Leaving Your Spouse Behind During a Thru-Hike
In early 2014 I decided that I was ready to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. It was something that had long been on my bucket list, but I had never seen an opportunity to actually do it. I was ready to quit my job and already had most of the gear that I would need. My husband, Andrew, is also an outdoor enthusiast and loves to hike. The only problem was that Andrew was not in a position to leave his job. He enjoyed his work, and although he loves to hike, a thru-hike of the AT wasn’t as appealing to him as it was to me.
The idea of completing such a life-altering endeavor without my husband and best friend was a scary one. We had been together for seven years and had gone on so many adventures together. After a lot of discussion, however, we came to the conclusion that I should go. Here are a few of the reasons that we ultimately thought this was the right decision.
Andrew and I met while I was a freshman in college and have been together ever since. We were starting to become very dependent on one another and six months apart would be challenging. We knew that this much time apart would change who we were as individuals. Some people fear that this eventual difference in personalities could be damaging to a relationship, but to us it seemed that this time to reflect and grow on our own would be beneficial. If we each became stronger and better people, then our relationship could become stronger and better as well.
A large part of me wanted to wait for a time when Andrew could come with me, but with the idea of kids looming in our near future, I felt like it was now or never. A time may never come when we are both free to hike the trail. My husband knew this was a dream of mine and didn’t want to stop me from going because he had to work. I didn’t want to force him to quit a job that he loved in order to hike. There were only a handful of years left before we may be officially tied down with little bundles of responsibility.
We trust each other
If peoples’ relationships can handle thru hiking the trail together, then surely ours can handle hiking it apart. Andrew is an athletic guy and he would be able to meet up and hike with me a few times. A lot of things can happen in six months, but we trusted each other to make good decisions while I was away.
How other people reacted
There are a myriad of strange reactions that I’m sure most thru-hikers experienced when announcing their intentions. From “oh that’s nice dear,” to “are you insane,” sometimes it can be difficult to tell who will say what. As a woman leaving her husband for six months, there were a few additional reactions that I should have expected.
When we made the announcement that I was going to hike the trail and Andrew was going to stay home, many people reacted with disbelief. I was surprised to hear how many people asked my husband how he could LET me do something like this. My parents believed that it would end our relationship. Other people, of course, were incredibly supportive, and completely understood our perspective.
Whenever we met someone who balked at our plans, we explained that we were very confident in our relationship and each other. If that didn’t work, well, we kindly told them to mind their own beeswax.
How it worked out
Andrew was undeniably supportive and won the award for “husband of the year” multiple times during the course of my hike. He was able to visit me at trail days, near Pearisburg Virginia, Shenandoah, and three more times between West Virginia and New Jersey. Each time we saw each other, however, it got harder and harder to separate.
Riding the emotional roller coaster each time we met up was becoming too difficult for both of us.
After parting ways in New Jersey, we decided that it would be best if the next time we saw each other was when I reached Katahdin, where Andrew would summit with me.
One of the toughest days in this stretch was on September 7th, our wedding anniversary. I was in White Mountain NP and called him on a payphone at the Crawford Notch General Store. As I tearfully said goodbye that day, I felt more motivation than ever to get my butt to Baxter State Park.
Three months after the trail
Readjusting to the real world comes with obstacles for every hiker. We expected that we would have a tough time readjusting to living with one another after being apart for six months.
I have seen positive changes in both of us, and since the beginning we were committed to using this personal growth to strengthen our relationship instead of break it apart. Three months after finishing the trail, things are going great. We are excitedly planning future trips that we can experience together, and choosing adventure in lieu of kids for just a little while longer…
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.