View Full Version : Encouragement from relatives

10-17-2003, 22:32

I am preparing for a March, 2004, NOBO departure and I'm puzzled at the reaction from my closest relatives about my decision to hike the AT even though I have experience and am in my thirtys.

On one hand, I have my friends who would love to be in my shoes and are constantly encouraging me and wanting to know about my plans.

On the other hand, I have my closest relatives who have the usual question, "Why do you want to do that?" But, what's worse is they always come to the conclusion, that ends with them saying, "I'm not really sure you should do that." They're not really sure why they say that, but they list bears, rain, and etc., or don't really think that hiking 2,000 miles would be much of an accomplishment.

I feel supported by my friends, but what I really want is encouragement from my close relatives. What can I tell them about how much the experience has meant to people who have hiked the AT?

Thanks for your thoughts.

10-17-2003, 23:53
Whenever I talk about a thru-hike with friends or relatives, they think that I'm off my rocker.

Lone Wolf
10-18-2003, 00:43
Bottom line. ****** what your family and friends think. You are in charge of your world. You are an individual. This is YOUR life. Sounds like your closest relatives are jealous. Get your butt on the trail!

10-18-2003, 04:33
Everyone I knew thought I was crazy, but you know what? I went anyway. So, what L. Wolf said....

Matt Pincham
10-18-2003, 09:37
I'm pretty lucky. Both my parents support my decision and are encouraging and always ask questions. All my friends are also supportive.
My Mother is never the most supportive of people. When I told her I intended to apply to join the Police, she thought I was being ridiculous...now a few months after my initial thought I have a place secured with the Metropolitan Police (London) for when i return from my Feb/March 2004 NOBO thru-hike.
Just press your ideas on your relatives and they will get used to the idea. Perhaps show them your actual plans (when you say 'I'm gonna go hike 2000 miles soon' they may dismiss it as a wish and not a plan).
If the idea doesn't grow on them, forget about them. They're not going to be the ones accompanying you so if they show such little interest, don't let it bother you.
Your AT hike has to be for you...nobody else. I know when I leave, the only person I'll be trying to impress will be myself.

Hope all your plans work out and hopefully your relatives will adapt to your wishes.

Take care

10-18-2003, 11:28
I'm very lucky in that my husband totally supports my plans to hike the AT. He has barely grimaced over the amount of money I've spent.

Perhaps he's just anxious to get rid of me???........

Sleepy the Arab
10-18-2003, 12:20
I realize I run the risk of turning this thread into a flamewar at this mention; hopefully this won't happen. Have you considered giving them a copy of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods? Most thru-hikers don't have much respect for the book (for their own reasons), however I have always described it as the book that you give your relatives to help them understand your decision to thru-hike. It is the funniest AT related book out there, and the most readable (and I've read my fair share of AT books).

Maybe this will help, maybe not. You are your own man though, and whatever encouragement you do not receive from close relatives you will surely get you first few days from Springer from people whom you may eventually consider like blood relations.

Good Luck!

Spirit Walker
10-18-2003, 12:57
Although the tone of the posts here isnít the most helpful, in a sense, Lone Wolf and company are right Ė you do have to do what you have to do. But you donít have to say screw Ďem Ė just accept that they have different priorities than you do. It isnít at all unusual for family members to have no understanding or even sympathy for long distance hiking. Remember, you pick your friends because they like the same things you do Ė family is quite different, you donít pick them, you just learn how to live with them as best you can. For the most part, they want your well-being, so they are more likely to be worried about the consequences of a long hike, whether they are thinking career consequences, financial effects, physical dangers etc. Because that isnít their world, they donít see the rewards of doing a long distance hike Ė for them, the idea of living a primitive life may seem more a punishment than a reward. I know one hiker whose South American wife was utterly disgusted at the thought of sleeping rough and doing hard labor all day, when he didnít actually have to. Others have their own biases Ė whether it be fear of wild animals, fear of strangers, worry about injury, or just worry that your job prospects will be damaged by taking time off to do something different. A few will be jealous that you are living your life as you choose, while the choices they make are so often based on fear or insecurity.

