Love Conquers Distance – Leaving A Husband At Home

A little backstory.

My husband, Jordan,  and I met in January 2014 at a motorcycle holiday party. I was there with my parents (who are my BFFs, yes for real) and ended up catching the eye of a very tall and handsome fireman. He actually asked my dad permission to take me as his date to a wedding of a friend of his in the coming weeks and then also asked me to dinner the next night. Ten months later we had moved me out of my apartment and into his house. Seven months after that we got engaged in Nashville, Tenn., and on Sept. 17, 2016, we got married. These past four years with him have been the best of my life.

Pondering A Thru-Hike

Two years ago after reading “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed (cliche, I know), I did some research on other long trails in the country and really started to become infatuated with the Appalachian Trail. I started talking to Jordan about it and we both agreed that even though it sounded like a crazy idea, it was something that we could discuss. Now, my husband is not a hiker. Although he has been on a few small hikes around our area with me, his idea of the great outdoors is on his Victory motorcycle on the open road. We have always had our independent interests.  Either way, though, he was super supportive of my newfound love of hiking and for that Christmas he bought us a stay at a tree house in southern Illinois in Shawnee National Forest. We did a fair amount of hiking and exploring and it really solidified my decision that thru-hiking the AT was something I wanted to do. So we talked and talked about it and his answer was, “Why not?” We don’t have kids, we are both healthy and financially stable… if you want to do this now is the time.


The Battle Begins

After I started telling people that I had decided to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail,  a lot of people showed a ton of doubt and even questioned my sanity. One of their first questions always was… well, what does Jordan have to say about it? I even heard  “Rachael, if you go out there you are going to come home to a single man!” These comments hurt and I would discuss them with Jordan and he was my number one fan and bodyguard. “Screw what those people say Rach – there is no reason why you shouldn’t do this. If you have a dream and you are willing to prepare two years in advance for it then why not? I support you and that is all that matters.” So I kept my chin up and kept pressing on. Budgeting, saving money, buying gear, mentally and physically preparing, etc.


Reality Sets In

A year after deciding to thru-hike I discussed with Jordan what I wanted my start date to be… and I felt a bit of a shift. “Oh noooo, this means it’s really happening” are what I believe to be his exact words. We talked about it and I told him that it was crunch time and that if he had any qualms with this hike, that he should let me know now. He said no, it was just all becoming real, but he was still OK with it. So, again, I kept on preparing. Around Christmas we decided to revisit the topic again since I felt like there was some tension regarding it. We were completely honest with each other, and I cannot stress the importance of this enough. He told me that he sometimes felt jealous that I get to quit my job and go on an adventure while he will be at home. I talked about how much guilt I feel now but also the amount of resentment I would have if I stayed home for no other reason but to placate him. He also stressed how worried he was about me and my safety – which is a valid concern. Overall this conversation was vital and it did a good job to settle our minds about the whole thing.


Fast Forward To The Present

Now here we are 41ish days from my start date and I feel like we are still in a good place. There have definitely been some rocky parts, but I am able to talk about my hike without feeling the tension I had sometimes felt before. I think that as long as we continue our impeccable communication skills that we will come out of this stronger than ever.

The Hard Part Of Leaving

1: Feeling an overwhelming, sometimes nauseating, feeling of guilt for leaving your partner.

2: Making sure that your partner is secure enough financially – for me this meant saving enough money to give him money to cover bills – even while I am away.

3: Knowing that you are going to miss them and all the comforts of the life you have built together.

4: Having to decide which would be worse – jealousy from them for leaving to pursue a dream or resentment from you for not following the dream because of the person you love.

5: Worrying about losing your connection while you are away.

6: Worrying about what the house will look like when you come home, lol.

What Makes It Easier

1.: Communication. Communication. Communication. Do not skip this. It is important to know where each person stands every step of the way.

2: Check in. This goes along with step one, but even before you leave. Checking in with your  partner to see how they are feeling if you notice a change.

4: Skype, Video Messenger, Facetime. Knowing these types of things exist and that you can actually see your partner after a long day of hiking may change a bad day to a good one.

5 : Looking for the support, even when it’s hard to see. Being supportive doesn’t always mean gushing about your accomplishments. Sometimes it’s a gift of a book about thru-hiking or just simply showing interest. Absorb those little things – they build the foundation.

6: Live in the moment. Try not to think about what is to come, but instead enjoy each moment you have for now with your partner before you leave (especially snuggling on your comfy couch and binge-watching shows together, lol).


This is simply my experience with my own marriage. I have only been married a little over a year, but that to me that is still a great accomplishment. Everyone who is thru-hiking will be leaving something behind that they will miss. If you are leaving a person behind that you share your life with I hope that you are able to take something away from this post.  Happy trails.

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Comments 15

  • Sahil : Jan 21st

    Please make a trip to indian held kashmir. Which has big mountains and a lot to discover. I will be with u here.


