Here I am in beautiful south Vermont enjoying the ski season while working at Stratton Mountain Resort, yet still decompressing my Appalachian Trail thru-hike. And completely consumed with my upcoming Pacific Crest Trail thru…
Since I left in July of 2014 for my backpacking trip through Latin America, I haven’t stayed in one place for more than 5 months. For me, it’s an incredible life style – one I know that won’t last forever and one that I am trying to enjoy every minute of while it’s here. Of course there are many ups, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t downs. Just like any other life path, well, life happens. But, for now, being nomadic works for me. The bills are paid, money is made when it needs to be, and well, life keeps going.
But I understand that this lifestyle doesn’t work for everyone and for a million different reasons. It is an often occurrence for people to listen about my travels for a couple minutes with awe, then I can see them snap back to their reality and quickly offer why they’d love to do what I am able to, but for x, y, an z reason (typically related to career, family, and health) they just can’t take off for months at a time and travel.
I guess I’m writing today for two reasons.
It really bothers me when people get upset or defensive about their life to me after hearing my stories. “Oh that’s so incredible, I wish I could do that, but I have a two year old, and he isn’t going to raise himself!” A slightly sad and wishful look crosses their face, then fades.
You’re raising a child? Multiple children!? I know in our society, child raising comes with much more criticism than praise, but all you parents out there give yourself a hand. You’re in charge of an additional human, which may very well have just waltzed into your life nine months after a child was the furthest thing from your mind, and BOOM – now you’re expected to make this human a perfect member of society. If that’s not an adventure, I truly don’t know what is.
Same goes for those of you out there getting your education. Many people are dedicating their time for a career. Um, society needs you. Whether you’re working at a hospital, school, a Hershey’s plant making all the yummy things, developing new clean energy technology, waiting tables at a restaurant, etc., Thank YOU for going to work or school today.
If you know me (or another bubbly traveler in your life), just remember, this lifestyle works for me, I love it, but I don’t think less of your life path. I want to share my travel photos with you. I also want to see the pictures of your family, or the last concert you went to, or your graduation pictures. There’s no hierarchy or competition.
Or a 5 month, country hopping backpacking trip. Or whatever.
The idea that you have to hike the entire Appalachian Trail to be an epic adventurer or successful hiker is tragically fabricated. As you may know, many of those who set out to walk all 2,189 miles of the AT do not finish the hike. Some complete 30 miles, 300, 800, 1000, 1400, 1800 and go home feeling defeated. They didn’t walk the whole thing, and somehow their accomplishment is now diminished.
This whole thru-hiking thing, to me, has blown totally out of control. If you go to a trail to hike, and you hiked… isn’t that enough? What does the distance have to do with anything at all? I personally met hikers that left after 1,000 miles. And they left feeling guilty and inadequate.
This IS NOT the point of hiking!! No one who walks 1,000 miles should feel guilt after doing so. That’s just complete rubbish.
So to the many, many people that have said to me, “I wish I could do that one day, but I can’t because of ____,” just know that in no way do you have to complete a 2,189 mile to feel accomplished and get many of the same experiences that I had on the trail. Can you get away to nature for a couple weeks? 5 days? How about 2?
Do you want the satisfaction of completing a trail, but don’t have 5-6 months to dedicate to doing so? Why not check out the Colorado Trail (480 miles), the John Muir Trail (210 miles), or the Long Trail (270 miles) to name just a few?
There are hundreds of thousands (millions?) of miles of hiking trails in this country with countless mountains to climb, lakes to visit, and endless sunsets to see. Just because you can’t dedicate yourself to an extreme long distance hike, does not mean you shouldn’t go out and hike at all!