When I did my first hike, my family was supportive. After I was done, my mother admitted she had been terrified the whole time I was gone, but didnít want to burden me with her fears. A few years later, I said I was going back to hike the AT again. The general feeling was, ďWhy? Youíve done that already, why go back?Ē I explained that I wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered. (It was.) They didnít understand but they wished me well. When I got married, they thought that my wandering days were over. But I married a hiker, so it wasnít long before we began planning another hike. The family didnít believe we were serious until about a month before we left. ďOh, you mean youíre really going to go hike the CDT.Ē Well duh Ė thatís why weíve been reading the guidebooks for the past three years. We told you about it two years ago, and I donít tell my plans until they are pretty certain. When we returned, a few family members were willing to look at our pictures and slides, most found reasons not to. It hurt at first, but mostly I just accept that while they are willing to support us in principal, they still donít understand why we find long distance hiking so attractive. And to them, spending six months in the mountains just isnít something they have the slightest interest in doing. A month or so ago, my mother asked, ďYouíre not planning on doing any more long hikes are you?Ē And I had to tell her that yes, I really do plan to keep on hiking, as long as physically possible. I know she loves me, and wants me to be safe and secure, and that she doesnít understand that I would rather be living fully than living safely Ė as if that were even possible.

10-18-2003, 17:00
Thank you all for your responses to my concerns.

Hopefully, by my early March, 2004 start date, I will have instilled more confidence in them and be encouraged by their support. After all, I need to depend upon them to handle my finances and supply boxes while I'm gone. As it is, they're not the most organized and responsible bunch, but they need to understand how important this trip will be for me.


Jack Tarlin
10-18-2003, 18:31
Don't worry---your loved ones will come around whe they see how much the trip means to you. Those worried about such things as personal safety will be re-assured by your answering their questions honestly and colmpletely; those concered about your abandoning your responsibilities or career, or sqandering your education, etc., will be re-assured when they realize that this is just for 5-6 months, and that a successful trip will make you a better person for having gone.

Lastly, there are the (thankfully!) few folks who'll question your sanity, doubt your abilities or resolve, and will try and talk you out of it, or will speak with great relish about the dangers, problems, high rate of failure to complete the trip, etc.

Ignore this last group: People who have buried or abandoned their own aspirations and dreams will find a way to denigrate or demean yours. These folks make themselves feel "larger" by finding fault with you and your plans; this is simply the frustration and jealousy of the timid and the defeated.

The vast majority of the folks you know will get caught up in your enthusiasm and will support you before, and especially during your hike. Good luck!

10-19-2003, 17:51
My parents, mom in particular, had an awfully tough time accepting me taking a leave of absence from school and hiking the Trail. BJack is right thought. Once your out there people will get caught up in the excitment. My folks went nuts everytime I called and they were able to follow me on their little ATC strip map.
Unfourtunately, but fortunately, your loved ones won't walk 2172 miles with you. They won't experience the views, rain, bugs or the great folks you'll become friends with along the way. Even after I finished, plain and simple, they won't understand. Just know that they love you and enjoy the Trail with your Trailfriends and family.
The best is when my mom thought this was all out of my system and I could go back to a "normal" life. Its an addiction!

Lone Wolf
10-19-2003, 21:26
A-Train nailed it.

10-19-2003, 21:52
Originally posted by grant-cuz
I feel supported by my friends, but what I really want is encouragement from my close relatives. What can I tell them about how much the experience has meant to people who have hiked the AT?

Grant -
Your problem is something that most of those who have hiked the AT have faced. Not everyone handles it well. :(

Keep in mind that they ARE family - and unless you're gonna disown them, you'll have to live with them after you get off the Trail. So telling them where to put it and which way to rotate isn't the best solution.

I'm gonna make this short - this was one of the problems that was discussed in the Thruhiking Papers - a four-part series of which appeared in the ATN earlier this year. But that was an abridged version. If you want the full version of the part that applies specifically to your question, go to:

The Thruhiking Papers are somewhat dated - but still contain a lot of good ideas.

Good luck.

