Ready, Set, (Almost Time to) Go!
Whatever happened to the calm before the storm?
You would be surprised just how much preparation goes into a thru-hike. It seems simple, right? Pack up your backpack with camping gear and snacks and hit the road. Go be free, little bird, go be free!
Well, yes. But there’s also a lot of prep work and time that goes into getting ready for it (there has been for me, at least). You have to save up money, research gear, acquire gear, cancel subscriptions, find a place to store your stuff, cancel your lease, put in your notice at work, buy a plane (or train or bus) ticket, visit the doctor, visit the dentist, fill your prescriptions, get rid of extraneous possessions, move your stuff into storage, pack up your backpack, unpack your backpack because you realize it’s too heavy and you need to take some things out, go trail-food shopping, put everything into waterproof bags, second-guess every piece of gear you own, second-guess your life choices, finish up projects at work, throw a going-away party (or if you’re like me, allow your amazing roommates to throw you a going-away party), say goodbye to family, friends, and coworkers, try to stay in shape amid the chaos, and in the meantime, maintain the status quo and get yourself to work every day.
I could go on. I’m tired before I’ve even begun.
There’s a reason I’ve lived in the same apartment for almost five years. This sort of the thing – the purging, the organizing, the packing, the moving – it all drives me crazy. But it’s hard to flip your life upside down without dealing with the humdrum and minute details. And I, of course, see the value in all of this – cleaning up my life not just for this adventure, but also to more freely transition into the next phase of my life as well – wherever I may end up. It’s amazing how things, both literally and figuratively, pile up in your life if you allow them to.
I think we all know Tyler Durden’s quote from “Fight Club” – “The things you own end up owning you.” It’s been many years since I’ve seen that film, but that line has stuck with me, and feels particularly relevant at this point in my life. I feel strongly that it’s time for me to return to a simpler way of life, one with less distractions and fewer things, and that’s one big reason the trail is calling me. So in the end, I’m sure all this prep work will be worth it – hopefully a hundred times over.
And luckily, despite this pre-trail struggle, time will continue to tick on, and before I know it, I’ll be out there. Held down only by my (hopefully less heavy by then) backpack. I’m ready to go.
My advice for future hikers out there? Start preparing way before you think you need to. It takes way longer than you think.
On the bright side, at least all this prep work has left me too distracted to be overcome with nerves. Onward!
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Advice from a 1992 thru hiker: It will change your life forever (for the good)!