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Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
Job on 05/25/2011 15:51:18 MDT Print View

Here's an odd one. So I have a job. 9-5. I've been working it for four years. I've been a good employee, I work hard, I do my job right, from my perspective at least. My last performance review was 5/5 across the board.

I ask for 10 days of unpaid leave, in addition to the 10 days of paid leave I have saved, in order to do the JMT. About a year and a half ago I had enough paid leave to take 3 weeks off to go to europe during our most busy time, they let me. We had a staff of two back then, now we have a staff of four, and it's during our slowest time of the year.

I was turned down. I got the usual rundown, "well, I pushed for it, but I'm told it's policy to only allow unpaid leave for medical reasons, or bereavement, things like that. My boss turned it down, but, wait, dont put it on her either, she made a phone call and it was turned down. It's just policy".

I'm asking to take the vacation I've earned, as well as combining it with asking to not be paid or expected to work for 10 work days while we have way less to do and less staff...

I asked if there was anything I could do. I was told no. I said that it is the low time, we have more staff, and I'm asking not to be paid for two weeks during a budget crisis. I was told it's still a no.

Honestly I'm in a bit of a tizzy. I feel let down. I feel undervalued. I feel angry. I've cleared my personal files off of my computer and personal items from my desk.

Any advice here? I'm thinking of putting the firm line in the sand of "well, I'm going, if you'd like to continue to employ me when I come back that's great. If you don't, consider this my notice. I'll continue working until I leave if requested." I'd of course say this 2-3 weeks prior to my trip (It's in two months).

Honestly I'm drowning a bit here. Any ideas?

Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
ack on 05/25/2011 15:54:06 MDT Print View

I was going to move this to the chaff section, but I can't seem to delete it, so I guess I'm leaving it.

Edited by Trout on 05/25/2011 15:54:47 MDT.

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Re: Job on 05/25/2011 15:55:02 MDT Print View

Train to work up your mileage after work. Lighten your pack. Do the trail in 10 days.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Job on 05/25/2011 15:56:41 MDT Print View

"Any ideas?"

Plan better for next time.

Look on the bright side. You may have all of your time for hiking in the near future.


David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
"Job" on 05/25/2011 16:18:12 MDT Print View

They run the business and probably have reasons they consider valid to refuse your request.

If it was me, everything else being equal, I wouldn't quit or hold a grudge over this issue.

Walk faster or shorten the trip. You'll still have a great time and you'll keep your job. Not a bad thing these days.

Matthew Black
(mtblack) - F
Job on 05/25/2011 16:29:10 MDT Print View

You are the only person who knows your circumstances and how well you can get by without the job. Things are difficult everywhere and you might not be able to replace the one you have. There will be time later in life to attempt the trail again.

I think trying to crank through it in 10 days sounds pretty good. A second leisurely thru-hike when you are older and perhaps slower seems like something to look forward to.

Angela Zukowski
(AngelaZ) - F

Locale: New England
Re: Job on 05/25/2011 16:40:17 MDT Print View

I had a very, very similar experience. It was eye-opening and made me realize that this company wasn't flexible enough to accommodate a very simple request that would have been beneficial to both parties. Probably letting you do this more than once sets a tone for the other employees that the higher ups don't want to deal with.

I saved my money, quit the following year and thru-hiked the AT. Best decision I ever made. I also explained to my bosses and to human resources that their inability to provide a more flexible work environment (the time off issue was just the tip of a very rigid ice burg) was part of my motivation for quitting.

Interestingly enough, a year after I quit this same company offered me a part time position, hoping I'd appreciate the flexibility it would offer me. However now I'm less concerned about money and job flexibility and more concerned about hiking and traveling so I turned them down.

Is the JMT worth quitting over? That would be your decision. But I think rather than giving them an ultimatum I'd sit down and have a calm and intelligent conversation about this frustration, and then respectfully tender my resignation. And then hike the entire PCT...or maybe the JMT and the Pacific Northwest Trail. :)

Not the solution for everyone, as it depends on your ability to find a job after and how much savings you have. But I'm definitely through with squeezing in what I am passionate about around a 9-5 that doesn't provide fulfillment.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Job on 05/25/2011 16:47:51 MDT Print View

But did they offer any explanation as to why they said no? Apart from the total cop-oput of 'company policy' of course?


Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
thanks on 05/25/2011 16:59:18 MDT Print View

Thanks for the advice. I'll definitely be mulling it over tonight and won't do anything rash.

Yeah it definitely makes you understand the old adage "companies pay you just enough so you don't quit".

I've been thinking that the JMT isn't enough to quit over, maybe the PCT might be.

I've also been thinking as Matt/David/Chris suggested, of shortening the trip and cranking the mileage. I think this might be the best solution.

I'm about .5 days short of linking three weekends, which would be enough to do the trip I believe. I might just say "look, I'll shorten the time I'm off, I'll go with you on the no unpaid front, but I need you to give me about three hours of overtime (=.5 I get to take) so I can make my trip happen and keep everyone happy". That's reasonable right?

oof this is going to be a quick trip if I do that. I guess a lot of people do it in 2 weeks or abouts though.

This definitely makes me understand that my job does just in no way have a soul, ya know?

They definitely gave me the "policy" shrug off. No explanation other than "well X and Y would be acceptable uses of unpaid leave"

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Re: Re: Job on 05/25/2011 17:08:02 MDT Print View


Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Job on 05/25/2011 17:11:26 MDT Print View

I guess for advice I could only second what's above. This is subjective and only YOU can decide what is the best course of action for you AT THIS TIME; what you choose may not even be what would be right for you at a different time in your life.

As a side note, I just returned from a trip and did a guided trek. In our group was a German woman who was in the last few days of a 6-week tour of South America. She had a wonderful time and was now ready to get back to work (for a large multi-national company). She said there are still those in Germany who feel the same pressures to not take vacations/not allow vacations as in the U.S., but the rules certainly foster less anxiety about vacations.

Here's a recent article on CNN about the subject:

Chris Benson
(roguenode) - F

Locale: Boulder
re: Job on 05/25/2011 17:23:13 MDT Print View

As was mentioned, only you know if it's worth risking unemployment. It's a tough economy to be looking for work through. Even if you find employment, the relative abundance of potential employees means a new job may offer lower salaries/benefits than you get now.

If it were me, I'd consider whether there is a project or some extra workload I could tackle that is valued by those who are denying my unpaid time off. Then, sell them the idea of completing that work (in addition to my standard duties) prior to the vacation.

Or, as noted, you can train harder and hike faster. :-)

Edited by roguenode on 05/25/2011 17:24:09 MDT.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
re: Job on 05/25/2011 17:55:52 MDT Print View

If you have a job that is half decent in terms of pay and health insurance you are risking a lot for a 3 week adventure.

Having said that, I'll suggest doing what you can this year and then planning on getting what you want for next year.

Always diplomatic, always understanding, start asking how you can make long trips happen. The folks above you are incapable of making a decision, let alone one that is "only" 3 months out. They made that clear. So now you have to guide them to share all the "show-stoppers" that compel them to say "NO", and beat each one into the ground.

Many times I was told "No. We can't get along without you for that long." My answer was, "I've got it covered. If three weeks leads to chaos, then I'm clearly not doing my job. I should never be indispensable. Please tell me what you are worried about, and lets figure it out." It usually took several polite, timely, patient, iterations on this theme for them to come clean, and then feel reassured.

You will have a different dragon to slay. But take the time to do it right, implying along the way that this is not a one-time deal, and the rest will fall into place.

If not, Then start a job search for a more understanding company, and Then give notice.

Good Luck.

Edited by greg23 on 05/25/2011 17:58:25 MDT.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Job on 05/25/2011 17:57:25 MDT Print View

Some (most? all?) states have labor laws in place that allow for a leave of absence. The company is required to have a position for you when you get back. The caveat is that it can be any position.

Brad Fisher

Locale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
Re: Re: Job on 05/25/2011 19:51:15 MDT Print View


Maybe you could offer them a couple more options. Like:

1. Ask for 5 unpaid, but agree to work the other 5 as overtime (spread across the year or at a critical time they have trouble getting people to work the extra time). Get's you your 10 days
2. If they say no, then try for the whole 10 days as overtime

If they say no then ask what is the concern. If it is lost productivity you have solved that problem. If it is critical that you are available to work during this period maybe they would agree for someone else to work the extra time while you are gone and then you repay the favor when they would like to take extended leave.

