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  1. #1

    Default Leaving a Spouse at Home

    Not that this would only apply to women, but has anyone thru hiked while leaving a significant other at home? I'm sure people do it all the time. I'm thru hiking the AT with a friend next spring and I am leaving my significant other at home. I am not worried about us making it through the separation. My concern is how to deal with missing someone without it detracting from your hike too much. I know there will be times that it's a focus for me, but I don't want to miss my hike by being somewhere else mentally. Trying to be as prepared as possible. I know everyone is different. I'm just wondering how you dealt/deal/plan on dealing, how often did you talk, did they visit/section hike with you? Any advice is welcome. Thanks
    "I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out til sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." -John Muir

  2. #2

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    For some reason I always seem to end up hiking with older, married woman on the AT. None of them seemed to miss their hubbies too much. I think a lot depends on how dependent each is on the other and how supportive the spouse is to the hike. If your S.O. is involved in the hike by doing mail drops, keeping track of your progress, updating your journal and the like, that can be a big help. Usually they arrange for a meet up several times along the way.

    I've seen people, guys and gals, get off the trail because each time they talk to their spouse they get a guilt trip for being away instead of loving support. It also depends on how much your enjoying the hike. If your not have a good time it's a lot easier to get homesick.
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  3. #3
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    Why is this an issue specific to women? Short answer to your question: cell phones are a godsend in terms of keeping up with loved ones at home.

  4. #4
    GoldenBear's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Somewhat similar situation

    My wife didn't take a thru-hike, but she was overseas, in the island nation of Malta, as a Fulbright Scholar for the 1994-5 academic year. There was no internet in Malta at that time, and phone calls to there cost $1.50 A MINUTE, so we went about seven months with barely hearing each other's voice.

    What helped a lot was her making a list of all the monthly household chores that she handled, but that I would have to take care of in her absence. With the practical taken care of, the emotional was a lot easier to handle.

    Emotionally, it hurt A LOT MORE than we expected -- we both had moments of literal pain at not being with the other.
    What helped here was getting anything from the other -- just a postcard could lift my day. So take along some stamps and be willing to send some "Greetings from where-ever" cards -- they're cheaper than anti-depressents.

    This also makes a cell phone pretty much a must-have for you. When I now hike The Trail on my own, I usually give her a call just before I drift off to sleep. I've found Verizon{R} service is pretty good at many places, so you may have to switch carriers. Just make certain that your SO is aware that coverage is not universal, and that recharging is not always possible -- so there may be times that you simply can't make a call at night.

    Having a map of where you'll be traveling will help your SO feel like he's (I presume) along with you, so make out a few before you go. This will also help him check the weather for you, because he'll know the town to check for.

    I strongly recommend you find out what your SO is most worried about, as far as your hiking goes, so you can reassure him as you talk to each other.
    For example, is he afraid you might be attacked by a bear? Tell him each night (and you probably won't have to lie), something like, "97 days on the trail and I still haven't seen one single bear."

    If you DO run into the problem he's worried about -- or something neither of you thought about -- minimize it at most, "forget" to mention it if possible.
    For example, are you hiking in waist-deep water in Maine, because it's been non-stop rain for a week? "We've had a bit of rain up here, but nothing to worry about."

    I strongly suggest making some (flexible) plans of him meeting you at places along The Trail. This can be at a trail town, where The Trail stays close to roads (ie, Shenandoah), or just lunch in the middle of nowhere.

    Now the answer to this question will vary depending on couples, but it's best to discuss it ahead of time. If you ever reach the point of wanting to quit -- and you almost certainly WILL -- do you want your SO to "rescue" you, or to tell you buck up and keep on? Maybe you should agree to two types of "I can't take it anymore" scenarios -- one where the latter is the case, one with the former. I'll leave it to other couples on how to handle this.


    The effect on our marriage of being apart for seven months can be best summed up as, "What does not kill you only makes you stronger." We now know what life would be like if we didn't have the other at our side, and we DIDN'T LIKE IT -- so, afterwards and continuing till now, we cherish(ed) each other more than ever. She also still speaks of her time in Malta in almost estatic terms, to the point where I once had to ask her, "You did miss me, didn't you?"

    I hope you two have the same experience.

  5. #5
    Registered User Hot Flash's Avatar
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    Separated for only the amount of time it would take to hike the AT. After having my man gone for years with the military, and knowing he's in combat zones, through-hiking the AT would be a snap. At least you'd know your man isn't being shot at.

