View Full Version : Thru-hikes

08-14-2003, 12:20
I'm curious, Ive seen a few posts recently from others about quiting their job to do a thru. How many here actually quit their job to do a thru, and, did you have another job or options lined up for when you were done. I'll have to quit the best paying job Ive had to do a thru next year( I'm also selling my house-no, not just to do a thru).. May have to wait till 05 but I hope not.
Also, what line of work did you do? I work in a lab handling chlorine and make bleach. I don't have anything lined up,but, I also don't want to do this type of work in the future. Lot's of respons. and dangerous.

08-14-2003, 13:02
I'm thinking about putting myself in a similar situation.

When we hiked in 2001 my GF (wife now) and I had just graduated (me from grad school, her from undergrad) and I had a jobed lined up. I was lucking, in that I was looking for a job about 4 months before the job market tanked. I had multiple offers, and was able to get a promise from an aerospace company to take me on in october of 2001 in the exact place that i wanted to live (boulder, co). Well, my wife got injured (Morton's Neuroma - if we had understood it at the time we could have take a month off, gotten insoles, and kept hiking, but we had no idea what was doing it), and we got off in June. When I was on my house hunting trip in august they tried to resind my offer. I told them "NO WAY! I can't find a job in this market!" Luckly my wife's aunt is a laywer here in colorado, and she wrote a nasty letter asking for a couple years worth of salary. They changed their minds. The job has been wonderful, and I LOVE colorado!

But we want to hike in 2005. I am going to ask nicely for a leave of absence. Women get it all the time to have kids. I'm hoping they will understand, and I won't be in the same situation that I was in that last time. But it can happen. It's a risk worth taking if you ask me.

We are keeping our house. It's a big monthly payment, but it is worth it to have somewhere to go after the trail. That was the biggest thing when Ball tried to tell me that they weren't going to take me on. We had no where to base out of to find the next job. Would have had to move back with the parents. Not a great prospect.

Well, good luck. It's totally a leap of faith. But I feel that it is something that is worth it. Who knows, maybe you (and I) won't want to come back to the same line of work. Instead do something like work at a camp, or forestry, or something...

Gravity Man

Mike Drinkuth
08-14-2003, 13:19
Im in multimedia in atlanta and i'm cutting all ties next april when I start. I'm an all or nothing kind of guy and i've been in this stupid rat race for over 7 years now and quitting next march will be one of the sweetest things i've ever done. Am I nervous...YES! Might I be making a mistake? Yes...but I don't think so. I could sit on my ass and keep on plugging away at the industry i'm in making a little bit more money each year or let go entirely and try something different after the trail.
I always lay up and play it safe...not this time.
Life's too short.

08-14-2003, 21:56
i quit my job, moved out of my apartment, left behind everything i knew and was standing on springer mountain 12 days after i decided i was going to hike. i didn't look back and i didn't look forward. i just took it one day at a time.

08-15-2003, 07:35
I took a 9 month leave of absence and used the window after my hike to complete my Undergrad degree after going to school nights for 20 years. I took advantage of an educational leave-of-absence, and was able to retain my health benefits for my entire family for about $50 a month. That's what ya call a loophole. We also made a lot of decisions in the years prior to my hike that put us in the position to do it (sold our house, we were caretaking a friends farmhouse for a song). It was still nearly financial suicide for me, but we survived. Between lost salary and expenses, the hike cost me over $60,000.

Fast forward to now... I resigned my job of 19 years with Verizon this past April to take a job in the non-profit environment. I finally enjoy going to work, and I'm working on trail issues every day.

For me it was a process, cause it had to be. Others who are single or are financially independent (or carefree) might be able to do this with a snap decision. That would not have worked for me.

If anyone wants to email me privately for more info, you are welcome to do so.

All the best.

[email protected]

08-15-2003, 08:33
I quit with the understanding that if the company still existed when I got back, I could come back. I did.

My wife was givena leave of absence and her employer even gave us health insurance!!!

We both worked for small companies.

Blue Jay
08-15-2003, 12:47
The only thing we truly own is time. Do you want to trade it for mere money? Do you want to use it to truly be alive? It's your choice, most people trade it for money, then look back and say "what the blank was I thinking".

