Last, Random Pre-Hike Thoughts
That Damn Apartment
Anyone who’s spoken with me or read anything I’ve written on Facebook in the last two weeks or so knows I’ve had one thing on my mind: renting out my apartment so I can hit the trail. It’s become the first thing anyone asks me: “Do you have a tenant yet?”
As of 1:20 p.m. Thursday, April 08, 2016, no.
But something just as good has happened: my amazing boyfriend, Inti, has offered to handle it for me so I can still start next week.
And just like that, I’ve been able to turn my attention and energy to getting excited about the journey that’s now less than one week away!
… oh, and getting sad about the avalanche of “lasts” engulfing me of late …
It’s the People
There’s some version of the “shit’s getting real” epiphany in just about every blog entry I’ve written so far, and today’s will be no different. Today’s edition, though, is focused on the people whom I love, whom I’m leaving behind for half a year.
Without exception, everyone I love supports my decision to do this. My parents maybe would have picked a slightly less risky mid-life crisis for me, but even they are proud. Once my father got over the fact I’m not taking a gun with me, he started gobbling up my blog entries and expressing enthusiasm. My mother likes to point out how different we are (i.e. how little sense my choices make to her), but I think she has high hopes for the growth I’ll achieve out there. And my parents are among the many who want to met me along the way to bring me trail magic. And parents worry of course; that’s their job.
Everyone else is unequivocal not just in their support but in their excitement for my journey. People want to know how they’ll keep up with me (here!), they want to know where to send care packages, they say they wish they could do something similar, they actually seem to be made happy themselves by my choice to do this. They make plans to section hike with me or help me slackpack. It’s so amazing.
And the fact I’m not going to see all these folks for a good chunk of time is, not surprisingly, making me a bit misty eyed. We threw the going-away party a few weeks ago. It’s a time of lasts: My last book club meeting and night out salsa dancing, my last yoga practice. My last session with my life coach. My last work team meeting. My family gets together Saturday to celebrate some birthdays and say goodbye. And my departure is close enough that most encounters with friends end with the extra big hug you give someone you’re not going to see for a long time.
Of course the hardest person to say goodbye to will be Inti, but luckily he’s coming to Georgia with me to see me off. We are driving down Monday and spending Tuesday together. Then, Wednesday morning, we’ll drive to the trail, hike together the mile back to the southern terminus, and hike back to the car, where he’ll get in and drive home and I’ll set off into the woods with my backpack, my fears, and myself.
I know I’ll meet amazing people along the way, but I also know I have introvert tendencies. Also, not for nothing, most people doing this are younger or older than I am. Thru-hiker demographic curves turn up at the ends—lots in their 20s—i.e. not yet tied down by things like careers, kids, or mortgages—and lots in their 60s—i.e. retired. I’m smack in the middle. I know trail friendships cross demographic boundaries all the time, but it’s unrealistic to think it will be exactly as easy for me to find a hiker family as it will be for someone closer to one of those tails.
Hence, there will be lonely times.
It’s late enough into thru-hiker season that I’m already seeing lots of blog and Facebook posts from people who started out strong and hopeful but for one reason or another have had to get off. That’s hard, knowing that a dream that shone so bright for someone is going dim or being shelved, maybe indefinitely, maybe permanently. I won’t pretend it doesn’t spook me a bit; a lot of those folks seemed just as prepared and ready and mentally and physically as tough as I feel.
The reality is that it might happen to me, too. The odds certainly favor me not finishing over me finishing. The mental approach I’m taking there is (1) not to quit on a bad day and (2) to use the idea of the big picture to help get me through low times. In some ways, it would be harder for me to quit than not—I’ll be homeless and unemployed, so coming home early would not be easy at all.
The biggest reason for me not to quit though is that I deeply believe the experience—all of it—has something to teach me. There are lessons there, there’s me there I need to get to know. If I quit hiking, I’ll never know what I might have found, whom I might have discovered.
One last shit’s-getting-real epiphany for today: I’m going to get to do something I like, a LOT, every day, all day, for months. I mean, let’s not forget that, right?
Why am I even doing this? Yeah, I need a reset. Yeah, I’m looking for something new. Yeah, I didn’t get pregnant. But of all the epic journeys or life-shaking adventures I could have chosen, I picked hiking for a super simple reason: I love hiking.
And in less than a week, I’m going to get to do it all. the. time.
Let’s get this walk started!
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