How To Tell Your Immigrant Parents You’re Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Deciding you’re going to hike the Appalachian Trail is a feat in itself. But telling the people you care about that you intend to go on your own into the wilderness for six months by choice… another beast entirely.

My family the day Argentina won the World Cup

This can be especially difficult when your parents decided 22 years ago that they would uproot their entire lives and move countries for the betterment of their children’s lives. For context, my family is from Argentina, and just before I turned two years old, we immigrated to the United States and settled down in North Carolina.

Here is the step-by-step full proof plan I used to announce to my loved ones that I was hiking the Appalachian Trail.


1. Figure out why you’re hiking

Or at least figure out the two-sentence justification you’re going to tell others.

In all honesty, it took me a while to actually figure out why on Earth I wanted to go walk for six months straight, vulnerable to the elements. In reality it’s because over time my reason for hiking kept changing.

It started out of spite.

Towards the end of 2022, a relationship I really cared about ended. I was sad for a long time afterwards, feeling probably the lowest I had ever felt in my young life. One thing I loved about this person was how much he loved the outdoors – it was something we shared together. When it was clear that the relationship would not begin again, I decided that I was going to thru-hike the AT to make him jealous. I was going to go on this amazing adventure, that not many get the privilege to do, and I was going to do it on my own.

Looking back now (over a year later), acknowledging the reason that got me interested in the AT makes me giggle. What girl decides leaving the comforts of daily life and living out of a tent for six months is the best way to get over someone? This one apparently. I’ll sure show him what he’s missing when I can’t shower days at a time.

Thankfully, as I began and continued my AT research, I started to fall out of love with the past and in love with the idea of the trail. I went down the YouTube rabbit hole, watching hikers like Taylor “Nahamsha” and Stella “Nyx” document their daily lives on trail. I saw these young women doing something that twelve-year-old me would have thought impossible. Months passed, and my past relationship was suddenly not the first thing on my mind every morning, the trail was. What gear should I be buying? I wonder what the best training would be? Can I afford to do this?

Redefining my “why”

Now at the beginning of 2024, I have a whole new purpose for hiking the AT. I just graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill (go heels!) with my master’s in December 2023, and the idea of going into a full-time job after over 18 years of school sounded like my personal hell. This was the start of my adult life. How did I want to remember it?

Here is my two-sentence justification that I use to respond to everyone’s favorite question: “Why on Earth would you do that?”

I love being outside, and I want to use this time on the Appalachian Trail to get to know myself as an adult starting my life post-grad. I’ve got all the time in the world to find a job, but I am never going to have an easier time putting my life on pause for six months than I do right now. 

2. Blurt it out

Once I justified to myself why I was going to hike the AT, telling my family felt like the next logical step. I recommend stating it as a fact before you’ve even mentally committed to doing it. It especially helps if you say it over a year before you would even plan to leave.

My first time using my backpack, an Osprey Aura 50

“By the way, I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail.”

And then let them laugh it off. At least that’s what I did.

You see, when I first told my family about the AT, I had never even put a backpack on. In fact, up until this year, I had never been on an overnight backpacking trip. My family was right to be doubtful of my proposed adventure. I’m sure they thought that I’d likely change my mind before graduation rolled around. However, the more research I did, the more adamant I became.

“I am going to hike the Appalachian Trail.” 

It was four months after my initial declaration that I finally committed to myself that I would go on this journey. I celebrated that fact by registering my start date with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC). When I announced my start date to my family, they realized I was serious. I was going to hike the Appalachian Trail.


3. Throw out the comforting statistics (and leave out the disheartening ones)

Questions show concern, and concern shows love. Once my family realized I was serious about hiking, the flood of questions followed.

In order to combat the emotions of stress and worry, I turned to facts. These were my favorites to share from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and their underlying message to my parents.

  • Over 3,000 people attempt to thru-hike the AT each year. See Papá? I’m not the only crazy one!
  • Women make up a third of thru-hikers. Look, Mamá, other women have done it too.
  • Half of all thru-hikers are in their 20s, but individuals in their teens and eighties have completed the trail. I’m in my physical prime! If they can do it, so can I!
  • The A.T. has hundreds of access points and is within a few hours’ drive of millions of Americans. You can come visit me whenever you’d like!
  • Several blind hikers have completed the AT. It’s so easy, you don’t even have to look where you’re going.

I’d recommend leaving out the fun fact that 3/4 of hikers who start don’t finish the trail. Definitely forgo telling your mom that the main reason for those hikers was injuries – she’ll find out on her own while she panic researches, no need for you to speed up her discovery process.

4. Involve them in your preparation

If there was ever a time to use the family group chat, it was now.

A common message sent to the FAMILIA group chat

Calming my family’s fears is a top priority for me going into my hike, and the best way I figured I could do that was by keeping them in the loop at all times. Here are some things I have done/plan to do before I leave:

  • Test your gear out and report how each thing worked out
  • Show your mom your morning stretching routine
  • Send pictures of all your practice hikes
  • Set up your Garmin in-reach with your dad, so he can see how he can track you on trail
  • Invite the whole family to go on day hikes on some local trails

5. Have a backup plan

Not only is it reassuring for your family, but honestly it’s extremely reassuring to yourself too. Think, worst case scenario, you don’t finish the trail. What do you do now? I’m very grateful that I have opportunities I can take advantage of once I finish my time on trail, whether that is in six months or earlier. Plus, my parents are relieved at the idea that I don’t intend to remain unemployed for the foreseeable future.

In all seriousness, I feel so privileged to have parents that sacrificed so much for me to be able to have the choice to find a job, take a gap year, or do anything else I wanted. I’m not sure if this advice can be applied broadly. All I know is that it helps to have the best, most supportive parents in the world.

Talk soon,


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Comments 5

  • Dad : Mar 25th

    I feel a little manipulated…. 🙄. But good job.

  • Mamá:-) : Mar 25th

    Did not know your messages in the Familia group and all our family hikes (Xmas, yesterday, etc.) were part of your crafty plan! It’s working baby❤️.
    I am so glad you motivation has evolved! I want you healthy and happy and I am trying to ignore all the things I heard without even researching. Some people!🙄
    You make reading fun and easy. Loved you always😘😘

  • Catherine Zimmer : Mar 26th

    Go Florencia! I am so proud to know you! You are strong and courageous! I look forward to hearing about all of your adventures!

  • VM : Mar 26th

    Here’s a toast to redefining your experiences, achieving your goals, and preparing yourself for success!
    “It’s not about the destination; it ‘s the journey!”

    Happy trailing breaker of chains! 🙂

  • Pam payne : Apr 2nd

    You are an amazing young lady who holds a special place in my heart.

    I am so excited for you!!

    Looking forward to reading about your experience…..yes….who knows, you may have a “book” ready for publishing by the end of your journey.

    Keeping you in prayer every day!!❤❤❤


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