08-15-2003, 13:31
There's a great book entitled "Your Money or Your Life". If you're looking at reordering your priorities, that might be a good place to start. "Voluntary Simplicity" is another book that might help.

08-15-2003, 14:13
I'm quitting my job to thru-hike. I'm a software engineer and with this tech downturn who knows if i'll be able to get a job when I get back. But, it certainly helps that I have an understanding wife who will continue to work and pay the mortgage while i'm gone. Without that, i'd probably be chained to my job and could not leave.

Of course, I'm sure she'll call in the debt (and it's a big one) when i get back. ;-)

08-15-2003, 16:18
Dionalaniz, what do you plan to name the little "debt"?

who couldn't decide if it was a child or a Jaguar.

08-16-2003, 09:45
I too am thinking of packing it all in and going out there once again. I quit a job once already in 1999 (it was a crappy job) and attempted a thru hike, at age 42. Back then I had a wife who was the one who told me to just go do it and stop talking about it! I still paid my share of the bills while I was gone so there was no "debt" to call in.

I made it just shy of Pearisburg, VA before I dropped off due to my feet. Since then there hasn't been a single day when I haven't thought about getting out there and doing it again (armed with orthotics this time). The lure of the trail is almost overpowering!

So here it is 2003, I'm 46, I no longer have a wife (I guess she got tired about hearing about the A.T. 24/7 LOL) and I am poised on the edge of indecision. Shall I quit the best paying job I have ever had and give it another try, or sit here and read about eveyone else who is planning to do it, until I reach retirement? What about health insurance? What about finding another job afterwards? Aargh, the little voices LOL!

Blue Jay is right about the value of time. I just need somebody to give me a jump start....

PS. Any over the hill geezers who are planning on quitting their jobs want to go in on buying a hostel on the A.T. somewhere after we're done???

Lone Wolf
08-16-2003, 09:53
It's JUST money. You can ALWAYS get another job. Get your ass on the trail!

Spirit Walker
08-22-2003, 12:29
Every time I've done a long hike, I quit my previous job and trusted that I would be able to find something new when I returned. Usually, that works. Sometimes it was a while before (a) I was ready to get back into the 9-5 grind,
(b) I found something I wanted to do.,
(c) after my third long hike, I couldn't even get anyone to interview me. The gaps in my resume looked too ominous. When I started to get desperate, I went to an agency and explained the situation and got a job the next day.

I think most thruhikers hike without having the security of a job to go back to, though not always. Many thruhikers are at transition points in their lives anyway - sometimes just out of school or the military or retired, sometimes unhappy with their jobs or marriage, sometimes just ready for a complete change, and figuring that now is a good time to start that process. Sounds like that is where you fit in.

One important consideration when planning finances for your hike is that you may not be willing or able to go back to work right away. Save enough to cover a couple of months living expenses when you get back. It is really hard to jump back in to the bs of normal life after spending several months on the trail.

When my husband took off on his first hike, he took a 'leave of absence' but was told that if he actually was gone for six months, the job wouldn't be there when he returned. I think they expected him to be back in a month. Sure enough, when he finished his hike and went back he was told, "Sorry, we filled your job." Not a problem, since he had been burned out on the job before he left, that was part of why he went for his hike. But it took a long time before he found another job. In his field jobs were very scarce for a while. Even so, a few years later, he quit again and went for another long hike. We knew that financially there would likely be repercussions, but it was worth taking the risk in order to do what we needed to do. And, eventually, all worked out extremely well. Our retirement accounts are a bit sparse, but we have memories that are worth every can of cat food we end up eating when we're old ;-)

08-22-2003, 13:15
I'm curious what line of work you both are in?

I'm in aerospace. It'll be interesting to see what my company says when the time comes. I hope they will be cool with it. I see a lot of people that have left and come back. They left for other jobs, but I don't see a big difference there. My only fear is that I will end up on a project that will insist that I'm needed to make it happen, and if I leave it will all fall apart. In that case I might piss people off if I leave. So I am already safeguarding against that...

Gravity Man

Blue Jay
08-22-2003, 13:31
When you get back DO NOT mention that you were hiking during that time period. You were "self employed" (make something up). To Corporate America it would be better if you murdered someone and were in jail, than doing something unrelated to greed and money. At least if you were in jail you were forced not to have your nose to the grind stone. I make a point not to lie to humans but immortal corporations lie to us all the time, in fact to them it is an art form, so feel free to return the favor.

