Planning to Let Go of the Plan

As the start date of my PCT thru-hike attempt draws increasingly near, I find myself questioning my sanity in thinking this might be possible, much less a fantastic idea.

I am a planner

As a person well into my second half-century, I’ve daily (really, hourly!) utilized planning skills in all aspects of life for many decades – such as navigating a fast-paced, rewarding and deeply satisfying career, raising wonderful and amazing offspring who are somehow now officially young adults, sustaining a mutually-supportive marriage, caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s Disease for twelve years, living and working in eleven different states, maintaining friendships spanning the globe, undertaking countless outdoor adventures, volunteering in my community, well you know, life. Planning seems part of my nature, or at least an essential skill that ensures I don’t drop a critical proverbial ball. I generally no longer consciously think about it, I just do it, constantly. When I’m out for a morning run, I plan my work day and compose emails in my head. When I’m cleaning my house, I plan friends’ birthday gifts. When I’m cooking, I plan family members’ appointments and travel logistics.

Questioning the plan

Getting ready for 2,650 miles on the trail has, no surprise, taken a great deal of planning. But as I begin to question my sanity with this undertaking, I wonder whether I’ve done the right planning. Have I asked the right questions? Have I planned for the right eventualities?  Surely, despite my best efforts, many of the answers are a resounding no.

Trusting the plan

I’ve planned enough in my life to know with certainly that little goes according to plan. But the most important question now, as I calculate miles and calories and macros and fill the gaps in the yawning resupply boxes, check and recheck my gear, wrap up work, take care of chores and repairs at home in order to be away for months is, after all this planning, will I be able to step onto the trail and let go of the plan? Will I be able simply, to hike?

Letting go of the plan

With merely weeks until the start, here’s my plan once I hit the trail: to let it go, and begin walking. That, for me, is a brand new plan and altogether new trail. Seems about time.

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Comments 3

  • Ruth Morley : Mar 16th

    I’m also a planner. I suggest you accept yourself for who you are, allow yourself to make plans (“I’ll camp at X shelter tonight. That lines up with Y shelter the next night”). But when plans change or you have to make new decisions, go with it. Don’t worry about making the right decision. You can’t forsee all the possibilities and consequences. So make the decision you make the right one. Live it as that’s what you really wanted.

    It’s also very important to be in the moment, especially on this mammoth adventure. Don’ t waste your life continuously looking at the future. All you’ve got is the present.

    You can do this. This is shared by fellow planner. I look forward to following your journey.

  • Andy : Mar 26th

    An amazing experience for you both.
    Way to go mom!
    My daughter Jillian (trail name not yet bestowed) will be right there with you at some point. Her start date is April 9.

    May God guide and protect you all as you hike this beautiful and challenging section of your lives.

  • EPR : Apr 12th

    Such a solid first three post, Jil Z!! Thank you for sharing your insights and emotions from your privileged, challenging, courageous and epic long walk home. You continue to inspire and provoke introspection. Glad you brought that chamois! Keep rocking it with Reyna 💚💙


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