Why Am I Leaving My Family and Career?

Let me begin by introducing myself and explaining what I am leaving.

Beginning March the 30th of 2023, I will be leaving my three adult daughters, three-month-old grandson, and close family members to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, PCT. Currently, I reside in Martinsburg, located in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, a stone’s throw away for the  Appalachian Trail, AT.

As an adult, I’ve enjoyed exploring multiple areas of the Appalachian Trail. Both my husband and I are shelter caretakers of the Ensign Cowall Shelter along the AT in Smithsburg, Maryland.

Not only will I be leaving my family but my career as well. I will be resigning from my current position as an educator in order to pursue this hike. For over 13 years, I have been serving my students and the community in which I care greatly.

As a young mother, I took the non-traditional route and worked for over ten years to obtain my Master’s degree in Education. Leaving my students and career to pursue this journey has been just as hard as leaving my family.

Why am I leaving my family and career to hike 2,650 miles ?

I have been asked this question so many times and have meditated on it, coming up with multiple reasons. However, the most solid reason that always comes to light first is that I need this time to truly rediscover myself.  As time passes my sense of purpose, drive, and motivation has become a struggle.

Over the years I feel as if I have lost my sense of direction and have meandered off my path. There has been an emptiness and longing for something more. When I am given the opportunities to enjoy nature, I am free, and I feel complete. There is a sweet joy and overwhelming tranquility as I embrace God’s canvas. I need the solitude and redirection.

I’ve spent my entire life being a caregiver, and now I am caring for myself, putting myself first. I am embarking on this journey, completely submerging myself into the hiker community.

Taking a time out of life for me to grow and discover just who I have become. What it is I want for the next season as I learn through experience, perseverance, physical awareness, endurance, and gain the in-depth knowledge of simplicity.

Who will I be experiencing this journey of discovery with?

I will be hiking with my best friend, partner, and soulmate, my husband. We both long to experience life in a different environment, lifestyle, routine, and face the many challenges together along this journey of self-discovery and growth. We decided several years back this would be how we step into our 25th year of marriage, high school sweethearts, and married young. Surviving and persevering throughout the years of parenthood and, quite frankly, just growing up together. A lot of life and change happens in the course of 30 years.

Complete transparency.  

I’ve dreamt about having this time of freedom to reconnect, discover, and grow as an individual, wife, and mother. This is actually my first opportunity to hike an official thru-hike. To be very transparent, I literally feel like my emotions are riding a continuous roller coaster. There are moments I go from feelings of pure excitement of eating, sleeping, and breathing PCT. I envision myself standing looking out at the night sky, experiencing the freedoms, and being completely submerged in trail life.

Other times I become so anxious about the unknowns and uncertainties of everyday life. I have been a mother, caregiver, and wife for the majority of my life so far. Without these duties, who am I?

In conclusion…

The letting go of stability and a career I worked so hard for has been a struggle. However, I can’t spend another year dreaming of what life on the trail might be like. Dreaming of the what if’s and wondering what is next. The time is now to put myself first, to relearn and rediscover the person I have become.

Leaving my family is going to be so very hard and my weak point on my low days. Their support and belief have been a great relief in allowing this journey to become a reality. Social media and FaceTime makes it much easier to still be a part of their daily life.

With all the mixed emotions of leaving I can not wait until I’m standing at the monument with my soul mate. We will be celebrating 25 years of marriage as we journey on to the next chapter of our life together along the PCT.

Bottom line life is meant to be lived and embraced in the present moment.

Springer Mountain Georgia

*Springer Mountain Thanksgiving week 2021*

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Comments 8

  • jhony : Jan 27th

    OMG so well written. Such great reasons for hiking. Y’all are doing what I wished I had done lo these many years.
    Thank you for allowing me to follow y’all here and on IG. Vicariously of course!
    BTW All the best — I feel it is JUST GREAT !

    • Katie Keilholtz : Jan 30th

      Thank you so much for the encouragement and positivity. I truly appreciate it. Start date is almost here…let the adventures begin!

      • April Hite : Feb 1st

        Best wishes on your journey. Be safe.

        • Katie Ott-Keilholtz : Mar 14th

          Thank you

  • Jenny : Jan 30th

    Go you. At 70 I doubt I will ever get on one of these hikes but I will watch and cheer you on. We have some amazing hikes here in New Zealand

    • Katie Keilholtz : Feb 1st

      Thank you for your support I would love to explore New Zealand I was actually just looking at Te Araroa trail after reading another hikers blog. The pictures look amazing.

  • Lance "Clockwork" Goehring : Jan 31st

    Good for you! I hiked the PCT in ’21 at age 53, for many of the same reasons. It will be challenging, exhilarating and above all, rewarding. Will be following your expoits.

    • Katie Keilholtz : Feb 1st

      Congrats on your conquest in 2021. The closer the day gets the more excited I become to start this journey. Thank you for your support and words of wisdom, definitely open to any and all advice.


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