08-22-2003, 13:43
I disagree with that. Both my wife and I have had positive feedback when applying for jobs (me before my hike, her after). It tends to start the conversation on a common baises. Of course there is the occasional befuddled look, but then you get to explain. In fact, you might even want to put it right there on your resume to explain the gap. But I've never had a bad response to our hiking. I think that most companies do get that. And besides, in this economy, there are now a lot of people out there with a 9 month hole in their resume.

Gravity Man

squirrel bait
08-22-2003, 14:23
I work for two sisters. One is a vice president of a small insurance company where I have to put in 32 hours a week. The other owns a fine dining establishment and I do the off premise catering. Come spring its north bound. They say the jobs will be there when I get back, so be it. I have no idea what really to expect but if it's half as much fun as planning then I'm all about it. Lil redmg sent me an excellent soda can stove and it's going to get used. Go for it. Pack it, hoist it and hike. Good luck.

08-22-2003, 14:56
Tracey M : What area do you work in? I think that most companies realize that people can leave them at any time. They have learned to expect some degree of job hopping from their experience in the late 90s. I believe that they would be happy to see someone come back, as there is very little training for them to do. That's they way it is in my company. Sort of that "the devil you know" attitude when it comes to hiring people back. But it all depends on your relationship with the hiring manager. If you left the impression that you abandoned them, then your chances are not nearly that good. Also depends on how highly skilled you are. I know someone that left here for a startup company with 2 days notice. The hiring manager swore he would NEVER hire her back. Sure enough, she's back working here after the company went south.
Also, a lot of people take 9 months off to have a kid. Or even a year or two. No one questions that. Of course, I haven't ever tried to leave and then come back. But once you have the foot in the door, its a lot easier to get it to swing back open.

Of course there are plenty of situations that I can see where you simply can't get your job back. But there is always another employer, and you should be prepared for that situation, with emergency funds to back that up. It's probably possible to take 9 months to a year to get a job now. That's a lot of extra funds you need to feel safe hiking...

Gravity Man

08-22-2003, 15:08
As an information technology executive, I do quite a bit of interviewing. I would be more inclined to appreciate a 6-month gap in employment taken to fulfill a life goal more than a résumé that has the person suddenly starting up their own consulting firm (which typically means they couldn't find a full-time job).

Of course, having a second or third extended gap in employment would get me thinking that the job is probably low on this person's list of priorities.

08-22-2003, 15:25
Straight from the horses mouth! Now you know who to email if you need a job in information technology too! ;)

Of course kerosene is also a hiker, so I guess that is not so fair...

Gravity man

08-25-2003, 10:39
Boy that experience sounds like a FMLA violation! What a painful employer... Gesh...

I think it might be regional. I live in Boulder, CO. Much more relaxed attitude about work. Here, people really do work to live. Sure, when we have to work long and hard hours it happens, but when you need time off, you get it.

Gravity Man

Spirit Walker
08-25-2003, 15:57
Do you really want to work for a company that would consider a long hike a waste of time?

My husband is in astrospace engineering - he put his thruhikes on his resume, and found it a nice starting point for conversation. At one point a recruiter told him to hide his hiking past, but he realized that any company that hired him would be hiring the whole person - and he was a thruhiker as much as an engineer, and it was only fair that they understand that going in.

I'm a secretary - it was very easy to quit those jobs, and usually easy to find new ones.

It is a risk quitting in mid-career. The biggest risk is the fact that you may not want to go back to the b.s. you left behind. You may find you like long distance hiking a lot more than you expected and that the first hike will be followed by a second and maybe a third.

It is easier if you are retired -- but who wants to wait that long? Life is uncertain. You may be dead long before you are ready to retire, or dealing with physical issues that will preclude long hikes, or family issues or financial issues . . . Who knows?

When Jim's younger brother had his second heart attack, we knew that there was no point in waiting until retirement to go on a second long hike. It may be socially irresponsible (or so I've been told) but I would rather live with little money and lots of memories than the opposite.

08-25-2003, 17:55
That's interesting. I'm in aerospace too. Ball Aerospace in boulder. Where does your husband work?

