Listening for an Echo: Deciding Whether to Attempt a Thru-Hike
“You called me knowing what I would tell you, because you wanted me to tell you. You already know what you need to do.”
I mumbled a weepy, “Yeah, I know.”
Sitting cross-legged on the couch in Chicago, face swollen from a long ugly cry, my 25-year-old self clung desperately to the words of an older brother on the other end of the phone line, in the silence an unspoken entreaty that he would offer some other solution to ending a broken relationship that needed ending. I had been in a serious relationship for two and a half years, and after a full year of “trying to make it work,” my emotional reserves were entirely depleted, my inner voice was hoarse, and, sitting in the rubble of our love and mutual respect, I resolved to end it.
We’ve all been there. A romantic relationship, a situation with a family member, a job, a cool opportunity, whatever. All the important things in our lives involve big decisions at their beginnings, middles, and ends. We excitedly (or painstakingly) consider all the possible options, outcomes, emotional/physical/financial costs; we make pro/con lists; we seek the advice of loved ones and strangers; we consult ourselves.
We stand in the caves of our minds and invite all these voices, voices echoing the possible options and outcomes we’ve considered. They reverberate off the walls and come back to us. It becomes very loud in there. And even though we can still distinguish what each is saying, the noise is overwhelming. We wonder, “Which voice should I listen to? I like the sound of what this one is saying. Maybe I should try that. How did there get to be so many in here? Wait. How did you get in here?”
It’s my belief that with these really important decisions, after we’ve gone through this process of research, reflection, and contemplation, we reach a point where there are no more original thoughts, no more unconsidered outcomes. I did not call my brother that day because it hadn’t occurred to me to break up with my boyfriend—after all, it had been the voice I had been blocking out for a year. While part of me was hoping for that “some other solution,” that is not why I called either. I knew the breakup needed to happen. I simply needed to hear what that voice was saying—“this is not right for you”—outside of the cave of my mind.
Flash forward to 28-year-old Becky: upon considering a thru-hike of the AT more seriously, I fell deep into the process. I asked the advice of anyone I knew (or didn’t know) and sought out whatever information I could find to help me make my decision. I pored over blog posts, binged on podcasts. I thought I was seeking answers. It started to get very loud in the cave.
Then I thought back to my brother who, in his infinite wisdom, knew what I now understand:
When we reach a certain threshold, it is not answers we seek, but echoes. It is not new information, but the externalization of the thoughts and storylines that already exist inside us.
You may come here—to this post, to this site, to similar posts, to similar sites—asking, “How do I know if I’m ready to do a thru-hike? How do I make that decision?”
I do not have answers for you. No one can make this decision for you. All you can do is listen for the echo of the voice that resonates most, that feels the most “right” to you.
So whether it’s “do the trail,” “don’t do the trail,” or something else, my question to you is:
What were you hoping I would say?
Which echo are you listening for?
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.