How Thru-Hiking Ruined My Life

Published June 27, 2017 on TheTrek.co

Earlier this month, after only four months of employment, I quit the first full-time job I’ve had since through-hiking the Appalachian Trail last year. I deliberately chose to derail my own life. AGAIN. (I did something similar in 2016 to go hike the AT.)

My situation might not have seemed all that bad. I was making good money, I liked my colleagues, and although it was a desk job, I got to move around more than I did at my previous job.

But you know what’s really hard to deal with after six months of independence, self-motivation and autonomy on the trail?

Having a boss. 

Through-hiking represents months, if not years, of self-directed goal setting. While planning for and then hiking a long distance trail, you are working towards a monumental goal that you and you alone have set for yourself. Sure, there are plenty of frustrations and even seemingly insurmountable challenges along the way. But when you are doggedly determined to achieve something—for instance, hiking all 2,187 miles of the Appalachian Trail—there isn’t much that can stop you.

After experiencing something that powerfully autonomous, it’s pretty difficult to swallow being told what to do and what you should think is important. Especially by someone whose judgment you don’t respect.

Thanks to through-hiking, you learn that you can survive anything—as long as you believe in what you’re doing. However, if you want to be the kind of person who can keep your head down, obey authority even when you don’t agree, and “survive” a situation you don’t believe in, through-hiking is NOT good training.

If you want to be the kind of person who can keep your head down, obey authority and “survive” a situation you don’t believe in, thru-hiking is NOT good training.

This is not to say that I am not interested in collaborating with others or working with an inspiring leader that I trust. I just have zero tolerance now for putting up with someone else’s bullshit unless their vision, goals and values align with my own.

So, it seems that through-hiking ruined my ability to be patient with bad leadership and suffer through a situation that’s not working—which makes me far less adaptable to the “real world” than I was before.

But what it DID do is show me that I am capable of directing my own life. Because of the confidence I gained from thru-hiking, I know that I don’t need to stay in a situation that is not aligned with my beliefs and needs. By letting go of what was comfortable and safe to throw myself into a challenge that I believed in, I learned to put aside fear and complacency in the name of growth. 

So, it seems that I took the wrong path (or maybe just a detour) after finishing the AT. Oh well. The right direction is soon to unveil itself. Here’s to having the newfound space to find my “white blazes” again!

*    *    *

How can you make space in your own life for opportunities that are more aligned with your values, interests and needs?

Here is a video I made towards the end of my thru-hike in which I contemplate what “white blazes” I will follow upon returning to the “real world.”

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