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Having the time to backpack
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Joseph Reeves

Locale: Southeast Alaska
Making the right decisions on 03/16/2010 22:16:24 MDT Print View

Another consideration is to work at what you love. It makes effort worth while and the time fly. I worked all weekend with with a group of people who were genuinely interested in figuring out ways to help the youth in their community become connected and do well in school. Aside from the "professional" satisfaction I got from the gig, I also had the opportunity to fly in a De Havilland Beaver, stay in an almost deserted lodge and travel 3.5 hours in a ferry in 20 foot seas. OK, I probably could have done without the seas, but I was able to travel and work. Got to make good choices and balance needs and wants.

De Havilland Beaver

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Making the right decisions on 03/16/2010 22:55:24 MDT Print View


You hit it on the nail. I love my job. I usually work in an office in my home. Often I can work 18 hours a day and forget to eat.

I hike and backpack, not to get away from anything. I do it because I love doing that too.

All her life, my daughter has wanted to be a teacher. And now she is one. We had many long discussion about the pay and other things. But the bottom line is that is what she wants to do. Not for the money (or lack off), but for its rewards.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Making Two Right Decisions on 03/16/2010 23:17:33 MDT Print View

The trick is to find TWO things that you like to do:

1. Your favorite becomes your hobby. Turning it into a job might just kill it.

2. Your second favorite becomes your career -- to pay for the first.

Surely we can all find two things we love to do, right? :)

John Drollette
(tradja) - F

Locale: Central Oregon
time on 03/22/2010 15:22:30 MDT Print View

I just quit and thru-hike. Sure, it's had its opporunity cost professionally, but with a simple lifestyle it works fine. Every choice is a trade off.

So far, this approach has made room in my life for a Triple Crown, an extra PCT hike, JMT, TRT, a few multi-month bikepacking trips, and a third PCT thru this year. The Mrs. wants to do the AT soonafter in order to finish off her Triple.

Two summers ago I was struck by lightning on a local overnight hike. I was 34. Everything is fine, but in the hours and days following I didn't reflect on "I wish I had spent more time at work".

Two years ago, after beating out 2000 other applicants for the position, the job offer of my dreams was withdrawn because of a minor mistake in my past (no, not an arrest!:-P ) I keep looking, but these trips provide me a level of achievement that may not be available to me professionally anymore.

Edited by tradja on 03/25/2010 10:42:11 MDT.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
hey on 03/23/2010 14:09:53 MDT Print View


and i bet you have no kids, just a guess. =) i sish my wife was a hiker, but physically(shape) and mentally(toughness) shes in no condition to do any sort of long hike. Lightening her load has helped alot though.

What does your daughter teach? What age range (hich school, college, etc)

Im considering being a teacher. There are trade-offs, but you get great insurance and hella sweet retirement. Well i guess i shouldn't speak for all teachers, we have fort knox base here, their federal, so if i teach for them i would get higher pay, the best insurance, and a sweet retirement, and summers off if i choose. whats not to like? Does she work federal or state?

Edited by isaac.mouser on 03/23/2010 14:15:45 MDT.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Making the right decisions on 03/23/2010 14:50:18 MDT Print View

"All her life, my daughter has wanted to be a teacher. And now she is one. ... Not for the money (or lack of), but for its rewards."

Congratulations to your daughter, Nick. It's an exceptionally rewarding, but often tough, career. My wife taught K-3 in poorer school districts. There was never enough money in the school budget for her to get what she felt she needed to do her job, so we often bought many supplies ourselves. One district was so poor we bought winter jackets for a few of the students -- all they had were wind jackets. And the at-home issues some of these kids had to deal with, it was heartbreaking. But there's nothing else in the world she wanted to do, and she was great at it because of that.

Edited by idester on 03/23/2010 14:55:40 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Making the right decisions on 03/23/2010 16:06:40 MDT Print View

My daughter teaches grade school. But right now it is difficult to find a teaching job.

She graduated from Cal State Long Beach a couple years ago. After living in So Cal all her life, she up and moved to northern Calif to live in a small town. She has been substitute teaching ever since, but full time jobs are about impossible to find. Fortunately she is well liked, and has been steadily employed as a sub, which is going to enhance her chances of landing a full time job when one becomes available. She could have gotten a full time job in Orange County, but passed on it and moved north.

The same thing here in Palm Springs. Teaching jobs just aren't available right now.

She is having a blast. Summers off, and she is able to save enough money to travel frequently. And she doesn't ask for money or help. Good parenting, right? I have to give her mother the credit for that.

