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  1. #1
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    Default Getting your family on board with your thru hike

    One of the biggest challenges I've faced since I've decided to go nobo next year is getting my parents on board with my hike. I know they're especially worried because I'm a realatively young (21) female and I'll be hiking solo. I've tried to explain to them how safe it actually is, but that hasn't been very effective. I know they mean well and they're just worried about my safety. Does anybody have any advise on how to reassure them?

  2. #2
    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    Agree to carry a SPOT, and buy a token can of pepper spray for the bears.
    While searching for that unknown edge in life, never forget to look home. For the greatest edge you can find in life is to stand in the protective shadow of those who love you.

  3. #3

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    This may be a pivotal moment. When you tell them, "I am going. I would like you to support me on this, but if even if you don't, I'm still going.", the ball will be in their court. They probably still see you as about 8 years old in their mind's eyes.

  4. #4
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    As the father of a 21 year old daughter perhaps I can offer some suggestions. (No, I haven't thru-hiked, but I'm helping my 24 year old son plan for next year and with any luck I'll get to join him for some solid sections.)

    Do they understand that there's a difference between "solo" and "alone?" (My wife had this concern for our son at first, and he's 6 feet tall and just spent a year living in London working on his Master's.) Finding others with a similar start date and "meeting" them will probably help. (Check the female discussion group for possible starting partners that would probably quell some of their fears.) Likewise, older people or couples might ease their minds.

    Track down "Dixie" (search YouTube for her videos) she's a few years older than you, from Georgia, and thru-hiked solo a couple of years ago. I dare say she'd be an excellent resource for you.

    Involve them in some planning, give them some books to read or show them some videos (Stickman on Youtube has a bunch of thru-hiker interviews posted, they give a good idea of what kind of people you'll be hanging out with - many of them are solo twenty-something females.)

    Wish I could give you a recipe, but so much depends upon your relationship with them as well as your siblings (if you have any.) It's always more difficult for parents to "let go" with oldest, youngest, and "only" - Case in point, I'm nearly giddy for my 24 yo (middle child) to tackle the AT but sometimes I worry about my 21 yo going to the grocery store after dark and would have driven my oldest to the grocery store when he was the same age.

    Yes, some latent sexism comes in to play for me. I'm not proud of it, but I do acknowledge it.

    Best wishes for supportive parents and a successful hike!

  5. #5

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    Only thing I can add is that there will be plenty of other hikers out there when you camp every night. If you choose to hike with others, you can do that as well. I saw several young females start in February and they seemed to do quite well. When I was finishing up through New Hampshire and Maine, I crossed paths numerous times with a 22 year old female, Tumbleweed, who was a NOBO. She pretty much hiked by herself the entire time. She was not very fast, but would hike many hours at a very deliberate pace. She was knocking out over 20 miles every day. Was a bio-medical undergrad and looking to get into med-school. Honestly, she was a bad-ass. Few people I respected more on that trail than her.

    I was out there almost 5 months and never was afraid. There were a couple times I went with my gut and moved on because of some locals at shelters, but there were always other thru hikers around that gave me a strong sense of security. After a few states, thru hikers are like a fraternity, they will take care of each other, brothers and sisters.