    Seriously, just take a phone.
    Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime; give a man religion and he will die praying for a fish.

  6. #6
    Registered User Koozy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KillerKarma View Post
    Not that this would only apply to women, but has anyone thru hiked while leaving a significant other at home? I'm sure people do it all the time. I'm thru hiking the AT with a friend next spring and I am leaving my significant other at home. I am not worried about us making it through the separation. My concern is how to deal with missing someone without it detracting from your hike too much. I know there will be times that it's a focus for me, but I don't want to miss my hike by being somewhere else mentally. Trying to be as prepared as possible. I know everyone is different. I'm just wondering how you dealt/deal/plan on dealing, how often did you talk, did they visit/section hike with you? Any advice is welcome. Thanks
    I had the same worries as you before my hike. Unless you have an extremely tight bond, it will be difficult. My marriage was almost put to bed because of my thru hike. If I had to do it over, I would make sure to set aside time at least once a week to talk, that way you have a designated time to be somewhere else mentally and not let it affect your hike on a daily basis. You will be enthralled by your hike in the beginning due to many aspects: new people, new places, amazing views, learning the tricks of long distance backpacking, planning logistics, daily chores, etc. Do not let it take away from your relationship at home, because at the end that's where you will return to.

    I'm from CT and the earliest time my wife could visit me was at the MD/PA line (2.5 months into my hike). It was an amazing visit, but it also made me realize how bad I missed home, and it had quite an affect on me for the rest of my hike. I believe it is important to set expectations of when you will be in contact, and once your hike begins to be open and honest about how you feel. You will not want to hear from you significant other than they want you home, but they will probably feel that way. So do all you can to make them comfortable with your absence. Again, you will be busy nonstop, but they will continue living their life and will need to adjust to living independently. Have an open, honest talk NOW, before things come out on the trail and suddenly you are caught in a dilemma. My wife did not voice up about how bad she missed me and how bad she needed my support while she was at home alone, and she went on to resent me. I felt damned if I stayed on the trail, and damned if I got off and gave up on my dream. That can be a mental mind*****.
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  7. #7
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hot Flash View Post
    Separated for only the amount of time it would take to hike the AT. After having my man gone for years with the military, and knowing he's in combat zones, through-hiking the AT would be a snap. At least you'd know your man isn't being shot at.

    Seriously, just take a phone.
    Flash beat me to it. Look at it as a deployment with a happy ending.
    Lonehiker

  8. #8

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    GoldenBear, What you recommend sounds very close to what we have planned so far. His biggest concern was that I'd be hikibg alone if I got injured. I now have a friend going with me so I think that helped a lot of his nerves. He will hopefully do a section with me in July after I take a couple days off for his sister's wedding. He also plans on meeting me at Katahdin. Postcards are a must. He will be mailing me stuff from home as I need it. I will be blogging throughout so hopefully that will help a little too. I'm leaving my 2014 AT Guide with him so he can see where I am.

    I will definitely talk to him about what to say to me when I'm hitting low points. That's excellent advice I never considered!

    I don't know if I'll call every day. I feel like it kind of takes away from the experience if I'm on the phone every day. I figure I'll want to call more in the beginning and get used to it as I go.

    Also, I know it's not a female only issue...as I said above. I'm not sure why I posted my question here, but it's probably because I am a woman and was thinking about it from that POV. I'm more than happy to hear about how men deal with missing their spouses as well. Especially if they were the ones left at home.

    Thanks everyone
    "I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out til sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." -John Muir

  9. #9
    lemon b's Avatar
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    Everybody gets homesick. Can always meet up in a larger trailtown. Or take a few days off when close to home.

  10. #10
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    My wife would love to hike, but physically is not able to anymore. It's taken a long time for her to be OK with the idea of me going out for a week-long trip. The separation is not so much an issue for me, but it is very hard on her. A week she accepts, but doesn't like. A thru hike is definitely not in the cards.

