Preparation is Key…Or Is It?
By now I know that everyone’s favorite AT saying is “hike your own hike”. And this has become increasingly more important for me to remember as Kyler, Becca, and I are doing our final preparations and getting closer to our launch date. Why is this saying resonating so much with me right now, you may ask?
Well, because as we get into the thick of planning and preparing, I’m noticing how incredibly different each of our preparation strategies are. From physical preparation to mental preparation and from gear prep to food prep, we’re all over the map.
Been there, done that
First, there’s Kyler. He’s already done this before (StarTrek ‘09). He’s got all the gear and all the experience. He knows what to expect, he’s not really afraid of much, and he is a “go with the flow”, extremely laid back type of person. He’s not worried about planning all of our maildrops to the T, not worried about having all of our gear be the lightest and best, not worried about getting the healthiest, best food possible, and definitely and not worried at all about physically training for the demands of the trail.
When I asked him what he did to prepare for his 2009 thru-hike, this was his response… “Well, I read a Walk in the Woods, spent one day doing mail drop planning, one day doing gear planning, and went on one ‘trial/preparation hike’ that I bailed on after day 3.”
And guess what? He had a great time, completed the trail in 6 months, and obviously loved it enough to want to do it all over again! That’s my boyfriend.
Everything must be perfect
Then we’ve got me, Laura, over at the other end of the spectrum. I am like the preparation QUEEN. I spend pretty much all of my free time thinking about the trail, researching things about the trail, shopping for gear, planning mail drops, and reading AT blogs/books/articles (thank you Appalachian Trials, Badger, Whiteblaze and more for sucking up my time in the best way possible!). I’m pretty sure I have literally spent more time researching and trying to find the perfect shoes than I spent writing college essays and applying for jobs post-college. I don’t know if that’s an exaggeration or not!
Before any big trip, the biggest thing on my mind is the “unknown”. I wonder about a lot of “what-ifs”, and as a result, I try to make everything as perfect as I can and try to prepare for what I think we should expect. And I know, this is probably not the most healthy thing I could do for myself, but honestly, doing all of this just makes me even more excited. Not only does it make me excited for the trail itself because I’m constantly thinking about it, it also makes me excited because I know that once I get on the trail, a lot of the prep work I’ve done is going to go right out the window. Now you’re thinking “wait, what? why is that exciting?” Let me explain. Unexpected things are going to pop up, and I’m going to have to deal with them. This is actually a big reason I’m hiking the trail. I’ve always been such a micro-manager and perfectionist, and I’m ready to let go. I’m ready to let myself be a little more flexible.
But right now, I think I will just go research some more gear and start planning my training schedule! Baby steps…
Somewhere in the middle
I asked Becca to tell me a little bit about what preparing for the trail has been like for her. Here’s her response…
My style is a mixture of the two. My mind tells me I should prepare, know everything there is to know, talk to anyone who knows anything about hiking, find the best price for each item of gear, learn and memorize all of the edible plants and how to cook them…In a way this attitude is motivating, but mostly has been destructive, overwhelming or paralyzing. Even though I have also heard “hike your own hike” over and over again, I often find myself trying to hike the hike of another, or hike the perfect hike.
I put up flyers and a post on craigslist that said “I am seeking out those with experience, wisdom, gear, stories, advice, or curiosity…” I wanted to know it all and hear it all, and I definitely got a wide variety of responses; from “I have no advice, but good luck!” to people inspired by my post to hike the trail, to a guy telling me how much he hated Field and Stream, to a humble war veteran who offered to make/carve me hiking sticks, to a guy who told me he had all the gear I needed & it was very high quality, never used, and he would give it to me for free! To good to be true, no? Yes…turns out 1 hour later he called me back saying his dog got hit by a car and needed surgery and he needed to pay cash up front and could I now lend him some money….Wahhhhh?
I go between this side of the spectrum into more of a Kyler-land/new-agey like place. All is well. I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I don’t need to prepare. Everything will just fall into my lap. It’s all a learning experience. The universe will provide. La la la weeeeeee…….:)
Mostly how I have been preparing is through a consistent meditation and yoga practice. I am practicing patience with myself, self-love, and acceptance, and learning about my strengths, habits, and shadows. I am reflecting on what is pulling me to walk this distance, what is feeding my fuel, driving this hunger, what will keep me going? I am dreaming about it everyday, feeling excited, free, and curious and sharing this energy and my plans with others, hoping to inspire them to go for their dreams as well.
Lastly, I am planning on leaving Rochester around my birthday and instead of getting presents, I want people to take my stuff. I am hoping to leave Rochester with very few things and am trying to donate most of it before I go. On a deeper level, I have been trying to let go of other toxic/heavy things in my life so that I can travel lightly – physically, emotionally, and mentally. No loose ends, no chains, taking my first step from a place of utter presence and freedom.
Finding a Balance
I guess what I’m realizing is that there is no “right” way to prepare for this incredibly challenging, exciting, amazing adventure ahead of us. And how will all three of our differing preparation strategies impact our hike? Heck if I know, but I’m pretty excited to find out! May 1st could not come soon enough.
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Ha ha, I find myself bouncing back and forth between those extremes!