The Sacrifices Made for Long Distance Backpacking (And Why It’s Worth It)

Let’s face it – living the life of your dreams is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do.  To get to the point where you’re satisfied with your life, you’re going to have to make tons of sacrifices and maybe miss an important event or two.  For me, long-distance hiking is my end goal.  When I’m on the trail and I truly feel at home in my surroundings it makes every sacrifice and long day worked worth every single second.

Right now, in the early winter months of 2014, I am currently working two jobs totaling more than 60 hours per week.  I am out of the house by 3:30 a.m. right now and I don’t make it back home until after 5 p.m., which leaves me less than 3 hours between work and bed before my day starts again.  I work six days a week and generally on holidays also.  It’s helpful that I’m living far away from family and wouldn’t be able to make the 24-hour round-trip drive anyway, but it’s definitely hard to constantly RSVP no to the holiday parties and snowshoe events and overnight winter hikes I’d love to do.  There’s precious little time until February for me to really enjoy myself for more than a few hours a week.

When I finally can afford to cut back my hours and I’ve got enough money in my savings to allow me to hike and then come back home without being completely broke, I still need countless hours to prepare for my hikes.  Anyone planning a long-distance hike, whether it’s their first or the fiftieth, knows there is a lot of time and energy spent looking at guides, planning your food drops, and prepping your gear.  Granted, it gets a little easier every time you do this, but for me this year planning four thru hikes on trails less traveled and with fewer hiker services means I’ll have to do food drop planning and meal preparation in order to get the supplies needed.  Once I cut back to the easier 40 hours of work each week, I’ll easily be spending 10-15 hours a week making and dehydrating food, planning my drop box points, and researching the towns on the trails I’ll be hiking.  I also need to replace a few pieces of gear and obviously read Trail Journals (hey, gotta get some enjoyment in there somehow)!  Prepping takes time also.

So after all your hard work, planning, and prepping you’ll get to finally do your long-distance hike!  Now, even more sacrifices come into play.  When I was on my Appalachian Trail thru hike in 2012 I missed a lot of things, including 3 weddings, the births of four babies, and countless birthdays and weekends out with friends. I even missed my 10 year high school reunion, which was scheduled shortly after coming back from Maine.  Some of these events I felt terrible about missing and others not so much (seriously, who even goes to reunions anymore? Isn’t that called Facebook?!)  The point of the matter is that when I’m out living my dream life on the trail, life goes on without me at home.  When I was out hiking this was a tough and bitter pill to swallow.  I tried to call my friends near their birthdays when I was in towns and using the internet makes it easier to tell people you’re thinking about them regardless of the thousands of miles between you.  It almost felt like when my friends and family knew how much I was doing every day and that I was trying to accomplish this big life goal they appreciated me even more for taking the time to let them know I was thinking of them.

In the end, I’ll miss all the holiday parties this year.  I can’t make it to social engagements and meet up with my book club or even take those extra yoga classes I like so much.  I’m going to always miss birthdays and weddings and parties – but now I’m okay with the choices I’ve made.  Coming to terms with the fact that your sacrifices will all be worth it in the end is a huge hurdle for not only you, but your friends and family as well.  My relationships outside of the hiking world have been strengthened and become more meaningful.  My relationships in the hiking world will always remain strong due to the common bond we all hold.  For me, living my dream is attainable every few years due to hard work, and it will always be worth it.

Are you prepping for a long-distance hike and trying to come to terms with all the sacrifices you’ll be making? Leave me a comment below or get in touch with me on Facebook to talk about it!

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