View Full Version : Life change?

08-03-2003, 14:55

I'm 47 and tired of my job and where I live (northern NJ).
I have always been a hiker, although not all that many backpacking trips (mostly day hikes).
I have considered leaving it all to hike the AT for several years, but never as serious as I am getting now.

If I were to thru-hike the AT, I would start in GA in early March 2004.
I would be quitting my job and leaving my apartment here in NJ.
I have some money saved so I think I can swing it financially.
My plan is to find a job up in New England when I'm done.

Many would say that I'm crazy, but being single and with no family to support, it's a lot easier to think about this at any age.

I have been in electronics as a sr. technician for a long time, but now trying to get into IT, and am studying at home for MCSE.
I am planning to continue those studies until I start my trail bid, and to pick it up again when I get done.
But of course I will need a place to live, and thus a job.

With the economy in the dumps and finding nothing at all in a NH paper I picked up last weekend while hiking Mt. Washington for Seek the Peak (Mt. Washington Observatory fund raising event) I do not have high hopes of finding anything good when I get off the trail.
However, being that it would be September when that happens, maybe places would be hiring for Xmas. I could work at Radio Shack for example. And study the MCSE at the same time.

I guess my biggest fear is that I might start out my hike feeling the freedom of not having an 8-5 to go to every day, and getting away from the congestion of the NYC suburb I live in. But as I get closer to a glorious finish at Katahdin I might also lose some of that joy thinking that I will have to be looking for a job in a few days, and become depressed.

It will be difficult to give up the relative security of a full-time job and a warm dry place to live for the uncertainty of the trail.
But then others have done it. I'm just not sure whether it's the right thing for me right now. I have about 7 months to make that decision.
I know such a life change would be a lot easier if I were a lot younger and not so accustomed to making a decent living.
But being so unhappy where I am, I am beginning to feel that I have nothing to lose but my unhappiness.

If you have or know someone who has taken this route at about my age, I would really appreciate the input.



steve hiker
08-03-2003, 16:13
I would encourage you to do it. The one theme that keeps reoccurring in all the AT thru-hiker journals I read is that their months on the trail changed them permanantly and for the better. They realize how few material things you need to be happy, and are no longer concerned much with financial "security."

Check out "On the Beaten Path: An Appalachian Pilgrimage"
by Robert Rubin. In midlife he left his senior editor's job and did the AT. The book is very honestly written and tells of the changes his thru-hike had on him.

Also very good is: "As Far as the Eye Can See"
by David Brill. He tells of the different values he discovers as he hikes from Georgia to Maine. Very well written, and probably my favorite AT book of all.

There's a good online book also in this theme, which I printed out in chapters and read like a regular book: "Then The Hail Came," by George Steffanos. Very good and humorous.

08-03-2003, 16:17
Thank you very much for your encouragement.
I'll be sure to check out those reads you recommended.


steve hiker
08-03-2003, 16:28
There are also a few threads in this theme in this forum and others. Don't remember the thread titles but very good reading. Others confirm the same thing. Check out the older threads.

Incidentally, I'm also thinking of chucking my career, which I detest (law) and doing a thru-hike. Don't really care what I do afterward, as long as its closer to the earth and out of the city. Maybe hire on in the Pacific Northwest at an organic vegetable farm, who knows.

08-03-2003, 22:17

You are making some big life changes. Having already done a MCSE once and having to redo it, I realise how much work is ahead of you if you are not currently working with IT.

I would suggest www.cramsession.com as a good start. Also if you want some brain dumps etc give me a bell.

However in my experince what ever you do for work will not compare to trail. The most amazing thing you can do! I really couldn't explain just how wonderful it was.


08-03-2003, 23:00

08-04-2003, 00:49
I'm at loose ends in my life also and would like to do a long-distance charity hike..but can't just take off due to health problems(eye surgeries), invalid mother, and finances. I find fulfillment in the work I do but don't have a full-time job with benefits right now. At the back of my mind is always, "I want to get out there a lot more/longer." For right now it has to wait, although I have plans running through my head. You do sound like you're in a pretty good place to at least seriously investigate it, and hopefully go for it!! Guess what Robert Rubin does now--he's editor at the Appalachian Trail Conference, sounds like HE found a better job after his hike!! Best of luck to you.

