Confessions of a Socially Averse 2015 Hiker
I recently spent a week on a CDT trail crew. The work was demanding, the hikes were grueling, but that wasn’t the most challenging aspect of the trip. Surrounded day-in and day-out by the same group of people, I realized the extent to which I’ve become socially averse. After each workday, the group hiked the hour uphill back to the campsite. I hiked as fast as I could to get away from everyone else. They commiserated and took breaks on the steep switchbacks, and I wheezed and staggered upwards at a blistering pace to avoid them all.
Back at camp, I dove into my tent like I was slide tackling my sleeping bag, emerging when dinner was ready. I volunteered to do dishes so I would appear to be participating, then retreated to my tent like that creepy Gollum creature from Lord of the Rings. I’ve never been socially inclined—I spend a lot of time alone or with my dog.
Socializing and conversing doesn’t make me anxious, I just find it exhausting. This is what worries me about the AT. I understand that everyone hikes their own hike, but the AT seems like a pretty social endeavor. Boyfriend Rocky is psyched to meet people and become part of the hiking community, and I’m envisioning group photos with me scowling, half out of the frame.
Do socially disinclined people hike the AT? Or should I creep away to the CDT and 3,000+ miles of relative solitude? Extended periods of solitude and extended periods of social engagement both come with their own challenges—the social aspect of the AT is going to be a major growing experience.
Maybe I’ll come out of it finally finding a community I feel comfortable in, or maybe I’ll still be the person who got fired from her waitressing job because “Honestly Maggie, you’re just not nice enough to work here.”
No matter how awkward I am, we’re leaving for Springer in six months. Our trail names are Tortoise (myself) and Hare (Rocky) for the tremendous variations in our hiking speeds. If anyone has any insights into socially acceptable behavior on the Trail, feel free to impart your wisdom.
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As someone who also suffers from resting bitch face (RBF, because acronyms sound scientific), I am happy to see someone else contemplate the social challenges of hiking the AT. I’m planning a harper’s ferry flip-flop expressly to minimize the interpersonal demands until I’ve developed my “social legs” (and to maximize the potential for decent weather, let’s be honest). Would love to read a follow-up article about how your social experience went during your 2015 hike! (unless this already exists and I’ve missed it?)