John Drollette
(tradja) - F

Locale: Central Oregon
Making the time to backpack on 03/25/2010 11:21:15 MDT Print View

@issac: You're right, no kids! The wife doesn't want 'em. We're not just free-wheeling bums, though: we actually do have a mortgage. ;-)

@all: This is a great thread. I'll be giving (very unexpected) notice next week to go to ADZPCTKO and our thru-hike. I've never had any qualms about quitting before. This job pays very well but is a Dilbert-esque circus that I will not miss. However, I am inexplicably conflicted about leaving. Maybe it's the 20% unemployment rate in Central Oregon that I'll return to in the fall.

I loved doing the CDT with my wife, and am really looking forward to our PCT hike this year. Life's too short to waste on my mouth-breathing bedwetting clients and the handwringing spreadsheet-wavers I work with.

As my wife asked me last fall, "When did it start being about the money?"
My sheepish answer: "'s still NOT."
Her: "So quit that lame job and do the PCT with me."
Me: "But what about the mortgage? What about my .gov applications? What will they think of another thru hike?"
Her: "We'll pay the mortgage. Don't be ashamed to hike."

Smart woman. Keeps me on track.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Making the time to backpack on 03/25/2010 11:56:36 MDT Print View

For most of us, there needs to be a balance between backpacking, work, and family. There is no perfect formula that is universal.

I have children. I did not wants kids when I was younger. But when they came, they were a blessing. Never had a single problem with either of them. It is a blast watching my daughter become this self-reliant wonderful woman. My son and I have a lot in common, and a real thrill has been watching is running career (if interested, do a Google search for Joe Gatel). Plus now he is getting into backpacking, which is cool.

I did monumental trips when I was young and single. My wife is not interested in backpacking, so a long thru-hike would not be fair to her right now. And my wife is more important than hiking is to me. However, when I retire in a few years, I plan on doing the PCT. The important thing is that today I hike a lot. Many day hikes with my wife and solo trips of a week or less. I would guess that I do a lot more hiking than a majority of people here, and I work a lot of hours too. Most years I average about 100 days of camping, hiking, and backpacking.

The last point is that if you need or want to work, find a job that you love. For me it is about the money, because my services are highly sought after and pay well. That is not an accident, I educated myself and developed skills that are marketable. When I no longer want to work, I will have financial independence and the ability not to rely on anyone for my needs. Right now my wife is pushing me to retire in a couple of years, but I am not ready. The job is still too much fun.

The important thing is that if I drop dead tomorrow, I will not have wished I had spent time doing something. My life has been full and rewarding. No regrets at all.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
@nick on 03/25/2010 14:18:35 MDT Print View

what do you do? my guess is something technology related? BTW i am working toward being a teacher, either phd college level or grade school, haven't decided yet, i need experience. Right now i am involved in manufacturing from a senior management position(family business-large one though), we manufacture cabinets, Mouser cabinets to be exact. Its nice and it pays decent, and im sure will pay better in the future, but it aint about the money for me. So im looking to look for a teaching job when the economy doesn't look so grim, i wouldn't dream of leaving a perfectly good job now and having to search under every rock and probably not find another job at all. The way things are going now, its much better to stay where i am right now. im young anyway, people from my generation are going to live well into their hundreds(assuming thier not the grazing at mcdonalds/wendys, smoking cartons a week type). So realistically im not in a huge rush i guess. The thing that appeals to me about teaching is the benefits: you do a job that makes a difference, you have a sweet retirement for life(federal level teacher), you get summers off to be with the fam, yep i wanna teach some day.

Edited by isaac.mouser on 03/25/2010 14:22:41 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: @nick on 03/25/2010 14:41:51 MDT Print View


I work for a global company that provides business outsourcing services to the automotive industry (consulting, human resources, engineering, etc.). We have offices in 26 countries.

I manage a group of consultants in the U.S., write software applications for clients and our field people, develop instructional desgign materials (training manuals, etc.), and help develop our dealership solutions. I am involved as a subject matter expert on most of the proposals we submit in North America. Best job I ever had.

My corporate office is in Warren, MI but I mainly work out of my home office. This gives me a lot of autonomy. I just need to get my work done. So if I work tons of hours for 3 or 4 days, then I can get time off to do what I want. Basically no one is watching my time card, they are watching the quality and quantity of my work. They care about results, not hours.

I have done a lot of training in dealerships, which is teaching. There is nothing better than helping people reach their potential. Too bad teaching doesn't pay well in the beginning, but as you noted the benefits are good. Summers off, and a good retirement. I know several retired teachers in California who have pensions in the $100K - $130K per year range.

I started out as an auto mechanic (technician) almost 40 years ago.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
your climb on 03/25/2010 14:58:09 MDT Print View

so your climb must have been through the educational system, i imagine you could have self-learned some of the computer aspects, but you must have gone back to school at some point to go from auto-mechanic to where you are now.

