It’s Time to Take a Walk
October 10, 2017. My first official day ever stepping onto the Appalachian Trail. Starting the trail 3.5 miles from McAfee Knob, having all the excitement and confidence in the world. It’s only 3.5 miles, how hard can this be?! About one mile in, I found a love and respect for this trail that I was not expecting. Two miles in I found that I was humbled rather quickly. Sitting there on the side of the trail, breathing heavily, asking myself, “what the fuck am I doing,” all while some guy runs past me on his daily run up to the point. Once I reached the iconic McAfee Knob, like everyone before me and everyone after me, I was left absolutely speechless. In complete awe. I knew at that moment, while laying down on the rock face taking in the sunlight, that I wanted to take a walk! A long walk!
Making the decision came easily. I knew it was something that I wanted to do, something that I needed to do. It’s the part after the decision that makes things difficult. How do you just stop your current life – and take a 2200 mile walk?
It’s easy to say you don’t worry about what others think. However, it’s easier said than done, because when it comes to loved ones, they are the ones whose opinions matter most. They are the people that I knew I would need in my corner during this time, and they are the ones who deserved to know that I had a plan, it wasn’t just another crazy stunt…classic Yonce, this was different.
Knowing that I wanted to do this in the year of my 40th birthday, 2022, I had a few years to get things worked out. In the beginning, I kept things very quiet, only alluding to a thru hike as a dream. However, I was spending this time doing the groundwork. I had quite a few things that I needed to get in order…. Finances, Fitness – physical and mental, Work, and Gear.
Going on this trek is not a cheap endeavor. From the research, I have seen anywhere from one thousand a month to three or four thousand dollars a month that someone spends during their hike. A lot of this spending depends on personal preferences and overall finances, but I came up with my ideal savings plan and went to work saving and cutting expenses. The plan was to have $15k set aside to live off while on the trail, combined with very minimal monthly bills – ie cell phone and car insurance. I would be golden. Like all great plans, you have to leave room for the unknown. That came in the form of purchasing a house two months before I leave on my journey. The homeowner aspect of my life is just beginning and something that I will now have to work into my plan before I set off onto my hike… such a classic Yonce moment to add some difficulty into the mix.
I knew that if I was going to complete this, first and foremost my body and mind needed to be in shape. When I first stepped on the trail in 2017, I was overweight and narrow-minded. Having set a goal after turning 35 that I would be in the best shape of my life when I turned 40, I knew this would give me the perfect excuse I needed, so I went after it – a totally basic program of just walking every day. Hell, it’s what I’m going to be doing for months on end, so I might as well get used to it. These regular walks also helped me get my mind in check, as I began using them as a walking mediation. I’m sure I looked quite interesting walking the beach, talking aloud to myself, answering my own questions, having a full-blown conversation – maybe you can relate. Over the course of three years, I became fitter, both physically and mentally, and I knew I was ready.
Side story… just last year I was traveling back from Turkey. While passing through security on our way back to the US… the security agent reviews my ID and Passport, stopping me at the gate refusing to let me in. My ID photos are so different from who I am now, they were convinced that I was not me! After some convincing, they finally let me through…
It’s not cheap to do what I’m about to do, and how do you walk away from a job that you are very good at, that pays really well? Enter 2020 and COVID. This period of time has impacted everyone in some shape or form and has definitely impacted me. Having to make phone calls to 35 of my teammates, letting them know that they are being placed on furlough. That yesterday they had a job with a paycheck, and today they do not. These are people I work with on a daily basis, they allow my life to happen and this showed me just how little job security I had. I knew that I needed to make this happen, that I needed to take this walk. Throughout 2020 I made even more progress on my mental strength as well as my physical, evolving into a more loving and caring person. I found a greater sense of appreciation for everyone in and around my life.
I knew that I wanted to hike around my 40th, which would fall in December of 2022. Racking my brain back and forth, I said fuck it and asked my boss the question I’d been putting off. So in January 2021, I sent an email to my District Manager asking, “how can I complete one of my dreams and take time off to complete a thru hike?” Not expecting much of an answer, I already had it made up in my mind to step down and take leave – that I was going to make this hike happen no matter what. The answer I received was a simple “yes, we can make this happen, we will find a way!” Well shit, that obstacle is out of the way!
It’s a crazy thing to think about. I will be living out of a backpack for four to five months. This equipment needs to be durable, comfortable, and also not heavy! I took on the process of gear selection like many others before me: a bunch of trial and error during some section hikes, a lot of YouTube videos, a bunch of previous hikers’ gear lists and recommendations. This has been an ever-changing process over the last three years, but I have finally narrowed down my gear…allowing me to be under 20lbs total weight. I will do a gear breakdown in the near future.
Well shit, that obstacle is out of the way. Funds are secured. Bills are reduced. Gear is secured – everything is lining up. This is going to happen – this is meant to happen.
One Last Thing.
Now there are other problems that I never really thought would be an issue… the mental aspect of me walking away from friends, family, and loved ones. Some very deep and worrisome thoughts have begun to arise. As I think and process through them, I find that I have some deep attachment issues, and maybe this is a hidden reason for my hike… to help me dive into these worries. This is something that I’ll explain and fully share in future posts, especially as I’m out on the trail working through the issues as they arise.
At the end of the day, the planning will only get you so far. Having commitment for the journey is what will get you through. I can sit down and plan every stop along the way, but in my mind, that takes away from the journey and experience. I’m taking this walk with an open heart and mind, ready for whatever it throws my way. I know that I have taken the right steps over the last couple of years to tackle this challenge. With the amazing support system that I have by my side, I am ready. Bring on April 1st, 2022…. I’m ready to take a walk!
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