I wonder if aerospace isn't more tolerant of this since you are constantly working on different projects. It's not like you fill a single roll for a company that is need for the company to survive, but rather work on a string of projects, often never even seeing the project to the end...

So did he have a problem finding a job after he got done? (Never mind. I reread your previous post, and realized you answered this question...)

Gravity Man

Spirit Walker
08-26-2003, 10:56
Gravity Man - you're right, your business is project oriented, and that does help. (Makes for a certain amount of insecurity too, but then, that's the norm these days in corporate life.) He was working for GE before his first hike, moved on to Allied Signal (which he quit for back to back CDT and PCT hikes) and now is with ITT. He'll try for a leave of absence when we go hiking in 2006, but if that isn't possible, we'll go anyway. Both times he quit he had to delay his hike because of launch delays, but once the spacecraft was successfully off the ground, there was no reason to stick around. I'll also ask for a leave of absence if I am still at my current job, but I'm not expecting much. It can be nice to go back to a familiar environment after a hike, but if I were really happy here, I wouldn't be dreaming of the day I can leave.

08-27-2003, 08:10
Thanks for all the responses.
My mind is made up out of here in 03
My divorce is final, my job sucks(pays good though), and life IS way too short( No one gets up in the morning expecting to die that day: car wreck, heart attack,etc). As I stated in another post, no, this is not a mid-life crisis. I'm not looking for a thru to solve, fix, or figure anything out. A thru is one of 2 things I've always wanted to do and I believe achieving life long goals is worth more than money. The other is move to Alaska- hence the AK in Ga>Me>AK. This seems like about the best timing so far in my life to pull this off. Money should not be an issue as I think I'll have enough to live 2yrs even if I don't find work. Never been in that position before. I do worry about burning bridges(coming back to my old job is not an option, they won't rehire) and depleting retirement resources,but, as Lone Wolf stated," It's only money." Besides, there's enough people on this site, surely someone would let you pitch a tent in their back yard and live, right??LOL However, I still need to sell my house by Dec/Jan to leave in Feb. Hope to have it on the market by Sept.20. This would be the only thing to stop me from leaving in 03. Anybody want to buy a house in Tampa???:) :-?

08-27-2003, 10:18
Man - that's awesome. Selling the house and everything. I felt all bold about quitting my job (which also sucks but pays good). But selling the house too! Man, that's gutsy! I hope it all works out for you ga>me>ak.

08-27-2003, 13:00
Hell, if I can find another job I can always find another house,right?.
I'm not selling the house just to do a thru...if I'm going to be up north for awhile, it didn't make sense to keep the house here and ask my family to keep it up while I rented it out. Besides, that's where some of the vagabond money will come from. You can bet your a$$ that if I want a room, food,etc I'll get it on the thru. When I finish, I plan on cruising across the good ol USA and checking out the places I've always wanted to see on the way to AK. I've always done things for others, but this one is for ME
As said, it could all be gone tomorrow. I have a friend that woke up one morning and couldn't walk. Still can't, and they don't have a clue whats wrong. She' almost died about 3 times since then. She is house bound now.
When I lived in Ga, I lost a wife,house, and job in less than12 hours. The very next day, I was run over by a semi... all 2 days before Christmas!!! Meeeerrry Christmas
I learned 2 things
1) Never say it can't get worse
2) You never know what the next 24 hrs may bring you... much less the rest of your years to come

Besides, as long as your alive...you'll eat and sleep somewhere , may not be where you want but somewhere :mad:

Flash Hand
12-15-2003, 05:08
hey ya all, this thread is very interesting. People here have more understanding on what nature of life is really important to them. I got laid off twice from the same aerospace company. The first laid off was considered a long break for me but the bills eat me up, then second laid off because my attendance fails to meet their expectation but school was a good excuse for laid off instead of termination. Department Managers like me and will welcome me back but in a long run, laid off in the future would be tough if the economy become better. I rather to be laid off than quitting a job because I can get unemployment insurance benefits and after that, will receive disability benefit, of course, deaf is a permament disability.

I quit school because the loss of job cause me to lost track of school work. I promise myself that I will be back much, much later. I decided that thru hike is the time. So, I went to see my family here in New England, and stay here until January, return to Arizona, surrender my truck, cut off all services, i.e pager, phone, and move all stuff in storage. And there come AT in March or April.

