Want to Get Over a Breakup? Plan a Thru-Hike
As my Appalachian Trail thru-hike approaches one of the most common questions I am asked is, why are you doing this? I’ve brainstormed several captivating responses to this question, but the truth remains that my reason is a lot less inspiring than most. I am not hiking to raise awareness for a particular ailment or disease. I am not hiking because I’ve put in decades worth of hard work and am now reaping the benefits of retirement, and I don’t necessarily believe I am in the midst of some sort of existential crisis ( although I suppose that’s entirely possible). I want to be clear; I respect the previously mentioned motivations for thru-hiking and find them to be extremely beautiful and heartening. However, there is a sense of hesitation to respond to that question when your initial motivation for something this epic is just so, mundane. So it’s time I just get real with people and my motivation for taking on such an endeavor. After all, a lot of life on trail will be mundane, so there is no shame in my particular impulse to hike.
I experienced a breakup last winter and I simply needed a distraction. I needed something to focus on that would bring me joy and excitement, and keep me focused on bettering myself and my psyche. Breakups suck. That is a notion I believe we can all sympathize with. I wanted to summon something into my life that I could pour my heart into that would nourish my mind and soul without compromising the core of my being. I had already felt that my sense of self was drastically altered, so creating a way back to my foundation was my greatest concern. Completing an Appalachian Trail thru-hike has always been on my unremitting bucket list, but never once before did I feel compelled to initiate the trek. When I finally realized that the ending of something fundamental in my life could be the beginning of something far more elemental to my heart, I began a planning process that completely fueled my life for the following year. From inception of the 2018 thru-hike to the day I sit here writing this; I have experienced all levels of excitement, fear, anticipation, apprehension, confidence, and doubt in regard to my journey. So you are probably thinking, that doesn’t sound dissimilar from the feelings someone has toward the end of a relationship. How could this have possibly made you feel good again? Well, if you are anything like me you like to work through your shit. Whether it’s a small obstacle, or a large one. Whether it is an interpersonal relationship, or the relationship you have with yourself. I like to fight through issues until resolution or accomplishment is achieved. When I was left feeling as though I was the only one fighting to remain coupled, I thought to myself, fight for something else now.
A year later, after some gratuitous Facebook stalking, I found myself looking at a picture of my ex. She looked different, longer hair, and a few more tattoos. She was smiling and looked genuinely happy. It stung my insides for a moment, and then something beautiful happened. All the love inside me soaked up the stinging like a sponge, and my first thought to myself was, “Wouldn’t it be fun to go practice hanging a bear bag outside?’’ This entire process of planning my Appalachian Trail 2018 thru-hike has given me so much joy. Regardless of the outcome, becoming acquainted with this trail has already provided me newfound knowledge about the outdoors, about myself, and about connections with others. The people I have met through my planning process and the community surrounding the Appalachian Trail have redefined my definition of what a supportive relationship can look like. So this is my advice to you. If you are suffering from heartbreak, depression, or general feelings of blah-ness, start planning a thru-hike. I promise you it will warm your heart.
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