08-04-2003, 08:24
FWASSNER, I worked in the IT industry for 14 years and resigned 2.5 years after completing my thru-hike to take a job in the non-profit sector for half the pay I was making. I was 39 when I finished my thru-hike, and I have a wife and 4 kids. If I can do it, ANYONE can.

Bear in mind that if you haven't done a lot of foot work with regard to changing your life before a hike, you may be in for a big letdown after completing a thru-hike (if you make it - the odds are against you) or dropping off the trail. You'll never know though if you don't try.

The fact of the matter is that the AT isn't going to solve any of your issues, nor is it the only way to segue into a new chapter of your life. It's one way that seems kinda romantic.

Having lived in your part of the world for 41 years (until this past April) I can tell you that it'll be a nice change. I got tired of the rat race, and finally gave up. The rats won. I'm better off having come to that conclusion. Chattanooga, TN is much nicer than Metro NY (excepting the cultural scene). If I had my way, I would have relocated to New England. My wife wanted closer to her parents who live in Atlanta. After she supported me in a thru-hike, it was time to support her in the relocation.

Best of luck!

Little Bear
(formerly of Warwick, NY)
GA-ME 2000

08-04-2003, 21:22
Thanks all for the good advice and encouragement.

I do realize that I will not enjoy my hike if I "leap before I look".
I don't want to put myself into a situation where I'm nearing Katahdin and all excited about finishing a monumental task when I have another to look forward to <g>.
Finding a job in New England could prove to be more than I bargained for.

I am thinking about my options.
I have actually considered trucking. I do like to travel, and would love to see the country. But unfortunately I've had it with driving.
I have already sworn to myself that next trip I take to Vermont or NH will be by train.
I think I would get really bored driving anything for a living, although I do have to admit there are lots of jobs for drivers of all sorts. Although, all that said I think that long distance trucking is about the only kind of driving I could actually consider doing for a living... for a while anyway.
It might be a good thing to have as a fallback plan if nothing else bears fruit.

I have also been toying with the concept of opening up a small shop in New England. Maybe an outdoor type store. Problem with that is competition with EMS and other huge chains. It's hard for the small guy to compete when the large stores can always undersell you.
Then, there's the service one gets from the small store. That's got to be worth something.

I don't really know why I'm interested in IT work. About the only thing I can say is that I've always been excited about computer technology and networking. But perhaps only as a hobby. Make it 8-6 and weekends, and I may sing a different tune.
Don't really know why I want IT when I'm already complaining about deadlines and schedules.
But no matter, the MCSE studies are good brain food <g>.

Perhaps the trail is what I really need to sort things out.

08-04-2003, 22:20
I think much can be learned from time on the trail. But, I wonder if "life decisions" can really be sorted out while on a thru-hike. In one of the books I'm now reading, the thru-hiker said that he quickly found out that he was completely preoccupied with the actual hike. It required most of his energy and he really didn't spend much time in deep thought about his life decisions. He would often risk falling if he didn't carefully watch where he was stepping.

I suspect that might be true for me, too. I once thought I could make a very difficult career decision while on a backpacking trip in the Rocky Mountains. Before I knew it, the hike was over and I was just as confused as when I left. Without getting too philosophical, most likely the answers already reside in your soul. Just listen to what it is telling you and learn to trust your intuition. I wish it was easy to do as it is to say (or write).

I guess the most important thing is to enjoy your hike and to learn through your experiences as they come. As they say, "Be here now." Enjoy the journey. Keep it real....etc.

Best of luck.

Mike Drinkuth
08-05-2003, 09:18
I'm a 29 year old video producer from atlanta and i'm hiking in 04. I am in a similar boat. I've been running the rat race in atlanta for 8 years now and its gotten me nowhere. My office even offered me a leave of absence long enough to hike the AT and I thought about it (not for too long but) then I declined. I'm totally floating on my own once I start the trail and i'm pretty freaked out. Still, I know it's what i'm supposed to do. This is getting me nowhere. I like the CDL idea! I'm going to look into that one I think.