  11. #11

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    Were it me, I'd keep a diary to be presented to your significant other at the end of your hike. There's nothing wrong with missing him, and it may occupy your thoughts...and so it should. This is his time as well (away from you) make it special and inclusive rather than just dealing, it's all how you look at it....it's both of your journey. I like Golden bears advice, send post cards as well, lots and lots of post cards, and spray some of that smell good on their, with lip stick kisses. Enjoy your hike.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by GoldenBear View Post
    This also makes a cell phone pretty much a must-have for you. When I now hike The Trail on my own, I usually give her a call just before I drift off to sleep. I've found Verizon{R} service is pretty good at many places, so you may have to switch carriers. Just make certain that your SO is aware that coverage is not universal, and that recharging is not always possible -- so there may be times that you simply can't make a call at night.
    Great post, Goldenbear. Having a cell phone and using it regularly really helps. Important that the SO at home have access to the same maps and guides you're using so that he or she knows what you're talking about when you call from the trail. SO should also understand that coverage isn't 100%, so there could be days with no contact.

    A smartphone is even better at this; you can send a photo of yourself or where you've just been, which makes it "more real" for the spouse back home. Text messages can get through sometimes when voice cannot. Photos can be sent as attachments to emails or text messages. Also: don't necessarily wait for the shelter or campsite to make that call. Be opportunistic. Your best odds of a connection are on open peaks or maybe at road crossings, not in the hollows where the shelters often are.

  13. #13

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    Thank you, Rafe! I will definitely send him random pix along the way. I'll have to check my cell carrier's service coverage. Any idea if there is a provider that works better than others along the trail?
    "I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out til sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." -John Muir

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by KillerKarma View Post
    Thank you, Rafe! I will definitely send him random pix along the way. I'll have to check my cell carrier's service coverage. Any idea if there is a provider that works better than others along the trail?
    Having just received this month's Verizon bill.... I hate to say this, but it does appear to be Verizon.

  15. #15
    GoldenBear's Avatar
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    Thumbs up The answer is simple

    > Any idea if there is a provider that works better than others along the trail?

    I resisted getting a cell phone for years, not really seeing any reason for it. I broke down and decided to get one ONLY so I could talk to my wife while I was on The Trail. I looked for discussions here on Whiteblaze on that exact topic before making my choice, and the (pretty much) unanimous viewpoint was for Verizon.

    I make absolutely no claim that Verizon would be the better in any other category -- price, customer service, flexibility, ease of upgrade, etc, etc, etc.
    But, since I was looking ONLY for trail coverage, that's what I went for.
    I estimate I can make a call about half to two-thirds of the times I try. Bizarrely, I've learned to NOT try when I'm crossing a highway, but to instead wait till I'm on a ridgeline.

  16. #16

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    I think it all depends on the personalities involved. I left my wife and three kids at home while Ithru hiked. (kids were 4, 9, and 12 at the time) It worked for us and adventures were had onboth sides. But I know of lots of folksthat quit because they miss whatever is going on at home. If you’ve been married for any length oftime, I’d say deep down you already know if it’ll work for your particularsituation.

  17. #17

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    I also bought my wife an IPad before I left so we could Facetime allong the way when I could get wifi. Both she and the kids said it helped that we could actually see each others faces every now and then.

  18. #18

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    I have Sprint now and I'm up for an upgrade/contract renewal. I'll have to shop around a bit. I left Verizon to save money and keep unlimited data. I need to find a balance between coverage and cost it seems.

    Hoping to Facetime/Skype when I get the chance. The rest of the family is used to that part at least. My brother lived in China for a while and that's how we kept in touch. I was thinking about making short videos to send when I have service. It could be cool to share a nice view or something with him when I'm wishing he was there.
    "I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out til sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." -John Muir

  19. #19

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    My husband was my number one cheerleader and fan throughout my 2013 hike. We talked (almost) every day for a check-in, some calls longer than others. There were occasional days with no cell service, but that wasn't a big deal. I kept an online trail journal (www.trailjournals/LadyGrey) which helped him to keep up with my progress. He flew to meet me in Hot Springs for the first time, and we traveled into Asheville, which was a fun zero day. He then met me again at the PA border, where a trail angel kindly invited myself, spouse, son, and 4 other hikers to stay for a few days. We then spent a weekend off trail in MA/southern VT, he drove to Gorham, NH for a night, and ultimately picked me up in Baxter State Park along with my hiking partner at that time. I think a real plus was that John had the chance to meet some of my hiking buddies, who were primarily men, and he enjoyed them all. Hiking was (and is) my dream, not his, and his passion is motorcycle trips. This hike was a good thing for our almost 30-year marriage, and we've had great discussions about how to best support each others dreams. For us, it was a good thing, and not that big a deal for our relationship.

  20. #20

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