I can understand the concern the employer has if all of a sudden everyone is asking for the same. However if they see you trying to work a win win for both parties they might be more reasonable. Also sets the bar for anyone else who ask.

Just my two cents as an employer, but not everyone is as flexible as I am with my employees. My philosophy is if you are flexible with your employees they will work extra hard for you.


Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Job on 05/25/2011 20:41:38 MDT Print View

The only way to get a good long vacation in the US is to quit your job and get a new one when you are done with your vacation.

I quit my job to hike the PCT. I spent two years hiking the PCT in the summer. I worked part-time jobs and took classes in the winter between. Then I tried to get back into the work world again. I found a part-time job and worked in it for a year, keeping an eye out for something better. I finally got a better job. I make quite a bit less than before, but it was worth it.

3 weeks isn't enough to quit over. Make it a couple years, then it's worth it.

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
Think it through ... don't hurry ... plan long term on 05/25/2011 21:33:03 MDT Print View


You got lots of very good advice. My advice is very similar to Greg's. If you have a decent job with benefits, don't risk it for a three week trip.

So think through your options, to get this year (most) of what you desire and not risk your job
1) You could shorten the hike. If you are going southbound from Happy Isles and don't want to rush it, you could just go to the halfway point at Muir Trail Ranch, take the ferry over Florence Lake and from there take the minibus that is operated by VVR and brings you to Fresno. Next year you can then start from there and complete the JMT.

2) You could hike faster. You can do the JMT in 10 days, but you need to be in decent shape.

3) You can do a mix of both. Shorten the hike (let's say start at Tuolumne Meadows and avoid the zoo in Yosemite Valley) and hike faster for the rest of the trail.

Over the next year you can then work patiently on the issue with your company -- amd you can also inquire with other companies to see what kind of flexibility they offer and what pay and benefit they give you. Then you can make an educated decsion.

I have seen several friends who volunteered for severance packages of 6 months pay - planning to take three months off to enjoy themselves and then find a new job within the next three months. One found a job after 18 months for way less pay. The other one is still out of work after 2 years. I have heard a lot from them about unemployment, job search, health insurance, Cobra, the cost of private health insurance -- and I must say I would be very careful with such a decision.

Right now my advie would be to keep your eye on the long trail of life and not make hasty short term decisions for the JMT. It will always be there ...

Best of luck to you,


P.S.: I have hiked the JMT last year for three weeks with my sons and I will hike it again this year for three weeks with two of my daughters. It was only possible by long term planning, building up time off for 8 years and getting roughly every three years increases in annual vacation days for staying with the same company. In the past I also negotiated more vacation days instead of getting a pay raise.

Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
update on 05/26/2011 13:48:48 MDT Print View

Update: I'm condensing my timeline and planning to do the whole shebang in 10 work days + 3 weekends - time driving -time getting a permit. I'll have to hike fast, but I'll get to do the trail and keep my job. I'm not happy with my employer's treatment of this. They are giving me a few hours of overtime so I have enough to do the trip (I had to do some anyways, but that's a good thing in itself). I'm not ecstatic about having to rush. I'm stoked I get to do the trail (legs willing).

Thanks for all your helpful and kind words.

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Re: Feeling Rushed on 05/26/2011 14:06:28 MDT Print View

Good to hear you'll be going!

I find the following schedule very "unrushed," doing 20 mile days:

6:00a - Wake up, pack up, eat breakfast

7:00a - 12p - 2.5mph (with 5 minute breaks and photo stops) - 12.5 miles

12p - 1p - Lunch, nap, being lazy

1p - 4p - 2.5mph - 7.5 miles

4p - 10p - more general laziness, dinner, etc., etc.

It's really not bad as long as you start early enough.

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
Great! on 05/26/2011 17:43:03 MDT Print View

Good to hear that you get to do the JMT and keep your job. I don' know how many of the 16 days you have are gone for driving, but this should be very doable.

You can find lots of helpful information for your planning on the Yahoo group johnmuirtrail
In the files section you will find information about permit alternatives (good to know when you need to get a walk-up permit and have no time to waste waiting a couple of days until Happy Isles becomes available) or information about transportation and trip planning. For example you can use this spreadsheet JMT Trip Planner to plan your trip for any number of days.

Enjoy the JMT!


Edited by Orienteering on 05/26/2011 17:44:39 MDT.