Thru-Hikers: Are We Selfish?

Wool underwear. Check. Hiking poles. Check. Ultralight tent. Check. PCTA permit approval. Check. Approval of all friends and family… unchecked? 

A Thru-Hiker Journey

I’ve written blogs about my plus-size body, my seriously novice backpacking abilities, and my mental health journey. Writing about how these aspects of my life have each brought me to my decision to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail has been cathartic and eye-opening. So many people have reached out to support me, strangers who see something in me or rather something in themselves that together we can identify with. I feel like we are on this journey together. Like I’m taking each of your Instagram handles with me as I step onto the PCT. It is a responsibility that I gladly accept. 

The Responsible People

I can’t ignore some obvious responsibilities that I have. The most important of which is my husband and our three daughters. My husband, the World’s Greatest Teacher, is 100% supportive of my hiking dream. I’ve been talking about the PCT for the last five years; it’s only happenstance that I have been able to fast-forward this would-be “retirement hike” to 2020. It is not his retirement dream to hike the PCT, therefore he is grateful it is taking place now.

Additionally, my “pit crew” consists of my three daughters: Nine, Seven, and Three. Nine is my navigator. If you’ve seen my Instagram, you may have noticed the nice PCT map chart we created. She is meticulous when it comes to details and numbers (if only that were evident in the cleanliness of her room). Seven is my supply officer. She will be putting together my resupply packages and following Nine’s resupply strategy. Nine seems to think I will only need food in Wrightwood. Yikes. As Seven works out the math between miles of when to send me new shoes, Three, well, I’m not sure what Three does. I think she might be the Ringmaster of the Shit Show.

Are We Selfish?

So, why do I think I’m selfish? Well, not everyone is as on-board as I had hoped. Our families seem rather confused about the entire situation. One day I am at the job of my dreams and the next, suffering from PTSD and without work. It seems like every few years there is a major shift in our life circumstances: March 2019, spinal surgery; summer 2014, bipolar diagnosis; 2008, 2012, 2014, 2016… each of those years changed our family drastically. With each of these changes, great things occurred, but not without struggle. 

I know our families love us and are rooting for us. But, I think me hiking the Pacific Crest Trail for five months alone might be where they draw the line. I don’t know. For those of you, like me, who feel in their gut that this is our calling—this trail is part of our life journey—have we even stopped and asked ourselves: Are we selfish? 

Am I Selfish?

When I asked myself this question, I was surprised at my answer. I took that long, hard look in the mirror and knew it. Yes. I am selfish. I grew up my entire life hearing “family first.” I believed that once you have children you give up your rights to your own identity. Society says that if you work, you neglect your children. Society says that if you stay at home, you’ve settled. Society says that life is hard and you just suffer through it: pay your taxes, pay your bills, and make sure your kids aren’t tardy to school. Only recently has “society” slowly moved in a direction of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Only recently have we heard that in order to help others, we must help ourselves. 

Owning It

So, I guess I am selfish. And whether or not being selfish is a good thing is up to you. But for me, society doesn’t get to decide if I am selfish. Nine, Seven, and Three are the people I answer to. And they are pretty freaking excited and proud of their mother.

Selfishness is exactly why I’m doing this. I want my daughters to be selfish, take up room and claim the right to exist, struggle, and succeed on their own terms and in their own way, with or without a smile on their face. Our choices may not always make sense to others. We may be considered reckless, crazy, outlandish, and wild. But if I know one thing, it is that no one can define our journey.  Only we do. And we will. 

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Comments 30

  • Lance Goehring : Nov 9th

    Wonderful post, Shannon! I completely agree about our feelings of selfishness. It’s hard not to feel a bit selfish. But, if you have the support of those that count (as you and I do), it’s a justifiable choice. And I feel that this choice now will actually make us better in the long run and able to better serve those around us.

