How to Prepare When You Live in the City
I can’t vouch for everyone but I can say that, without a doubt, the hardest part about preparing for my thru-hike has been seeing what everyone else is doing. Instagram is filled with accounts that are nothing but beautiful, sweeping views, summit photos, pictures of gear meticulously arranged, and pretty much everything else an outdoorsy person can imagine. Naturally, when I first got into the idea of doing a thru-hike myself I followed all of them.
At the start of all of this I was living in Austin, TX. Austin is an amazing city with tons of outdoor activities to sift through, but I wasn’t finding the kind of hikes I felt I needed to be doing. I was beginning to feel a little discouraged. Every day I was trying to plan for this hike that I knew wasn’t for a while but I still wanted to be physically preparing for it. Checking Instagram only made it worse. I felt guilty that I wasn’t out there doing something adventurous every day. I worked full time, lived alone with my dogs and my cat, and didn’t have the means to be traveling to national parks every weekend.
Social media is an incredible thing to have at our fingertips, but I think it’s also important to recognize how dangerous it can be to the mind. Now that I’m out of the city and back in my hometown, I thought it would be a good idea to share what worked and what’s been working for me in terms of preparation. Here’s some advice I wish I had read when I was big city living, broke as hell, and trying to prepare for a thru-hike:
- Go hiking, obviously. Hiking is free and is exactly what you’re preparing to do for six months. Don’t have all your gear yet? No problem. Load up your day pack or actual pack with some weight and hit the trail for a day hike. Do some research and you’ll find hiking trails that suit your needs, but be flexible. Most of the time I drove an hour or two outside the city to find the hikes I liked. Even now that I’m not city living, longer trails are hard to come by, but I do what I can to make the easier hikes more challenging. Do multiple laps on a loop trail. Hike up the hardest part of the trail, go back down, and do it again. It’s all about working with what you’ve got.
- Unfollow Instagram accounts that make you feel guilty or at the very least read their descriptions with a grain of salt. Those folks who post nothing but inspirational hiking pictures? They most likely went on a few big hikes and are picking photos from the stockpile to post every day. They probably work full time too and don’t hike nearly as often as you might think.
- Living in a city where something is always going on makes it tough to stay in and save money for a thru-hike. Hiking is free, but let’s be real, you’re not always going to be in the mood to hike. To avoid boredom here are a few options: Invest in a hobby. I learned to draw and paint. It helped fill the endless evenings when I’d already worked my way through my Netflix list and would rather be out with my friends but knew I needed to save my money for that next piece of gear. All I bought was a sketch book and some cheap watercolors. Boom. Months of entertainment. Ask friends to loan you their favorite books or hit up your local Little Free Library. Get into some of those free yoga YouTube channels and learn some stretches to help your future poor, aching thru-hiker body. The options are endless.
- If you can’t get out and hike every week, then make the most of when you can get out there. Utilize holidays or save up your days off. Split costs for permits, food, gas, etc., and introduce your friends to the world of backpacking.
There’s no perfect way to prepare for a thru-hike, nor is everyone following the same steps. No matter how you’re preparing for this trek the most important part is that you are preparing. We’re all just out here putting one foot in front of the other.
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