As I’ve finished up my final week of work, I am now faced with the unobstructed reality that in three months I will be in Georgia preparing to take my first steps on the trail. Transitioning from 40-hour workweeks to 24/7 free time has proven more challenging than I anticipated. I know there are many worse situations to be in and I am so privileged to have this opportunity; however, the empty time has already begun to present some challenges for me.
When I first committed to my AT hike, I was full of seemingly endless excitement and joy. I was breaking out of the rat race I felt was dampening my spirit. Friends commented on how I lit up when talking about my impending hike. However, I am a classic overthinker. With what feels like all of the time in the world suddenly dumped in my lap, I started to question a decision I felt so confident about.
Already I had fallen into the trap of overplanning. I researched gear, fell in love, bought said gear, and then two days later regretted this choice and started the process all over again. While I had previously avoided watching vlogs of hikers on the trail to try and preserve my experience, I found myself sneaking peeks. Even just these smalls snippets made me question my abilities.
Despite having already hiked the Smokies in March, I found myself questioning my ability to hike in the wet and cold. It felt as if I was trying to talk myself out of this choice. Where I previously had solid evidence of my belief in my backpacking abilities and experience, inexplicable doubt crept in. Instead of allowing myself to lose momentum and let self-doubt or indecision derail plans, I reevaluated and took stock of what I wanted to accomplish in the next three months.
Focus on What I Can Control
In order to maintain the momentum that I have for my hike over the next three months, I decided to focus my attention on those aspects I can control. One big aspect I’ve chosen to dial in on is my fitness. I have created a routine for myself based around my anticipated on trail needs. My cardio is based around walking/running with weight, many variations of squats, core exercises, and a smattering of others. Not only does this help me to physically prepare for the trail, but also mentally. The routine keeps me busy and living with purpose, and the exercise releases endorphins that keep my mood elevated and excited!
I have also made the conscious choice to step back in my research. Just because I am about to spend ~six months of my life on trail doesn’t mean it needs to also consume every second of the next three. Sitting in my room staring at my gear won’t reveal any mind-blowing changes I need to make; that’s what shakedown hikes are for.
Not Working Shouldn’t be Work
While ending work seemed like it would take some great weight off my shoulders, I found myself just as stressed, second-guessing every choice I made related to the trail. Stress/anxiety is part of what led me to the trail, so for now I’m switching my focus on not letting it creep into this new phase of my life. I need to get my mind dialed in just as much as my gear before I begin. I think it is only natural that this inclination to stress over every decision will bleed over a bit from my work life, but acceptance is the first step to change.
While I am still VERY excited to not be working every day, I am now aiming to make sure my time is occupied. I am planning small trips to visit friends around the county, and spend as much time as possible with my crazy cute six-month old nephew. As much as I want it to, the trail just doesn’t need all my attention and obsession right now. While this might not ring true for everyone, there is such a thing as overplanning for me and I believe it is best for my momentum moving forward to the trail to focus on other things.
Even after just a few days of readjusting my focus on the next few months, I have felt my momentum and excitement for the trail raise out of the anxiety-produced rut. To any future thru-hikers, I say, you made this choice and commitment for a reason, trust yourself and the reasons you wanted this in the first place. Don’t let self-doubt derail this dream.
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Wow. You could have been writing about me. I cracked up at the part where you stared at your gear. Well-written!
So sorry for the emotional roller coaster, I am done work 20 days before my hike not much time to think about things .
I have lived very moment to moment and I say ” Blessed is the person who is to busy in the day time to worry and to tired at night”
God has got me to this point in my life with many blessings and I know he will get me threw this next AT NOBO chapter. My hike starts on 2-1-2020
Simply enjoy every day and feel blessed for what you have and the fact that you are living another persons dream we are people doing things others can only dream of . Live the dream enjoy each day find the positives and this hike will be one you will cherish forever.
Truly wish you the very best and I know I will see your picture here from the top of Mt. Katahdin
Boni: You are about to undertake the adventure of a lifetime. But not simply an adventure. Joseph Campbell would describe it as your personal quest, a journey for personal growth and transformation. And it is likely that before the journey, you will encounter all sorts of thoughts: some scary and some exciting. And you will also be filled with all sorts of conflicting thoughts and emotions during your journey, especially as you encounter, snow, rain, cold and the various adversities of the trail. But to yourself be true and I bet you will persevere. If I may paraphrase something I literally just read about another person who just finished their adventure (it is not an exact quote but a paraphrase): The journey is not about reaching Katahdin. If one hikes the trail in order to finish it, it may never begin. Hike it for the journey and it may never end.
As was said to astronaut John Glenn before his first mission in orbiting the earth, “Godspeed Boni!”