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How does one become a thru-hiker?
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Kirk Beiser
(kab21) - F

Locale: Pic: Gun Lake, BWCA
Leaving the rat race for a yr on 12/31/2006 05:51:11 MST Print View

Well I'm 28 and I'm leaving the rat race for a little bit to hike the PCT this summer. I've chosen to relocate to the west (from MI to a TBD location - AZ, CO, WA, OR or CA ) and change industries that I work in (but same job description). In between these jobs I will have time to hike the PCT. It won't be an easy step to take, but since I've saved well and have $0 debt I feel secure in my decision. It will be interesting to see what I do when I am finished. Current plan is to find a full-time engineering position in the Seattle area and be able to dayhike/backpack frequently in the Cascades/Olympic areas. Who knows how the PCT will warp me, I mean change me?

Vadim Fedorovsky
ressurection on 03/26/2010 01:13:13 MDT Print View

i decided to bring this thread back from the dead

im wondering did Jordan ever get out there for his dream hike?

and i'm currently in the same boat he was people have more advice/stories about their experiences?

thanks BPL community

Angela Zukowski
(AngelaZ) - F

Locale: New England
Re: ressurection on 03/26/2010 07:29:38 MDT Print View

I wonder if he made it out there, too. Having postponed my own hike... I know how easy it is to dream about it, but get sidetracked by unexpected issues.

But now I've done it!

I just gave my two weeks notice last week at my job. I think my decision to hike helped speed the end of the relationship I was in. I've accepted that. I'm thrilled to be leaving the rat race, too.

I feel great about my decision even though I have a knee issue that could potentially leave me unable to complete my thru-hike.

No point in living unless you are willing to take risks!

Also, Laurie Ann's advice about a savings account - still valid! Definitely deposit money each month that you cannot touch. If you have a larger chunk of money, put it in a cd until it's time for you to hike. And keep in mind you can hike on a tight budget - I have a few friends who did it for around 2 grand. Just depends on what your needs are. And buy used gear! That really helps, too.

There's always going to be reasons not to hike - at some point you just have to push past that, embrace the possibility of risk and failure, and just go.

*edited to add words I forgot to type

Edited by AngelaZ on 03/26/2010 07:30:41 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Resurrection and New Life on 03/26/2010 11:31:43 MDT Print View

Here's wishing you a long and exciting trip, Angela!

I had a similar episode -- quitting a job with a company I really disliked (after being with them for just 3 months). I then spent a month "backpacking" solo in India and Uzbekistan. I had a wonderful time -- came back fully charged and positive again -- and landed a great job within a month of interviewing.

Edited by ben2world on 03/26/2010 12:21:05 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: ressurection on 03/26/2010 13:12:44 MDT Print View


When I was young, I chucked everything and went hiking for two years. I gave up a lot future-wise to do this. I won't go into the details, but I was on track to probably become a fighter pilot, and some other long-term career options. My decision would impact my future, and create some "hardships" for several years. Everyone in my life at the time tried to talk me out of it. Basically the thought I had gone insane, to the point they tried to get me to see a psychiatrist.

Here's how I came to my decision. Would I regret leaving what I had, or would I regret not going for the adventure more. The adventure won out. That was nearly 40 years ago, and to this day, I am GLAD I went for it.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
Re: How does one become a thru-hiker? on 03/27/2010 12:42:15 MDT Print View

As I got older, the standard US thing of only 2weeks of paid vacation just wasn't cutting it for me. What is the point of having money if I can't use it for what I truely want to do? So I know look forward to when I get laid off as I use it to do an extended trip that I always dreamed of. When it happened last Feb., I decided to hike the PCT. Back in 2002, I only did a month long trip when I got laid off, and I regretted not taking more time off ever since.

Edited by Miner on 03/27/2010 12:45:14 MDT.

Patricia Combee
(Trailfrog) - F

Locale: Northeast/Southeast your call
RE how does one plan for a thruhike on 03/27/2010 17:08:12 MDT Print View

I managed a 2 month leave of absence in 2006. Did not do a thru but spent much time hiking some of the AT (enough to become addicted!). It was the best 2 months of my life. I planned and save from 2003 to 2006, paid off my car, mortgage paid, no debt. My employer decided that a 2 month leave was a small price to pay for a dependable, hard-working employee. I still work at the same place. So, financial and life planning, ditch whatever is dragging you down and just live it. Life does not have do-overs nor rewinds and it is not a practice for something else. You will not regret the time you spend doing something you will remember for the rest of your life and what a cool thing to tell your kids and grand kids about!

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: RE how does one plan for a thruhike on 03/29/2010 17:02:34 MDT Print View

I had been saving money for years. What for, I didn't know. One day in 2008 I realized that the stress of my job was too great and knowing I had 2 years expenses saved up left me wondering what on earth was I putting up with it for? I quit. They offered a leave of absence. I turned it down.

Was it a good decision? I don't make as much money now. Seems workers aren't worth as much as they used to be. But I loved it and wouldn't give the experience back to have my old job. I had always wanted to hike the PCT ever since 1975 when I was 10 years old. I was 43 when I finally hit the trail. That's a long time to keep saying to yourself "Someday maybe I'll hike the PCT."