    Reply
    • Shannon : Nov 9th

      Thanks, Lance! I’m so glad I’m not the only one feeling a bit…selfish. I think it often goes unstated, especially from us with what seems like all the responsibility of the world on our shoulders. Thank you for your feedback! See you on trail!

      Reply
    • Jenn : Nov 9th

      Well said!

      Reply
      • Shannon : Nov 10th

        Thanks Jen!🙌🏻

        Reply
  • Kevin Neft : Nov 9th

    Another brilliant article! Let’s keep being selfish!

    Reply
    • Shannon : Nov 10th

      Kevin! Thank you! We need to claim “selfish!”

      Reply
  • Donna Yates : Nov 9th

    Hi Shannon! Wow, how far you have come since we first met about 10 years ago. You go Girl! I’m almost a little jealous. Jealous that you are selfish enough to take charge of your happiness and well being. If more of us did that, we might be less stressed. 😉. I’m rooting for you! Love reading your posts.

    Reply
    • Shannon : Nov 10th

      Wow! Has it been that long!? I’m so happy to hear from you! I’m going to message you tomorrow! We need to catch up on our lives! Come be selfish and day-hike with me! ❤️

      Reply
  • Jim Whetstone : Nov 10th

    Mrs. Shannon Quadres,

    Self care is not necessarily selfish. After a significant illness, injury, or surgery (spinal surgery) we are left significantly changed. It is hard for others to understand if they have not undergone a significant, life altering event(s). I understand or would like to think I understand. I have had 3 spinal surgeries and I have 2 spinal cord stimulators implanted in my low back. I find that I need to get out on trails more than ever. It is medicinal and I feel drawn like a moth to light. I’m on the upside of healing now and I have years of through hikes on my personal calendar. I hope your family sees that your needs will be met with your trip/trips. I’m pushing for the same acceptance and understanding. In the end, you will never be upset with yourself for hiking too many trails but you would be upset if you hiked too few. I wish you well and may G*d bless you on your trip and in your life.

    Reply
    • Shannon : Nov 10th

      Thank you so much for sharing your background! I am humbled and even more motivated by your words! Self-Care is all too important and it is difficult to find the balance of Self-Care and being Selfish. I know that you are right though! Thanks again for your support!

      Reply
  • Bill : Nov 10th

    Sweet!! Great story. Inspiring. Thanks for sharing! Keep it going!
    Happy hiking,
    Bill

    Reply
    • Shannon : Nov 10th

      Bill! Thank you for your feedback! I appreciate it! I hope to continue writing once the idea comes to me! Thanks again for your support!

      Reply
  • Jessica Dickson : Nov 10th

    I love this post because I relate to it sooo much! I often think I’m being selfish. In fact, I know that I am. Like you, I have a family at home. But I’m still leaving them in 2 days to hike the Lone Star Trail because I need to. And in the end, if I come back better and more whole, then their lives are better and more whole. And if they can’t survive without me, then I’m not raising them right. Keep it up, girl! It’s amazing for our kids to see us chasing our dreams.

    Reply
    • Shannon : Nov 10th

      Jessica! I’m so moved by your words! I love that you’ve taken initiative and love your thoughts on survival. I’m pretty sure you raised them right with that attitude! There are differing ideas on my IG, and I welcome that this has opened a dialogue! Xoxo

      Reply
  • Turtle : Nov 10th

    I totally agree! If you need this then to not do it means you will cheat you’re husband and children out of the woman you will become and make then settle for a lesser you. You are not being selfish you are creating a new, better self for those who matter the most.

    Reply
    • Shannon : Nov 10th

      Turtle! You speak truth🙌🏻. I’m so thankful that you commented. It means the world to me that you spoke what I’ve been feeling!😘

      Reply
  • Mrigayu Ghosh : Nov 11th

    Going through everything you’ve gone through can only mean that you have grown so much as a person. Every struggle is an opportunity for growth. Although EVERYTHING we do is selfish, we realize that we must take care of ourselves first to have the ability to give back to society. Guess who I learned that from? You!
    I’m absolutely sure that you are making the right decision and doing what is best for your individual journey as a human being and for your family. Perhaps that is our ultimate life goal: to find a way through our own life path and that is what allows us to make our impression on the world and give back to society.

