There’s the concern over time, gear, budget, hygiene, etc… but what about those internal issues that are eating away at you? Whether you want to admit it or not, you’re probably experiencing some serious self doubt right now. Try to ignore it all you want, it won’t be overlooked. It will barrel through your brain like a flock of squawking Canadian Geese, pooping all over your dreams, aspirations and all that is sacred. Fear not, friends! It’ll be okay, and I’m here to put your mind at ease. Here are some of those common negativity loops you might be getting trapped in, and why you should just take a breather.
Exhibit A: I Have No Backpacking Experience
Once you start, you’ll be amazed to find out how many other hikers fall under this category, so don’t sweat it. Not an actual statistic, but based off of two years of experience, I’d say about 65-70% of the people I met in Georgia along the AT had zero backpacking experience. The most they had done was weekend camping trips and day hikes. Don’t stress it; you’re not alone.
Exhibit B: I Don’t Know What I’m Doing
Just about no one does. I didn’t. My husband didn’t. My new trail friends didn’t. We were like everyone else; getting our tips and suggestions from YouTube videos, books, group chats, etc. Even the ones with some experience under their belt will have a lot to learn. It will be a lot of trial and error, and you’ll also pick up some suggestions and better ways to go about things from other hikers. This whole thing will be a learning experience and by the end of it all, you’ll be backpacking like a boss!
Exhibit C: What Will Other People Think?
You’re going to make a lot of mistakes along the way, and others will likely be there to witness it. Don’t worry about it though. Like I said before, they’ll likely be making amateur errors too. The worst that will come from all of this will probably just be a funny trail name! If you run into people who are overly opinionated on how you go about things along the trail, there’s a common saying: “Hike your own hike.” Their unwanted opinions mean zilch since everyone does things differently, everyone has different preferences, and there truly is no wrong or right way. If you really love cooking and want to carry a giant frying pan with you, and someone criticizes how much it weighs; they’re not the ones carrying it, so who cares.
Exhibit D: What if I Fail?
Failure of completion will always be a possibility no matter how badass you think you are. Even if you planned you finances right, timed things well, and have all the determination in the world, injury and illness does not discriminate and can boot anyone off at any given time. Here’s a hypothetical situation. Let’s just say you start your hike and hate every second of it, or maybe you’re unable to finish for whatever reason. You can always use those funds for another adventure that doesn’t involve hiking before returning to your day job. Going back home and returning to work is pretty much the worst case scenario, which is what everyone else is already doing anyway. At least you tried, right?
Exhibit E: The Other “What ifs”
This is the one that spreads the most panic. You’re thinking of all the possible things that could go wrong. With each scenario, you prepare yourself to do some serious damage control, or you plan how to prevent it from even happening in the first place. I have some bad news, folks. Things will go wrong. There’s no avoiding it altogether, so stop trying. Focus on the things that involve your safety and work out the other kinks as you go. In hindsight, reflecting on the days where shit hits the fan make for the best stories!