The Decision to Hike: Forcing a Change

Those pesky thoughts…

No matter where I am, I often find myself thinking about thru hiking.  Those thoughts filter into my mind, like the morning light filtering through the trees.  I think back to my thru hikes of the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail.  I think about the other trails that I wish to undertake in the future.  Envisioning what a new trail would be like, in a landscape that I’ve never been.  These thoughts probably happen to you, too… while at work, sitting in traffic, cooking dinner, or at any other random time.  Yet, it isn’t until you form a concrete decision to hike, that you truly harness those wandering thoughts.  Those thoughts are about to turn into actions.

The planning of a hike usually gets all of the attention.  However, before the plan, comes the decision.  Deciding to embark on a hike is one of the most consequential decisions you will ever make.  If you think I am being dramatic, I ask you to please bear with me.  Everyone’s decision why to hike is different.  And what we endure after the trail ends will be different, too.  But before I get too ahead of myself, let’s talk about the decision making process that leads up to your hike.

The Build-Up

Most hikers I know attempt hikes during what I call a ‘transition period’.  Perhaps it’s not until after a graduation or losing a job that you can finally go on that hike.  These individuals are presented with a window of time following a change in their lives.  In turn, they have decided the only logical thing to do is follow their dreams.  However, on the flip side, not everyone is graced with a foreseeable transition that practically begs them to pursue their hike.  Thus, there are quite a few hikers that purposefully upend their lives, forcing a change, just to go on that hike that’s been in their thoughts.  This subset of hikers fascinates me.  They possess an ability to drop almost everything and with no guarantees.  This would leave some of us quivering in our trail runners.  They have made their decision– and there’s no looking back.

Individuals that possess these methods of operation tend to have an unshakeable confidence in themselves.  Furthermore, they trust wholeheartedly in their ability to figure things out on the go.  This confidence is handy on the trail but it also helps once the hike is over.  Things such as what to do about a job and finding a place to live after the hike doesn’t seem to phase these folks.

The Decision

The decision to go hiking can be years or just weeks in the making.  Regardless of which one you initiate, you do still need some sort of plan.  You will need to ensure things continue to run smoothly while you’re away.  A little planning goes a long way.  There’s nothing worse than having to suspend a hike to take care of something that could have been prevented before leaving.  Things such as storing the belongings you are not taking with you, what to do with pets, how to pay bills, etc. need to be sorted out before leaving.  With those things said, the actual decision to hike is paramount.  Deciding what pieces of gear to bring pales in comparison to your decision to be out there in the first place.

Forcing a change can certainly be scary, exciting, and anything in between.  It could be a dead end job, wanting to relocate to a nicer area, ending a toxic relationship, or just a need for a change that may have you thinking – and deciding – on a hike in the interim of you pursuing a much bigger picture.  Most of us know that hitting the pause button on life to hit the trail can be beneficial.  What is beneficial, specifically, is that you are likely to have embarked on a far greater journey than just the journey the actual hike will provide.

I say go for it!  Decide.  Then plan.  Those that never actively pursue their dreams will soon be wishing one day that they had.

Taken on the Long Trail in Vermont.

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