Then my dream of thru hiking the Appalachian Trail will be in March and after the completion ( I hope! ), travel across America and or the entire globe to see what the real world is.

I always agree with Lone Wolf, like this, it is just money. Yeah, we are very fortunate Americans that we make huge money than Costa Ricans or Haitian. Why worry if we are poor when we return. We wil always come back rich while haitian, cubans or third world won't live up the dream of being rich.

Lil Allan

12-15-2003, 10:25
Come March I am going to have to quit my job. My company (the big orange home improvement store) only allows leave of absences based on the FMLA act. So unless I am deathly hill or having a child I am going to have to resign. Of course retail work should be decently easy to find come next October.

12-15-2003, 12:58
I am (was) a software analyst for a high tech hospital information system company. I had planned my hike for over a year and in January 2003 I asked for a leave of absence. They said NO and I said I'M GOING HIKING. Was it risky?? ...sure, especially at my age. But as many others have pointed out, life it WAY too short and if I had waited until things were a little bit more secure financially I may never have thru-hiked the AT.

I'm home now, having summitted Katahdin on 10/9. I'm still not working but have an interview this week for a job making half what I was making before my hike. Part of me wishes I could get a better paying job ...but it's not exacly a booming market out here in Wyoming. However ALL OF ME is glad I made the decision to hike the AT this year. It's not about the money ...and besides, after my experience on the trail this year I have learned to value what I am doing and the people with whom I am doing it ...far more than what the job pays.

12-15-2003, 13:28
I graduated from college in December of 1996 and thru-hiked in 1997. I did not own a home or have a career so it wasn't too bad for me to take the time to thru-hike. I had saved up the money working two jobs while in school to pay for it and the few bills I did have. What changed for me was after the hike. I had planned to start law school in the spring of 98. Needless to say six months of hiking changed those plans. I could not imagine spending hours upon hours doing legal research in some law library for a career. Instead of going to law school I went back to undergraduate school (University of Florida) and got a degree in Forest Resources and Conservation. I now have a wonderful job working on a state forest in Florida. I manage the timber and recreation programs. I get up each day knowing that I can go in one of many directions (tree planting, prescribed fire, new trail establishment, trail maint, environmental education, etc, etc). Many people tell me that I was lucky to be able to thru-hike the A.T. In some ways maybe I was but for the most part it was something that I planned many years for, as many on this site are doing. All I can say is if you have the desire to do a thru-hike do whatever you can to make it happen. You won't regret it and who knows where it will lead you.

12-15-2003, 15:40
Some Inspiring Quotes Here Already!

i quit my job, moved out of my apartment, left behind everything i knew and was standing on springer mountain 12 days after i decided i was going to hike. i didn't look back and i didn't look forward. i just took it one day at a time.
The biggest risk is the fact that you may not want to go back to the b.s. you left behind. You may find you like long distance hiking a lot more than you expected and that the first hike will be followed by a second and maybe a third.
I would rather live with little money and lots of memories than the opposite After going to UMass Amherst for only 3 semesters (getting good grades by the way), I decided college wasn't for me, walked into the administrative building, and dropped all my classes. I decided I wanted to see the world. Parents flipped (but I was paying for everything by myself so they couldn't criticize too much). At the time I was a Lab-Tech at an industrial waste-water treatment plant working 20hrs/wk at $8.50hr. I caught word an Operator was leaving, crammed for a grade 5 I/M state License, and managed to pull it off. Having my foot already in the door got me the job. I must admit making $50k/yr (while living at home and having almost no bills) affords one some neat things, but it's just money.

I've payed off my college debts, helped my family out with some $, and saved a little squirrl pile. I will be quitting my job this April to spend a year traveling throughout the lower 48, Canada, Alaska, and Mexico. Of course being 21 with no wife/kids certainly makes this an easier task of seperation for me, but the consequences of not doing so are the same. I'm not really worried about what I'm going to do when I return, or if I return, but I'm thinking of getting a couple zero responsibility jobs making $8-$10/hr 70-80hrs/wk for six months and saving up for a long hike. Nice thing about dual jobs is that if one boss gets on your nerves you can give him/her the finger and walk to the next establishment down the street while still retaining the other for apartment/ramen/hot dog expenses... :p

On a side note, in high school/college I was always obsessed with financial stability in getting a degree, getting a house, getting that M3 or S4, establishing 5 weeks vacation at a good job, retiring with a golden nugget, playing shuffle board, and calling it a life. Now I don't care if I get fired tomorrow. There is always a burger that needs flipping, 6/$1 Ramen, and endless beauty I have yet to see.