Rain Man
10-20-2003, 01:36
Originally posted by Lilredmg
I'm very lucky in that my husband totally supports my plans to hike the AT. He has barely grimaced over the amount of money I've spent.

Perhaps he's just anxious to get rid of me???........

Oh my!!! I'll have to talk to the boy!!! LOL

But truly, Mary, I'm planning my next short section hike in GA in November, most like 3 or 4 days and mostly liked around the weekend of the 8th and 9th. At least one other hiker will be going, perhaps more. Are you interested?

And ... "it's easy!" LOL

P.S. I have several alcohol stoves to show you now! :)

Rain Man

10-20-2003, 07:22
"And ... "it's easy!" LOL"

Oh sure I've heard THAT before...... LOL

I'd love to go with you, unfortunately, I don't have a bag for cold weather camping. I also don't have the proper clothing although I suppose I could wear cotton........

Email when the time gets closer, say the end of Oct. and I'll see what my situation is like then.

Thanks for the invite.

Talk to you soon.

squirrel bait
10-20-2003, 09:56
Grant Cuz you are joining a new family whose roots are embedded in yours and theirs. Family is family, however you define it, I'm sure they all wish you well and support you. Good luck on your hike.

10-20-2003, 11:01
I did not have this problem. My parents were 100% supportive. My dad would have loved to come along, but his back and knees are long since past the point of doing strenuous miles up and down mountains, too much ligament and cartilage damage. My mom has also been a hiker in the past, and was entirely behind the adventure.

While I often agree with Lone Wolf, I can't say I agree with the attitude of his post. Don't get into an adversarial relationship with your family over your hike. Go ahead and do it with, or without their support, but don't get into a fight over it.

There are many books and videos out there that can help you explain the At and the AT experience to them. I'm no fan of Bill Bryson and there are huge holes in his understanding of the AT and the AT experience, but there are many other books that get at it much better. Just go to the ATC's online Ultimate Trail Store and pick a couple out of the bookstore section.

Concerns over safety are unfounded. The crime rate on the AT is virtually non-existent. Your chances of being victimized by human beings is somewhat larger than being attacked by wild predators or snakes, and your chances of being attacked by a human are pretty much non-existent.

As far as being alone is concerned, you won't be. Your first night out you'll make friends at the shelter. Heck, you might end up making friends as you hike up to the mountain. The fact of the matter is that the very act of attempting a thru-hike instantly gives you a major point of common interest with other attempting thru-hikers. I can't say that all your friendships will be forever, but I guarantee you that the other thru-hikers around you will look out for you just as you will look out for them. There is a real thru-hiker community on the trail. Sort of an extended gypsy family. You may not LIKE everyone you share the trail with, but you WILL look out for them and they for you. That's a promise.

Lone Wolf
10-20-2003, 11:11
I agree my original post was gruff but if you're over 18 you're free to do as you please. How many people go to college cuz their parents want them to? Grant-cuz is in his 30s. It's HIS life not his relatives. His rellys probably hate their mundane lives.

10-20-2003, 15:47
not all of us even like our families....

and could care less what they think or do...


10-21-2003, 09:50
I have been section hiking since 97, hiking solo since "a long time ago" every year when planning my next trip, family and friends start with the: 'By yourself, ARE YOU NUTS?" type speeches. I just smile & say "YES I am, why do you ask?" :D

Lately, some have changed to "I wish I could go" either way, I don't care. My wife now supports me totally, even asking what section is next. Mayhaps she too is trying to get rid of me :eek:


10-21-2003, 10:41
When I first mentioned it they though it was a joke - pipedreams that will never happen. By the time we bought the plane tickets they realized it was for real and were very supportive. It would certainly be difficult to do it without their support - that being said - do what you want. Maybe they will learn some things about life through your experience.

Flash Hand
12-15-2003, 02:48
Bottom line. ****** what your family and friends think. You are in charge of your world. You are an individual. This is YOUR life. Sounds like your closest relatives are jealous. Get your butt on the trail!

:clap :clap AGREED TO IT!!! Its my world and I can do what I want, and this is not Iraq. Its America where everyone is entitled to make a free choice.

Lil Allan :banana