Anyway, leaves of absence can make it work. Saving up vacation days can at least get you a long section hike. Quitting works. Waiting until you get laid off and get The Package helps. Saving up a lot of money definitely helps. Retirement also helps. What doesn't work is debt. Stay out of debt at all costs.

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: Re: RE how does one plan for a thruhike on 03/31/2010 13:44:56 MDT Print View

Piper wrote- "What doesn't work is debt. Stay out of debt at all costs."

Unless you don't care about the implications of leaving unpaid debts behind. 1 in 10 people in America right now are in foreclosure of at least 90 days past due on their mortgage payments. Debt is almost fashionable! You can close up shop and take off for a few years if you don't care about your FICO score. Disclaimer- I'm not condoning it- just saying it's possible.

I know it's bordering on cliche to say this but three or four decades down the road you're going to remember your PCT/AT/CDT/ADT thruhike much more vividly than you will recall financial woes, missed career paths, bankruptcies, or repossessions.

I think the most important attribute an individual can possess for a matter such as this is balls. Cojones. Intestinal fortitude. Lack of common sense. Whatever you want to call it. In order of importance, not being scared to get off your butt and do it far outweighs the logistics of how to get it done.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Balls on 03/31/2010 14:16:23 MDT Print View

Balls are overrated. I give 34% to brain, 33% to heart and 33% to balls. :)

Edited by ben2world on 03/31/2010 14:56:55 MDT.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
How does one become a thru-hiker? on 03/31/2010 14:24:25 MDT Print View

I might throw in the likelihood of no job, little debt, and no family to provide for.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Balls on 03/31/2010 14:41:37 MDT Print View

"Balls is overrated. I give 34% to brain, 33% to heart and 33% to balls. :)"

The feets is feeling really left out of this equation....

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: How does one become a thru-hiker? on 03/31/2010 14:46:35 MDT Print View

Gentlemen! I believe that you are leaving the fairer sex out of this equation.


Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: How does one become a thru-hiker? on 03/31/2010 14:48:49 MDT Print View

Bob, I think the fairer sex has the power to keep some home, and drive some to get away and thru-hike!! ;)

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: How does one become a thru-hiker? on 03/31/2010 15:09:02 MDT Print View

The fairer sex has feets!

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Re: How does one become a thru-hiker? on 03/31/2010 15:23:53 MDT Print View

I think Doug has a 'feets' fetish! ; )

John Drollette
(tradja) - F

Locale: Central Oregon
Q: How does one become a thru-hiker? A: iQuit! on 03/31/2010 15:28:22 MDT Print View

Great question! There are a few other threads like this lately. Seems to be a common thought.

My method: I just give 2 weeks notice and quit. My wife does too. We have a manageable mortgage, no kids or dogs. I'm 36 now. Been doing that since I was 22.

So far, so good. This "iQuit" technique is pretty reliable and seems to work every time:
AT '96
PCT '98
PCT '99
London > Istanbul (bike) '00
San Diego > Cabo (bike) '02
TRT '03
JMT '03
CDT '06
PCT '10
AT '11 ?

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Re: Q: How does one become a thru-hiker? A: iQuit! on 03/31/2010 17:53:55 MDT Print View

John, I'm really curious:

What do you do for work that allows you to constantly quit and be rehired and that pays well enough to cover the costs of thru-hiking and several months of mortgage payments?

John Drollette
(tradja) - F

Locale: Central Oregon
Re: Re: Q: How does one become a thru-hiker? A: iQuit! on 03/31/2010 18:28:57 MDT Print View

"John, I'm really curious:

What do you do for work that allows you to constantly quit and be rehired and that pays well enough to cover the costs of thru-hiking and several months of mortgage payments?"

Different things over time. I worked as a paralegal between the AT and PCT, and generally in the ski industry (summers off, fall rehire) until 2005. Before the CDT, I worked at Best Buy (a disposable job if I ever had one), and currently I am a database analyst. After the PCT this year, we will probably both return to her outdoor retail gig, and get laid off just in time for the AT 2011.

Since the CDT, I have been attempting to make a career change into national security, my area of study and interest. I would finally be willing to give up the thru-hike/travel/ski lifestyle to do it. Some (but unexpectedly, certainly not all) potential employers in this area have viewed my background negatively.

ETA: As far as $$$, the best years of my life have been the ones where I earned like $4000. When not on the trail, I just don't spend much. No cell, no TV, no cable, '89 Corolla, one modest Kona bike, hardly drink, mostly vegetarian, etc. We are currently refi-ing from a 15yr fixed into a 30yr fixed, which will cut our monthly payment almost in half and enable us to get by with simpler jobs and longer trips.

Edited by tradja on 03/31/2010 18:44:12 MDT.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
well on 04/01/2010 08:13:26 MDT Print View

john i would live like you, but the wife won't have it. She needs her expensive direct tv, iphone, etc, etc. I am a simple guy and could be just fine without all these things, but the wife, well thats a different story. Where do you find such women who can live without these things?