Worry, Anxiety, and Fear: Mental Preparedness for a Thru-Hike
With my flip-flop of the Appalachian Trail starting in just 35 days, I think it’s about time I share with you my worries, anxieties, and fears. Sometimes I find that people are taken by surprise when they ask me if I’m nervous and I answer yes. It is unusual for people to be afraid of something, but willingly choose to do it anyway. Even more, to choose to do something that takes months of planning and will undoubtedly be uncomfortable and miserable at times.
The short answer is, I have chosen to do this because my soul needs to grow. I’m tired of working somewhere I’m unhappy. I’m tired of living a way I never expected. I’m tired of being afraid of what I might be capable of. So let this article serve as an open and ever-changing list of my worries, anxieties, and fears.
There are lots of things I worry about daily that flit through my mind. I worry that I won’t allow myself time to be happy on trail. I worry that I won’t be able to avoid negative head space when I really need to. I worry that my feet will be so blistered and painful that I will have to stop.
These and a host of other things are cycling through my head constantly. These are the kinds of things that are present for a moment. Fleeting pieces of nerves surfacing and resurfacing as I think about my trip.
My anxieties are a little more intense. These are the kinds of things that come up for me constantly and constantly. The things like money, weather, making friends. The things I dwell on when I can’t get my mind to quiet at night. I’m anxious that I’ll have done all this preparation, work, and research for nothing. I’m anxious that I’ll get out there and discover I hate thru-hiking.
My mind returns to these thoughts often. Anxieties are the things that make me feel inadequate and unprepared for the trip. I feel like I won’t be fit enough, I won’t be fast enough, I won’t be cool enough. These anxieties are mostly things I have carried with me for years and are finding a new lens to appear through in this hike.
The fears I’ve been having are the things that make me feel like crying and breaking down into a little ball of upset. Sometimes they make me feel like I can’t do this. When people ask me if I’m afraid, I have no option but to tell them yes, because I don’t want to lie to myself.
I’m afraid of meeting a bear or a moose. I’m afraid of sleeping in the woods nearly every night. I’m afraid of slipping during a water crossing and losing something important. I’m afraid of injuries. I’m afraid of giving up.
Choosing to Go Anyway
These worries, these anxieties, these fears are absolutely real for me. They keep me up at night sometimes. They completely fill my brain and my heart at times. They snowball on one another and drive me crazy.
But I have decided to accept them, acknowledge them, and go anyway. Some of these things may happen and that’s OK. I’m going to be OK. I have made the choice to push myself and embrace the things that scare me, that worry me, that make me anxious. And truly, the room to grow comes from doing the things we’re afraid of.
Creating space where I can test myself is important to me. Challenging myself to learn new things has always been important to me. I have decided that life isn’t enough, being afraid isn’t good enough anymore. Fear isn’t something we can ignore but it isn’t something that should allow to close us off to new experiences.
I’m choosing to go anyway, fears and all.
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