In Order for One Thing to Begin, Something Else has to End
I’ve had a hard time getting around to writing my first AT blog. It’s not that I’m not used to writing or that I don’t have anything to say. It’s just that I’m not sure now is the best time to share with the people around me that I’ll be hiking the AT next year. Let me explain.
I work with persecuted Christians in the Middle East. My husband and I both work with Iraqi refugees mostly from the Nineveh plain. We just put in our two month notice some weeks ago. After facilitating large amounts of food, housing, medical, and clothing relief for the past year and half, we both have decided it’s time to take a break, for now.
Really cool Christians never admit to something called burn out. And it’s not that my husband and I are even burnt out, it’s just that we’ve felt like our time has come to a close for now. It’s hard to look a refugee in the face that you’ve been helping for year to tell them you are leaving the Middle East. It’s inexcusable to tell them you’re leaving to go for a hike in the woods.
We leave at the end of November. This week involves sharing with more partners on the ground here of our impending departure. And more loving and tactful answers to the question, “What are you going to do next?”
Sitting here in Amman, Jordan, the highlight of my day yesterday was that I finally bought my pack. After watching REI videos, hiker reviews, and measuring my own torso, I finally ordered my pack online and will see it in January when I visit my family in Minnesota.
For those who are curious, I bought an Osprey Exos 38. Blue. Medium. I intend to hike light and fortunately I have a husband who just bought a Zpacks Arc Haul 62L with an additional top side pocket and belt pouch. He’ll see his pack for the first time when we make it to his parent’s house in South Carolina in February.
Our reasons for hiking aren’t too dissimilar from most, we want something different, for a season. We want change, escape, solitude, time for reflection, a routine that is entirely new. One thing we may appreciate a little more than others is the natural surrounding beauty, even when not on a mountain top clearing.
I didn’t know you could be malnourished visually as a human but we have discovered it here in Jordan and we listen to others as they go through it here for their first time too. Amman generally consists of a concrete island of hills surrounded by desert. This island, although an extremely hospitable one, is not aesthetically beautiful.
We’ve had a Foretaste
As of now, my husband and I see traffic, trash, hardship, dust everywhere, and endless horizons of concrete buildings that all look the same. People can’t crawl inside of our experiences when we visited the U.S. earlier this year in June with repeated comments of, “Wow, look at that grass.” and “They have so many trees here!”
We had three weeks of leave last June. One week was spent with my family, one with my husband’s, and one on the AT. My husband and I have been married for two and a half years. We’ve had a lot of adventures together but none of them had been a multiple-day hiking trip. And so for five days we hit the trail through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
From the outside it may have seemed like we were “trying on” the trail for a following thru-hike but inside I knew that was not the truth. Before my husband and I ever set foot on a plane to head back the U.S. for our summer visit, I knew. I knew we would be setting out this coming spring for our first AT thru hike. Our week of hiking last summer was just a polite introduction.
The work my husband and I find ourselves in here is toilsome but mostly due to a sort of cultural mental exhaustion, and in an emotionally relentless one. The trail for that one week made extreme demands on our bodies (due to booked shelters our first day on in the Smokies was 18 miles), but heavenly relief for our minds and spirits.
My husband and I weren’t mostly co-workers anymore; we were big kids together again.
Thank You for Coming With Us
I will forever be grateful for all of my experiences here and all the lives we got to be a part of in some small way. I will forever remember the warm open homes, and the kind faces. I will also remember the hardship that continues here in this region for this displaced people group. I know their faces will be with me on the trail.
This was my first post and I almost didn’t make it through without tears. My name is Heather and it’s nice to meet you. Maybe I will meet you on the trail one day and if not, may you keep the hike alive in your dreams like we have carried it in our hearts here in Jordan.
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