Edited by isaac.mouser on 03/25/2010 14:59:16 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: your climb on 03/25/2010 15:38:08 MDT Print View

Well actually the opposite...

Dropped out of college to go backpacking. After hiking around the Sierras for a couple years, decided to become a mechanic, as they made more money than entry level professionals. Took me a year to become a master technician. By then I was 23 years old and made a lot more money that all my friends who graduated from college.

Invested my money and kept fixing cars. Bought a motel in Palm Springs when I was 26, and kept working on cars.

Went back and finished my degee at 42. During the years I moved up to Service Manager, and also started and ran some of my own businesses. Got a job with my present company 12 years ago as a consultant. The Service Manager experience was my leg up, and the degree helped. Became a manager 6 months later. Never took a computer course. Just taught myself.

James Patsalides
( - MLife

Locale: New England
re: Having the time to backpack on 03/26/2010 12:27:05 MDT Print View

What a great thread...

Sooo, I decided last year that I needed a change after 16 years in the corporate world, eaking out my hiking time between work & travel. I am married with one little toddler (see my avatar), a mortgage, etc. After a ton of obsessing last fall, I decided to make the change to become a teacher. One of the primary reasons was a dream of more trail time - aided and abetted by attending the BPL wilderness skills course last July in Montana. ;-)

So, my wife and I did a deal where if I saved $100K, I could quit the high paying gig and she would support my return to school. The $100K would cover the cost of returning to school AND would be a high enough hurdle to make sure that I really wanted to do it. So I did it, and in January, with $100K in my bank account, I quit the big job (senior marketing manager at an insurance company) and went back to school.

The problem is, the transition is HARD! I'm doing MORE work now than I was before, including teaching SAT prep at the weekends to get as much teaching experience as I can, going to school four nights a week to get my MA in Teaching (at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut), and doing a part time consulting job during the week to pay the major household bills.

Because of all this, my hiking has been restricted to day hikes - my first overnight will be next month, and I was only able to schedule it because it will give me college credit (LNT backcountry master educator). In addition, my gear-buying habits have had to change... in the short term, at least, I do not have a gear budget for this year. I won't be the BPL Nano tarp this year...

I am able to sustain myself because I am looking forward to finishing with school, getting a good full time teaching position, and teaching high school kids about ultralight! Thankfully, since I am going to be a high school math teacher, full time jobs are fairly plentiful (at least they are in Connecticut public schools)... in addition, my wife is supportive, my toddler loves that I go to school (just like her) and keeps asking me if we do circle time and show-and-tell at my school.

So, here's my advice: if it is in your heart to change, do it... BUT, go into it with your eyes OPEN. It is HARD. So, you better make sure you can sustain your new career choice after the challenges of the transition! You will need a fully supportive family (maybe do a deal like the one my wife & I did - set a goal for yourself BEFORE you start the transition). You need to be able to devote time and energy to get yourself to your destination. You need to focus on the long game, because the transition might hurt your short game!

Good luck to you... and feel free to drop me a PM if you'd like to chat more! Take care.

Peace, James.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: re: Having the time to backpack on 03/26/2010 12:37:40 MDT Print View


Good plan. That is the point, you need a plan. One good thing about going back to school after many years of life experiences, is that school is much easier. At least it was in my case.

And it was hard for me too. Going back full time to college with two toddlers, a full time job, and a business on the side. But I had a plan and wanted to accomplish it as soon as possible.

I remember one September we were camping in the San Jacintos for a couple of weeks, and 4 nights a week I had to drive to Palm Desert to attend classes. We had a great vacation, and I kept on track on the education front.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: time on 03/27/2010 08:46:44 MDT Print View

I guess I feel that success isn't all it's cracked up to be. I've worked in a high-quality corporate environment but I just didn't feel like I had the drive to be like the ones working their way up to the top. That kind of success didn't appeal to me.

I feel more like John above. He said that quitting to thru-hike had opportunity and professional costs but in the end it worked out. That's the same for me. I left my good corporate job and came back unwilling to go back to that. Instead I eke out an existence at half the wage but I have a little more freedom, a little less pressure. I get to see the sun during the day. I'm happier. I think happiness is important.

And like John, I feel like hiking offers me an area of achievement and success that I probably won't ever attain at the same high levels in a job. I often joke that my web site about hiking and being pretty good at hiking are the only truly successful things I've ever done. With those things I've achieved a small measure of fame, a lot of respect, some admiration and even, embarrassingly a little big of adulation. Yes, I have fans. Ha ha.

As long as I'm still hiking and still able to pay my bills, it's all good. As long as I'm happy and not taking pills to get through my crappy life (I've been there, too), it's even better.