This is a vague reference but ever hear of Bobby McFerrin? ("dont worry be happy" guy) His thing is that he almost never lets his music be recorded these days. He's doing a project called Circlesongs. (Actually there is one album but that's not the point) He said in an interview that "There's enough music in the world, in everyday life, to never have to repeat the same song over...never" He does every song differently every time he does it...always. That's a good lesson. There's enough opportunity, choices, and good energy, in life to never have to worry about being tied down to anything as long as you are somewhat practical. Just a thought.

squirrel bait
08-05-2003, 09:42
Go for it. I agree with the others. Enjoy your hike you will never forget it. I hiked north of Cripple Creek CO thinking I would answer some heavy thoughts and forgot all about them while tending to the basics of hiking. Mail yourself some gear a couple places, pack your stuff, let these guys see your list, GO. Good luck on your hike.

08-05-2003, 11:23
Your thru-hike will change your life in ways you never imagined, whether you complete it in the ways you thought you would, or not.

That said, we are from New England, and my husband is also in the IT business. We quit our jobs in high-tech to hike the trail last year, assuming that the industry would remain lucrative. Jobs are starting to become available now, but he was unemployed for close to a YEAR (having just secured a job in the industry last week), after our thru-hike. It's just not what it used to be, but he was also determined to stick it out and find a job doing what he knew and enjoyed.

My advice would be to enjoy your hike and try not to worry about what will happen after it's over, but at the same time, keep it in the back of your head that what you want to do may not be your first choice :)

Good luck!

08-05-2003, 20:48
Thanks once more for some great advice!
I agree 100% that once I get hiking I won't be thinking much about my job anymore. It happens even on strenuous day hikes, like the one I took on Mt. Washington Jul 26 for the Mt. Washington Observatory's Seek the Peak weekend.

This may sound a bit strange coming from someone into hi-tek and electronics, but my life's dream has been railroading!
I think now that working for a small RR such as Vermont RR or maybe the N Conway scenic RR might be just the thing... until I get sick of it of course.
And by that time I could have the MCSE and go that way...

Maybe I'll just send a letter and resume to some of the smaller New England RR's before I leave for the hike. Who knows... by the time I get back there might be a letter waiting for me at "home".

Once I determine that my foot (Plantar Fasciitis last year) is not going to cause me major problems, I'll begin actually planning my hike. That should happen Labor Day weekend.

Thanks again for all the good advice and encouragement!

08-05-2003, 20:50
My advice is to go for it...Too many people get caught up in the 9-5 bull**** and most will die with very little to show for it. The reason people call you crazy is that they could never imagine such a adventure...let alone attempt it. Make your dreams a reality and remember it's never as hard as you think.

It's never too late in life to start "living". Hike the AT and you will have that experience for the rest of your life...no one can take that away from you. I cannot not stress this enough...Dreams are for suckers...and I was one of them until I decided to do something about it.

Now I live in the most beautiful country in the world, happy with my life and it only happened cause I did it, I made it happen. Make this happen for you...you can always get another job, apartment and bills to pay. Go with your gut and see what happens...if nothing else you can say you did something about your discontent. There is no failure when you try, it's when you sit around and do nothing where you fail...and ultimately die.

08-05-2003, 20:50
I would really think about seeing a foot doctor about getting the right inserts in your boots.

Have almost the same complaint....by the time I finished the AT I was in a lot of pain.

But nothing was going to stop me!


08-05-2003, 21:30
Stranger, nice post!

08-06-2003, 20:44
Stranger; Very well put. Thanks for all the encouragement!

I am where I am because I have been sitting on my a$$ for too long and making dreams.
I once heard a radio evangelist say
"We would rather suffer in our known Hell than to take a chance on an unknown Heaven".

I just finished another day in my Hell.

And I will make sure that my foot is taken care of and doesn't keep me off the trail. Right now it's not hurting me when I walk or run.
The injury was over a year ago and it feels real good when I run, so I'm hoping it will be OK with the pack. Only one way to find out...

08-06-2003, 22:14
I finished my AT hike in 2002 and wish I was out again there now. It's strange how my friends and family have related to my hiking adventure, it seems to be a mixture of envy, amazement and head scratching.

Once you are out on the AT and have "settled in" you will feel really alive. It can be tough going at times but every day is an adventure... great scenery, great comrades, great towns to visit and great nature all the way.

How many people later in life when it's too late for them, say I wish I'd done ... ?
Life's too short to have dreams without realizing them, I say go for it!

PS:- and post a journal so we can follow your adventures.

08-07-2003, 20:32