Over Before It Began … For Now

Everything Changed

It’s been a strange few weeks to say the least. Last week I fitted all my kit into my pack for the first time, practiced my bear bag hangs, and decided to buy an extra pair of undies for my upcoming AT trip. This week, everything changed.

And then it snowballed. The US initially announced a flight ban from Europe, but not from England, so my flight from London on March 26 was safe. A few days later it wasn’t. My AT adventure was brought to its knees by something you can’t see.

Everyone Has an Opinion

With world events seeming to spiral out of control at the moment, my canceled trip is insignificant. There are people out there far more affected by this thing than me. But that doesn’t mean canceling my trip hurt any less. I wondered about the five stages of grief, but kept getting stuck on step two—anger. Maybe I was a little irrational, but that’s how I felt. I understand the bigger picture, and I know canceling my trip was the right decision for me. More importantly, I’m aware I’m not the only one affected by these events. That doesn’t make it suck any less.

So now I’m one of the many internationals (US hikers, too) who’d planned to spend this spring and summer hiking America’s long trails, but now can’t, or won’t. And it’s a situation that doesn’t have an end date so it’s difficult to plan ahead. I’ve seen a few blogs and interviews with international hikers discussing their thoughts and feelings about this situation, and their plans for moving forward. I’ve also seen remarks telling the internationals to stop crying, boo-hoo, suck it up, and get over it. Not quite the compassion and understanding I’d expected, but I guess everyone has an opinion.

Just a Bump in the Road

While the virus may have put a huge dent in my plans, it’s out of my control. But that doesn’t make it any easier to take. Two years of prepping, planning, and training all for nothing, all wrecked because of an unpredictable, once-in-a-generation worldwide pandemic. What are the odds of that landing at my feet at the exact time I planned to walk through the woods? Apologies for being a little dramatic.

And I know all the prep wasn’t for nothing, but it just feels that way at the moment. The reality is that this thing’s happened, and there’s no putting the corona genie back in the bottle. My trip is over before it began, so I’m taking it personally. I know millions will be affected worldwide, and that many of those will suffer far greater hardship than I will. But it doesn’t make my anger or frustration any less real, it just puts it into perspective. On reflection of my personal situation, this is just a bump in the road, a big bump admittedly, but only a bump.

The Trail Won’t Go Anywhere

I thought about giving the pandemic a few months to blow over and then hitting the trail later in the year, but common sense took hold of the reins. With the uncertainty surrounding all-things-virus at the moment, countries on lockdown, panic-buying rife, and businesses shutting up shop along the AT and PCT, it seemed better to admit defeat and try again next year.

People are fond of reminding me the trail won’t go anywhere, and I believe them. But I want to experience the whole AT journey—the people, the trail magic, the mind-numbing boredom of the green tunnel, the bad weather, the hiker towns, and Trail Days. Without the complete and total package, I’ll feel as though I’ve missed out, and I don’t want to miss out.


It’s only 12 more months to wait. Only. I said the same thing this time last year and that zipped by pretty quickly. And while a year’s a long time if you’re a dragonfly, it’s not that long in the big scheme of things. I had a whole series of blogs planned before I kicked off my trek this year, but they can wait for next year as well, as just like the AT, they won’t go anywhere either.

So, whatever you decide about taking and/or continuing your long walk this year, be safe. If you’re postponing until next year, I might just see you out there. Either way, good luck.


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Comments 5

  • Dave : Mar 17th

    Well I know how gutted you are, and this really is s$#t…. however more trips down the pub to watch the footy, oh wait a minute….
    I can drink a beer at home and skype you!

    • Toby : Mar 17th

      Hey Dave, The pub and the footy? I remember those things from a long time ago. Have a beer for me. Cheers.

  • Joan m : Mar 20th

    Yes it sucks for all of us. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. Losing money, losing time, losing life. Welcome to everyone’s life right now. We are all hurting for one reason, maybe more.

  • Tammi : Mar 20th

    You have perfectly expressed my feelings right now. Thank you for this. Hopefully see ya out there next year! Stay safe.

  • Lucy (Hermione) : Mar 27th

    Hi Toby, finally got around to catching up on your posts. Can’t imagine what cancelling your hike must feel like, it must be heartbreaking. When the news came out about the flight restrictions I was devastated for all the 2020 hikers. All I can say is that it’ll be worth the wait once you finally make it over there. You’ll just have another year of preparation under your belt! Take care, Lucy.


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