture. I essentially became homeless, because I knew the trail was going to be my home for the foreseeable future. With that being said, feelings of defeat, fear, and panic started to set in moments after I read the words in bold “please postpone your thru-hike.”
My stream of consciousness went something like this:
This can’t be happening.
Do I wait out the virus and still go?
Am I really going to have to wait another year?
Is it really that bad?
Will people hate me if I go?
What am I going to do for another year?
I have to move back in with my parents.
I’m homeless and jobless.
Where will I work?
What will I do?
No, I’ll still go!
Yes, I’m still going.
But it won’t be the same.
Let me see what the other hikers are doing.
I can’t believe this is happening.
I can’t go and get stranded.
Do I go and see how far I’ll get?
I can’t go. It’s not safe!
Nope. I’m not going and risking it.
Am I being too dramatic?
At least I have my family. I am lucky.
This can’t be happening.
Feeling Lost in Life
My dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail has ended up controlling many aspects of my life. For me personally, I planned to complete the AT before I started my “life,” if that is what we want to call it. I can’t speak for any other young person (I’m 26) who has had to postpone the trail as well, but I decided long ago that after graduating from college, I wanted to work for a few years to see what industry I enjoyed being in, hike the AT, and then decide on a career path and begin my stage of “settling in.”
I am a very organized person, and I had it all planned out. I know what I want to do for a career, so putting off the AT for an entire year feels like I am essentially wasting another year of my life. I did not (and still do not) want to start my desired career, get stuck in a routine, and feel like the AT will never be achievable. I feel like I’ve been waiting for so long to do this that I haven’t been able to do what I truly want in life. I’ve been doing odd jobs here and there to pass the time for the glory that was going to be the AT.
Because taking 4-6 months off of a career type job does not seem plausible for me at the moment. AT 2020 has been the ultimate motivator for me. It was my endgame for this chapter in my life. So, to have it slip away based on unforeseeable circumstances that you can do nothing to change is a heartbreak that is truly unimaginable. However, I want to complete the AT when I know that the population surrounding the trail and the other hikers will be OK. I want to attend Trail Days. I want to enjoy the company of other hikers. I want that social aspect as well as alone time in this experience. And I know that I do NOT want COVID-19 to take control of my life any more than it has.
Looking on the Bright Side
As of right now, I am still processing many emotions that come with this news and announcement of postponing my hike. Letting go of expectations and the excitement that was so close to becoming a reality is a new feeling for me.
However, I may be another year older when I complete the AT, but I will be much wiser and will have a newfound appreciation for the journey, because it can so easily be taken away at any moment. I am grateful for my health, which is allowing me to be able to complete this journey one day, my family (who will end up housing me), and my patience, which has been greatly tested in the midst of all this madness.
The trail will still be there for me when I finally get there. The hikers I will met will help me find gratitude in the midst of all of this madness. And I wish all the other hikers a clear head going through all of these emotions. You are not alone.
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