  6. #6

  7. #7
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    Ash44, understand that your parents concerns are about more than your safety. You’re 21, which means you have spent the last four years getting your Bachelor’s degree, or have been working and developing trade skills, or have been adrift. Since your parents’ opposition is a deciding factor, you likely still live at home and plan to return there upon completion of the trail. So, the underlying issue may be their concern for your general well-being...is this a journey of personal development supplementing a classic education, is this interfering with an education or trade skills development track you’ve been on, or is this another train wreck on the horizon. Since you actually reached out for guidance, I get the sense you are on the more squared-away side of the equation so I will start there.
    Your folks are supportive and concerned, and this isn’t their thing. Perhaps they are more traditional or city-dwellers and they don’t get how communing with nature or undertaking a journey into the unknown is a huge opportunity for personal growth and development. Dixie’s book would be a good place to start (her vlog is that of a child growing up and you need watch many hours of video to see what a confident and squared away person comes out the other end). I simply note for you, as I have elsewhere, that I had experience during my CIA career vetting and training employee candidates and those who demonstrated maturity, determination, self-reliance, and decision-making in ambiguous situations were more competitive than those with just a formal education.
    If your folk’s concern is that this is a disruption of your professional development, skills or education, sitting down with them and explaining the aforementioned as well as presenting a plan for the future will reinforce to them that their girl is squared away, has been raised right, has a plan and, although they don’t entirely get it, is moving forward (and out of the house.
    Lastly, if this is the latest attempt at “personal exploration,” building upon years of pointless and self-destructive behavior, the trail is the worst place in the world for you. It is inundated with 20-somethings on a glide path to dependency on everything from their family, to the state, to harmful substances. It is unlikely you would be on this site or seeking advice in that instance but, seriously, if you are wanting to “find yourself” rather than further your personal development, the good you isn’t waiting in a shelter on the AT.
    Re real security, Dixie’s book and a slew of others will help you alleviate their concerns. Carry a Reach or Spot so they can travel along with you on your journey, speak to them about a communication plan, and reassure them of your ability and need to develop independence. Truth is, you won’t be alone, you will develop a tramily, and you will have more people watching out for you there than anywhere else you might go. It is part of this community, we actually do give a **** about one another...
    Please view YouTube channel “Thru-hiking with Scars” for updates on my 2018 Charity AT Thru-hike, supporting the Cancer Research Institute

  8. #8

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    Scars brings up some good points which occurred to me when this thread started. Not knowing your personal situation it's impossible for us on the sidelines to know for sure what your parents concerns really are. Being worried for your safety might cover a lot of issues besides them fearing you'd be eaten by a bear or raped by a deranged hillbilly.

    Scenario #1: You have no backpacking/camping experience, your not athletic and never showed much interest in the outdoors, then out of the blue you decide to hike the AT. You spring this on them and their like WHAT? If you are in or just completed collage you probably have an insane amount of debt and now you want them to finance a 5 or 6 month hiking trip? They don't want to hurt your feelings by saying "no F'en way" and instead fall back on the safety concerns.

    Scenario #2: You moved out of the house after high school, have been working and saving up money for this trip. You were in the Girl Scouts and went on plenty of camping/hiking trips. You have shown that you are responsible and can take care of yourself. Hiking the AT has been a goal of yours since you were 12. Well, this scenario is unlikely or your parents would have no trouble with this trip.

    Bottom line is if you haven't saved up the 6-7 thousand dollars you need to buy gear and pay for the hike on your own and have to convince your folks to pay for this adventure, good luck.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  9. #9
    Registered User evyck da fleet's Avatar
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    Good point regarding the gear and finances. If that is squared away and they are just worried of what they don't know it's easier to tackle their fears one at a time. Bears and snakes versus driving home from work or a night out with drunks on the road. The likelihood of violent crime on the AT versus frat boy trying to get you drunk at a party etc.

    if you change majors and jobs quickly and want them to finance it for you then that's a difficult sell.

    If you decide to bail in the first week or two I'm sure they'd love to come pick you up from the trail. You may may just have to get them to accept you are going to try and win them over when they see you doing it.

  10. #10
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    Educate your parents. There are web sites (start with ATC's site) books, videos and blogs galore.

    Visit the trail with them, take a walk on it, together. If only for a mile or two. Eg. up near Springer or Neel Gap.

    Have them read "A Walk in the Woods", maybe. Or something more straight-laced and factual. Many resources to choose from -- check out the store on the ATC web site.

  11. #11
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    My girls are much younger, but about all I can add is that from my perspective as a dad...right now....my job is to protect them, educate them, and raise them. I can't do those things when we are apart. My wife and I have done a couple out of town trips without them, but it is very hard for me. My job is to protect. It's the same for my son...but different too...very different.