    • Rachael Upchurch : Jan 23rd

      I hear the Kashmir Mountains are beautiful. I hope to get over to that side of the world one day. Thank you for taking the time to comment and read my post!

  • Nadine : Jan 22nd

    I think… (starter fluid for comments is”what do you think?” hence…)
    I think you are brave.
    And awesome.
    And an inspiration.
    Don’t hurry… These steps to come are yours, hoping not a one has a drop off guilt or worry about anyone or anything at home. The mountains are there for us to see/climb/experience /respect and celebrate reaching each peak! My wish for your adventure is a beautiful long happy peaceful walk. You have support, reach out when you need more. This is YOUR adventure. Savor it!! Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Rachael Upchurch : Jan 23rd

      Wow. This comment is beautiful and I really appreciate your kind words. I will enjoy this adventure and the beauty of this trail with all of my heart and will try my best to keep any worry away. Thank you so much for taking the time to read. 🙂

  • Beverly Mencos : Jan 22nd

    So proud of you!!
    Follow your dream, and better now that you don’t have kids because if you didn’t you would always wonder……
    I can’t wait to follow you and your adventures thru your blog.
    You’re young, healthy, adventurous and courageous.
    See the world, and know we’ll be here following and supporting you.

    Bev and John

    • Rachael Upchurch : Jan 23rd

      Thank you guys so much for your love and support! It means so much to know that I have people at home who are rooting for me. You guys are the best XoXoXoXo

  • CapnNemo : Jan 22nd

    I too am proud of you Rach—-equally proud of your husband for his support. My case just the opposite: after 40+ years Navy and federal law enforcement careers, my wife is supporting my AT thru-hike effort for later this spring. Your advice is wise beyond your years—-extremely valid! Hope to see you out there! OFIFOTO!

    • Rachael Upchurch : Jan 23rd

      Thank you so much for your kind words and support! Good luck on your thru hike and major props to your wife for supporting your dreams as well! One foot in front of the other allll the way to Katahdin! Happy Hiking!

  • MS JOEY MF WILLIAMS : Jan 22nd

    I think this is awesome!! I’m planning a PCT thru in 2021 – getting over the guilt of leaving my kid will take me the next three years to accomplish, lol! Congratulations and best of luck! Oh, and ROLLLLLL TIDEEEE!!!

    • Rachael Upchurch : Jan 23rd

      ROLL TIDE!!! Thank you so much for your support! Good Luck on your PCT Thru Hike and it seems like you will be and already are such an inspiration to your kid! Happy Trails!

  • Cheryl and Ray Galli : Feb 1st

    Hey Rachael! Our stories have many similarities. My husband, “OneFoot”, will begin his adventure on the AT on March 15. We’ve been married for 29 years – & he has been planning this trip for about 20 of those years. Our kids are grown, he just retired – & at 50 years old, he’s ready to do this! I’ll be his #1 Trail Angel, handling the logistics – both for the trail and for home. I can totally relate to so much of what you shared. Wishing you happy trails on the AT and a long & happy life with the hubs. I’ll be following your progress!

    • Rachael Upchurch : Feb 2nd

      Hi there!! Thank you so much for your kind words and your support! It is so amazing that you are willing and able to take care of your home and your hubby while he is out on the trail. I have realized that even though only one family member may be out there accomplishing their dream and getting the credit – it is made possible by a whole TEAM of people back home. So cheers to you and I hope I have the pleasure of meeting OneFoot sometime while out there on the trail! I wish you both happy trails and good luck!

  • Kari : Feb 8th

    Rachel, you know me from high school (wasn’t all to great).. I came across this blog via Your Facebook and was very intrigued. this is BY FAR the most inspirational blog I have ever came across..

    You are BRAVE and WISE in ways most people will never know there entire lives.. to see someone follow there dream and Commit to it the way you have, is inspiration for MANY of us!! Your a living testimony of following your dream, and NOT giving up! Here you are, 20 days away! And you said; 2 years prep??? Goodness ! I had goosebumps reading this the entire time, and look forward to reading more about your journey. YOU GOT THIS!!!!!

    • Rachael Upchurch : Feb 9th

      Wow Kari. Thank you for your amazingly kind words of encouragement and support. It really means alot for you to say that I am inspiration to others… It is exactly what I am hoping to achieve in blogging and sharing my experience via social media. Life really does come full circle sometimes and this life continues to show me that I am on the right path especially when I read comments like yours. I hope you also accomplish any dreams you have in your life and I am very excited to know you will be following my journey. XoXo Thanks again for your comment and taking the time to read!

  • Rachel : Jun 28th

    I need an update, haha! I keep finding posts about preparing to thru hike solo without a SO but then I never hear how it actually went and if it put a strain or strengthened the relationship or anything in between. Having to leave my husband for a thru hike is the biggest thing holding me back from planning one.


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