Ignore the Naysayers. This Hike Is for Me

I am leaving a good career, giving up my apartment, and essentially opting to be unemployed and homeless for the better half of a year. Naturally, this decision elicits mixed reactions.

I am Thru-Hiking the AT Because…

  • I want to stop living vicariously through others and start living. (More on that here)
  • The phrase “If not now, then when?” repeats like a broken record in my head.
  • I want to burst the bubble that is known as my comfort zone.
  • I have no strings attached – debt-free, kid-free, no pets, no significant other, etc.
  • I want to push my limits.
  • I want to increase my self-awareness.
  • I want to be more present in the moment.
  • I want to trust myself more. What better way than being self-reliant for six months?
  • I want to empower other women to take charge and chase dreams.

Each time I share my plans and intentions to hike the Appalachian Trail with someone new it becomes more palatable and real. Whenever I have the opportunity to answer their questions and discuss my preparations, my conviction to hike becomes stronger and my lists of “whys” is reinforced.

It surprises most people when I say I have the full support of my parents. To my benefit, they are the individuals responsible for introducing me to backpacking. My grandparents and other family members did not share the same enthusiasm. Likewise, none of my close friends enjoy the outdoors and could not comprehend why someone would voluntarily choose to sleep outside and shower sporadically. Some of my friends remain cynical while others are faithfully supportive and have become my biggest cheerleaders.

Truthfully, the most difficult people to share my plans to hike the AT with were my coworkers. We are a close-knit team, I love and respect them, and I value their opinion. I agonized for months on when and how I would inform my supervisor that I was planning to leave. I sought the guidance of people I trust most and even elicited advice from online hiking forums. With much (unnecessary) trepidation, I officially gave notice to my employer. My supervisor’s response was, “Can I talk you out of it?” and quickly followed with “I would never stop you from pursuing your dream.”

What I have learned is you will inevitably encounter two types of people in your life when you disclose your plans to hike the AT – those who are supportive and encouraging or the negative naysayers.

My advice is to surround yourself with people who believe in you and believe in what you want to accomplish. I do not want to use the negativity and doubts of others as fuel to motivate my hike. And even though I am not an ultralight hiker, I know I don’t need their extra baggage to weigh me down. I want to leave negative people and negative thoughts behind. I am not hiking to prove the naysayers wrong. I am hiking because I want to abolish my comfort zone and test my limits. I am hiking to prove dreams can come true. I am hiking because I want to learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I am hiking because I want to change my life – whatever that may mean.  I am hiking for me, not them.

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Comments 4

  • Avatar
    Chelsey : Jan 28th

    So proud of you! You are an inspiration!

  • Avatar
    Barb Abney : Jan 29th

    Thanks for this. We all need all the encouragement we can get! Hope to see you in person on the trail!

  • Avatar
    Marlene : Feb 2nd

    Today is my 64th birthday. I so want to take that “walk in the woods”. Grandma Gatewood did it so why don’t I? I just have to remember to keep going North!
    God bless your travels!

  • Avatar
    Butch Kolash : Feb 2nd

    You go girl ! And have the time of your life !


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