    I know that as they get older, my job will change. At some point it will no longer be my responsibility to protect..... that is going to be a very hard transition. Very hard.....

  12. #12

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    You don't need their support or approval to do this. If you think you do, maybe you're not ready to do it yet.

  13. #13
    Registered User BuckeyeBill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bronk View Post
    You don't need their support or approval to do this. If you think you do, maybe you're not ready to do it yet.
    It is a lot easier if your parents, spouse, girl/boyfriend, partner etc support you while you take a six month vacation. For a lot of people this is a large stepping stone into adulthood and like most parents we hate to see out kids grow up.
    Blackheart

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bronk View Post
    You don't need their support or approval to do this. If you think you do, maybe you're not ready to do it yet.
    Unless she needs their money to do it. We don't know that for sure, but there is a very good chance that is the case.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  15. #15

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    Agree that if safety is a concern, the Dixie videos are a great resource.

    Might also suggest a few of the "Mighty Blue on the AT" podcasts - he has interviewed a number of solo female hikers, and did a protracted series of updates all summer as he followed one, "Attie"/Jessa, "live" from the trail as she did a 2017 thru-hike. In particular, I'd recommend podcast episode #21, where he talks with Jessa's mom pre-hike and discusses how she got comfortable with her daughter going onto the trail -

    https://mightyblueontheat.com/the-podcast/

  16. #16

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    21 yr old dont need familys permission ....

    Unless they pays the bills still

    In which case.....not ready.

  17. #17
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    Alright guys let me clarify a few things. I do not live with my parents nor am I trying to get money from them to finance my hike. I have saved up money (yes I have more than enough) working since I was 16. I am also not seeking their approval or permission. I was just looking for suggestions on easing their worries because I love and respect them. They are still a big part of my life and I want them to be able to share in my excitement and know that I will be safe.

  18. #18
    Registered User egilbe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ash44 View Post
    Alright guys let me clarify a few things. I do not live with my parents nor am I trying to get money from them to finance my hike. I have saved up money (yes I have more than enough) working since I was 16. I am also not seeking their approval or permission. I was just looking for suggestions on easing their worries because I love and respect them. They are still a big part of my life and I want them to be able to share in my excitement and know that I will be safe.
    Do what you want. You’re an adult. Already have some good suggestions here. As was mentioned, you won’t be alone. Several thousand people a year hike the AT. Hikers, for the most paart, are good people.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ash44 View Post
    Alright guys let me clarify a few things. I do not live with my parents nor am I trying to get money from them to finance my hike. I have saved up money (yes I have more than enough) working since I was 16. I am also not seeking their approval or permission. I was just looking for suggestions on easing their worries because I love and respect them. They are still a big part of my life and I want them to be able to share in my excitement and know that I will be safe.
    And do you feel like you got some useful suggestions? A number of us tried to provide substantive responses, highlighting media resources to help educate them, tools you could use for them to track your progress, and highlights of the benefits such a trip would be in your personal development.
    Please view YouTube channel “Thru-hiking with Scars” for updates on my 2018 Charity AT Thru-hike, supporting the Cancer Research Institute

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ash44 View Post
    Alright guys let me clarify a few things. I do not live with my parents nor am I trying to get money from them to finance my hike.
    That little bit of information narrows down the possible responses quite a bit. Knowing if you have any camping/backpacking experience would narrow it down farther. Do they have any specific concerns or it an undefined unease?

    Basically tell them you understand their concerns and believe you can deal with them. They either accept that or don't.

    Ignore this paragraph if you've ever been on at least a few overnight backpacking trips. If your a backpacking neophyte, going out for a few overnight trips would go a long way in showing your ready. Or finding out your not. Do some ASAP while the weather is still mild. Heck, it looks like you could be hiking on the AT tomorrow after about an hour drive.

    You do have a smart phone (right?) and with that you can be in pretty much daily contact back home. Even if it's just a quick "I'm fine" text message at the end of the day.

    It wasn't that long ago that when we went off onto the AT, no one would hear from us for weeks. Had to find a pay phone in town or mail a card.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

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