I have been thinking about hiking the Appalachian Trail half-heartedly since 2011, and looked into it a little bit over the years, but never really seriously considered it, due to the time involved and the two concurrent jobs I've had since late 2010.
Then, in November 2015, I left the startup I had co-founded. This threw a somewhat large kink in my original plan to go full-time at that startup starting in mid-December, made possible by a planned exit from my day job. After quitting the startup, I quite suddenly and unexpectedly had no job past December 31.
I mentioned this to my friends Andrew and Monica shortly after it happened, and since I had mentioned it before, Andrew suggesting hiking the Appalachian Trail. I shrugged about it and dismissed the thought. Certainly, there was the opportunity now, but it was also November, and I still had yet to do overnight camping (despite that overnight camping had been on my "AT Prep" list since 2011), so I wasn’t really too keen on the idea of hiking the trail in 2016.
At our weekly gaming group's secret santa, Andrew gave me a book, The Appalachian Trail: Step By Step, as a gentle nudge in that direction. I said I’d read it, and put it on top of the stack of other books to read on the second chair in my office. It sat, largely untouched, while I started laying the groundwork for starting a consulting business for myself.
On February 6, I attended another friend's birthday party. I forget how, but in a conversation, the AT came up. It being February, I knew that if I was going to do a Northbound hike, I’d ideally want to leave in March. Sill enjoying my "funemployment" (but also fully expecting I’d have income of some sort within the next few months), my eminent sense of practicality continued to fire, and I again I dismissed the likelihood of doing it this year (because, again, I hadn't really done any actual prep work). I also admitted, though, that “if I don’t do it now, I’m probably not going to do it anytime soon”, and the conversation eventually shifted to something else.
The following Monday, that thought came back to the foreground.
If I don’t do it now, I’m probably not going to do it at all.
It’s February. I had already planned on no substantial income for the year by going full-time at my startup, but that's not happening now. I have no significant responsibilities.
I can do this.
I picked up the book and read half of it before our weekly game. I finished reading the rest of it the next day.
On Tuesday afternoon, I went to REI in Columbia. I figured I'd be there for an hour, maybe two (seriously, what was I thinking?), and then was going to swing by the mall and do some other shopping. Instead, I was there for 4.5 hours, right up to closing, speaking with different employees about gear, and preparation, and such.
Wednesday, I did more reading on the internet and flipped through the AWOL guide, put together a list of questions (and found some answers), and signed up for lectures on hiking the AT at the College Park REI for Friday and the next Wednesday. I also started doing an early spring cleaning. My home office (and email inbox) have not been this clutter-free in years. Later, at the DCPHP meeting that night, I mentioned to a few people that I was strongly considering hiking the AT, and got much encouragement.
So now, I'm a pair of shoes, two guidebooks, and a whole lot of internetting in. I'm doing this. So, let's follow journey to its conclusion...