My First Appalachian Trial
Or is it the 3rd??
Ok, so maybe this wouldn’t be considered my first Appalachian Trial. My first one was probably telling my overly-protective mother that I would be living in the woods for 4 1/2 months. Or maybe it was announcing to our landlord that we would be breaking our lease a few months early and therefore forfeiting our deposit. The process of getting ready for something this life-altering has many difficult steps personally, financially and psychologically, and for us started about 2 years ago. I could write an entire (very long) post about all the planning, preparations, postponements and sacrifices we’ve made.
However, none of the “trials” I had previously encountered compared to the intense anxiety and dread I felt about telling my boss I was quitting my job to become a thru-hiker. I lost sleep and had mini panic attacks just thinking about how the discussion would go. I have never quit a job before, and to call me a people-pleaser is an under-statment. The worst thing you could do to me is be disappointed in me or in the job I’ve done. I was completely convinced that there was going to be yelling, crying and gnashing of teeth. I expected him to throw me out of his office and into unemployment as soon as the words left my mouth. I expected the absolute worst case scenario (which is kinda my thing). Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised.
“Telling Your Boss You’re Quitting Your Job to Become Hiker Trash 101”
For us poor, working class, potential thru-hiker folk, giving that “2 weeks notice” to a boss or manager can be a very intimidating thing. Here are some lessons I learned from my experience that I thought might be helpful to others in the same situation.
Lesson #1: Be Honest
To be honest, I considered lying about my reasons for quitting. I actually came up with several different stories to choose from. I know… shame shame I know your name. I started my current job back in November of last year. That means, because of our trail start date, about 4 1/2 months between first day of work and last day of work. I knew about our start date when I took the job and felt very guilty about not mentioning the fact that I would be leaving to walk across the country in 4 months. In my defense though, I was DESPERATE for income. Unfortunately people do not like to go ziplining in the winter as much as they do in the summer. Needless to say, with only 4 1/2 months under his employment, I was very worried about my bosses response to my announcement.
Nonetheless, I decided to be completely honest. He really is a super nice guy and in my heart of hearts, I knew he would appreciate what we’re doing. So after a few panic attacks, I marched into his office with all my resolve to be honest and sincere and gave a shaky “Hey, do you have a second to talk about something?”. And you know what? He didn’t burn me up in a fiery rage. Not a tear was shed! He even smiled! Actually, it kind of seemed like he already knew what I was about to say. He was very supportive and understanding and surprisingly enough, has offered to take me back when our journey is over.
With all that being said, in my opinion, it is always better to be honest. I am SO glad I decided to just tell my boss the truth about my reason for quitting. Leaving on good terms allows you to get a good reference from them in the future (burning bridges = not cool). Plus, everybody loves a clean conscience right? If at all possible, be as real as you can with your boss or manager. They might think you’ve completely lost your mind (which is pretty much true) but they’ll appreciate your honesty and will hopefully be supportive of your decision. Of course, not everyone’s boss is going to be chill about it, and I’m sure some people will leave their bosses office with their tail between their legs. But look at the bright side, soon you’ll be on the trail and your bosses reaction will be the farthest thing from your mind!
Lesson #2: Be Considerate
Lesson #2 is going to look a little different for everyone. Some people prefer to let their boss know about their upcoming thru-hike plans 6 months ahead. Some people would get fired on the spot if they gave such a notice. Some give their notice a few months ahead of time and some give it just 2 weeks before their start date. I gave my employer 30 day’s notice. I felt like that was enough time for them to start the hiring process and I wanted to be sure I was still there to assist in training my replacement. For my position, 2 weeks notice would’ve been pretty unfair. But as I said, everyone’s job situation is very different and everyone has many factors to take into consideration before making a decision on how and when to tell their employer. Be considerate and put yourself in their shoes!
Lesson #3: Don’t Sweat It
Let me be the first to say that I absolutely dreaded this step in the thru-hike preparation process. I stressed about it for months and considered faking my own death to get out of it. But in the end, it was so much easier than I thought it would be. “If this is the worst thing I have to do to achieve my dream, then I’ve got it pretty good. There’s no way I’m going to allow a job to hold me back.” I repeated this mantra to myself in the days leading up to the dreaded discussion and even as I entered his office. Please don’t let something as fickle and temporary as a job hold you back from having an experience that will last a lifetime.
Lesson #4: It’s Time to Celebrate
The relief I felt after I told my boss I was leaving was incredible. I was so happy it was over and I was so excited that it went really well. Now I get to talk to him about plans for the trail and not feel dread every time I have a conversation with him. Knowing I only have one month left of working is pretty awesome too! Thru-hikers like to celebrate every tiny victory, and this moment should be no different! Congratulations on trading the known for the unknown!
I hope this helps someone who was in my shoes a few days ago. You can do this!
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I could not be more proud to call you my daughter!!! I see so many things in you that remind me of….well me (unfortunately) and I see so many things in you that remind me of your dad (fortunately).
But, I see more things in you that remind me of “who I wish I were” and “who I wish I was”. I never knew that you would teach me just as much, or perhaps more, in life than I’d teach you. And for this, I thank you!
I know you will always follow your dreams and at the end of the day, I know you will always do the right thing (even if it is the hardest thing). Although I’m a overly protective psycho mom, I hope you know that I will always love you, support you and be there for you (even if it means no sleep for me for 4 1/2 grueling months).
Thumbs up and “PRESS ON”!!!!!!
Awesome deal. Congrats on your future hike and maybe see you out there later this year. Glad that you got the response you did from coming clean with your boss and co-workers. I start my journey next month, but just keep in mind whether you finish or not, it is the journey that counts.