    Reply
    • Shannon : Nov 11th

      MG! I miss you so much! Thank you for your wise words! You of all people know me and the fact that you support me is huge for me! Xoxo

      Reply
  • Felipe Castellon : Nov 11th

    Yeah. I’ve felt selfish. I was better financially prepared in 2018 but I didn’t feel that I should focus so much on myself. I raised a family and have grandchildren. My wife is supportive and knows how much I want this even though there is a chance, as with all, that I might not finish. Hopefully the journey will be the treasure that I bring back to my wife and family. Regardless how far I get.

    Reply
    • Shannon : Nov 11th

      Felipe! I’m inspired by your story and your choice to hold off until it felt right for you. There is something so incredible about what you said. It is really about the journey. It has nothing to do with the finish, at least that what I take from your comments. After following so many IG accounts, blogs and vlogs, I’ve noticed that many who actually finish often have the hardest time transitioning back. If I have to stop or skip a section, I just know that my girls will help me complete it someday. 🙂

      Reply
  • Hannah : Nov 11th

    Girl, you do you. Plenty of husbands with responsibilities and wives and children have left to go on adventures, but they don’t get any flack. You do what you need to do. Always sucks when you don’t have everyone’s approval, but really, in this situation, what are they not approving?

    Reply
    • Shannon : Nov 11th

      Hannah, you are so on point. You are right about approval. And, I do think the ability to think through this process is definitely helpful for me to continue to move forward. Having my girls and my husband as my crew is what matters. We are basically taking this journey together. Thank you for that reminder!

      Reply
  • Cat Morton : Nov 12th

    Yes! This is so awesome! I really enjoyed reading it. Good for you. I actually start the same time so hope to see you on the trail! Good luck!

    Reply
    • Shannon : Nov 12th

      Cat! That’s so awesome and thank you! Let’s connect on Instagram! @fireroamingwild 😊

      Reply
  • Derek : Nov 12th

    If you have not read it already, you may want to take an audio book of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Also, The Fountainhead. These books are the magnum opus of individuality. You will never question being “selfish” again.

    Reply
    • Shannon : Nov 12th

      Thanks, Derek! I definitely can see how my comments about what “society says,” and my response to it could lead the reader to consider this individualistic in nature. I’ve read The Fountainhead and definitely personally do not identify as selfish as the book suggests. I do appreciate that you’ve taken this to a larger scale. I think it can go a step farther: Is helping one’s self actually helping society and in turn, does that make them no longer individualistic? Moreover, who decides what is “helpful” to society and what is selfish. When we look at the National Parks and our responsibility to contribute in the idea of LNT, does that move one farther towards the other side of the coin? Thank you so much for your comment! I really enjoyed reviewing the philosophy that fuels what is selfish. 😉

      Reply
  • K M : Nov 16th

    Whew – that last paragraph had me tearing up. What an incredible example for your girls. Enjoy the journey. 🙂

    Reply
    • Shannon : Nov 17th

      K.M. thank you so much! It is awesome that paragraph hit home. I really appreciate the feedback. I am very much looking forward to this journey and if I don’t finish, I know my girls will come back and finish it with me. 🙂

      Reply
  • Emily : Nov 26th

    Sorry but I think leaving your 3 kiddos for that long is unacceptable as a mom or dad. Glad you have the freedom to do so but as a parent, I would never put my kids through missing their mom for that long for my own selfish reasons. Peace and love. To each his/her own.

    Reply
    • Shannon : Nov 27th

      Thanks for the comment, Emily! I definitely think that you have a point about how things work differently for some than others. I appreciate your feedback on the post!

      Reply

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