12-19-2003, 02:41
To all these maybe young guys (and some older) thinking about quiting their jobs to go hike the AT, let me say that you only live once and if it's in your blood and dreams to do something that will change your life in more ways than one, go for it! You might regret it after your off the trail and your broke, maybe sponging off the folks. But you'll always have something to remember for the rest of your lifes. Don't want to sound hokey here but the places you'll see, the people you'll meet and seeing really what America is really like, is worth a few months of agony. I've have met people on the AT and surrounding corridor that have really knocked me over with their kindness and good nature. Some will give you the shirt off their back. I go out for section hiking every year and never fail to met someone that doesn't make me feel that the AT is one of the things that shows how great this country is and the people that make it. I'll be back out in April and hope to maybe meet some of you'll out there.

12-19-2003, 11:34
Amen to everything that has been said on this topic. Since my original post on this thread I found a job. No, not the best paying job in the world, but one I think I can handle. There is life after a thru-hike ...and there ARE jobs out there.

As was stated before, if a thru-hike is in your blood ...get organized and go hiking. I fretted leaving the security of a good paying job and all that vacation time as much as anyone I know (just ask my wife !!). But once I made the decision to follow my dream everything else seemed to fall in place. Believe me, the people with whom I used to work have all since said that they envy me for taking the plunge and realizing my dream. Amazing to me how many people say to me "...man, I wish I could do that", to which I answer "...if you want it bad enough, YOU CAN and some day YOU WILL".

12-19-2003, 12:18
The only thing we truly own is time. Do you want to trade it for mere money? Do you want to use it to truly be alive? It's your choice, most people trade it for money, then look back and say "what the blank was I thinking".
I think our time is limited too. Take advantage of every second.

12-19-2003, 12:57
I was fortunate enough to have made it to an early retirement and have a "non-hiking" working spouse who said, "do it." So, it was easy for me. I really admire the courage you younger people, the ones who have the self confidense and courage to "follow your dreams" so early on.

I'd like to hear from Baltimore Jack on this one...I believe he has worked hard, low paying jobs in the off season so he could hike the Trail over and over and over and......

12-19-2003, 16:30
When you get back DO NOT mention that you were hiking during that time period. You were "self employed" (make something up). To Corporate America it would be better if you murdered someone and were in jail, than doing something unrelated to greed and money. At least if you were in jail you were forced not to have your nose to the grind stone. I make a point not to lie to humans but immortal corporations lie to us all the time, in fact to them it is an art form, so feel free to return the favor.

Hmmm - I'm gonna disagree. First because if you get caught lying about something like that (your work history), you llikely won't have the job very long. So why bother starting a job that you won't have long enough to put on your resume anyway. A lot of places will fire you for lying about your work history. In fact, if you're trying for any job that's worth having, you'll be signing legal documents that give them the right to fire you if you've lied.

Second (and more importantly) because, if they have a negative attitude about what you've done, then you REALLY don't want to work there. I did what you advise - just once - and only on the advice of the headhunter that sent me for the interview. It was a bloody disaster. There was no way for me to deny what had been one of the best and most important events in my life - and there was no way they were gonna accept the validity of what I'd done. That's called a "marriage made in hell."

When I did get a job, it was with an outfit that thought what I'd done was great. I stayed there until it was time to quit so I could do another thruhike. When I finally went looking for another job, I found a place that didn't care about the thruhikes, but wanted my knowledge and experience - which is what it should all be about anyway.

Finally - and not entirely unrelated - you desperately need to understand that there's no such thing as an "immortal corporation" and that your apparent view of what corporations are, what they do and why they do it - is pure fantasy. The "corporate greed" bit has been overworked to the point of idiocy. But that's another thread for another day in another place.

12-20-2003, 09:16
This guy is worth listening to. No one owes you anything so why would you want to work for someone who doesn't "want you for who you are." Just because we have to eat doesn't mean someone else has to feed us. Only you know what you're made of and if you have the self confidence to find a job to your liking after returning from the woods. If you don't have it...don't hike.