Author Topic: Quitting to hike the AT  (Read 4224 times)

Bumbles8

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Quitting to hike the AT
« on: May 26, 2018, 08:45:17 AM »
I have wanted to thru-hike the AT for the past ten years - and have been sayin over the last year or two how I will do it in the ďnext few yearsĒ.  Well - to my analytical brain it never makes sense to quit my well paying job and go hike the trail - but the time is now.  I plan to start the end of March 2019 - so I have a little time to get everything in order - and thatís where my questions come in!

But first, some basics:
24 years old, single, no kids
Rent a house
Income: ~75k in LCOL area, spending in ballpark of upper 20s
Job: production manager at a manufacturing facility
Assets: ~75k in retirement accounts, 5k cash
Goals: have enough cash to hike the whole AT (4-5 months), potentially then go travel abroad for month(s) before returning to the real world and getting a job

My plan has a couple options - but feel free to offer suggestions.  1) save 20k cash 2) get LASIK this year 3) quit and hike AT
My housing plan is the part I donít have figured out.  Iím bout to sign a lease for a year - but live in an area that can be easily subleased (but would need to sublease starting in January)
Option 1: just figure out how to sublease the house
Option 2: buy a cargo van and turn into living space - could travel around after done with the hike (would sell my truck, value - 14k owe 9k)

Specific questions:  when I quit my job, how do I keep health insurance and what are costs going to look like?
What do I need to consider from my job standpoint?  I am kind of on the fast track up the ladder and will basically throw away that opportunity.  I will not tell my superiors except for the standard two week notice

What red flags do yíall see?  What advice do yíall have?  What questions do you want to ask me?

Lots of smart people on here who have great responses, just trying to use yíalls experience as my life coach
« Last Edit: May 26, 2018, 08:47:17 AM by Bumbles8 »

Miss Piggy

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2018, 10:06:09 AM »
Instead of quitting, could you take a 6 month leave of absence?

Regarding health insurance, you can do COBRA for 18 months. Costs vary depending on the policy and premium your company offers. My husband and I paid $1400 per month for the two of us (total, not each).

Bumbles8

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2018, 10:12:23 AM »
The chances my company would give me a leave of absences is extremely slim, bordering on zero.

Obviously it could potentially come up when I go to leave, but working at a small manufacturing plant, itís difficult to temporarily fill my position because I directly manage 70% of the workers.  Just not enough managerial resources

And pretty much itís totally against the culture of the company

peeps_be_peeping

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2018, 12:34:24 PM »
I did something very similar 2.5 years ago. I quit my job at age 37 right before I was about to get a promotion (that was way overdue anyway) to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. I ended up being "funemployed" for about 18 months and I took a couple of other trips in that time as well. It was awesome and though I may have delayed my FIRE date it was totally worth it to me.

My income while funemployed was a few months of unemployment, rental income, and a handful of dividends and capital gains from selling some mutual funds. I also had quite a bit of accrued leave that I cashed out. I immediately signed up for a marketplace health plan and received the full subsidy to help pay for it. I own a 3-bedroom house and found two roommates to live there while I was gone. Their rent covered all but about $250/month of my total housing costs (mortgage, taxes, utilities). I parked my car at my parents' house and suspended my car insurance.

I made sure that I didn't spend all my cash so that when I came home for good I had a cushion for while I looked for a job. Also I kept the two roommates to keep costs low. Took me about 5 months to find a job in my field again at a similar salary. Sounds like you have good marketable skills so you won't have a hard time.

My only words of warning are that once you hike the AT you will probably want to hike the PCT the next summer. I keep fantasizing about quitting again to hike the AT but I need to build up my stash more.


red_pill

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2018, 12:51:49 PM »
LASIK is amazing - I guarantee you wonít regret it. Iíd do it as soon as possible, especially if youíre a canít-see-the-alarm-clock-without-my-glasses type.  I put mine off for a long time and then when I got it done realized I should have done it years ago.

Mr. Green

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2018, 06:08:03 PM »
I attempted a thru-hike in 2016 and had to get off the trail due to injury. Have you ever backpacked before? Hiked alone, etc? I ask because you would not believe the number of people who start a thru-hike having never done any backpacking before. People quit in droves during the first week.  Statistically, 25% of people who start a thru-hike quit within the first few hundred miles. Half quit by Harper's Ferry (halfway), and only 1in 4 make it from end to end.

Thru-hiking is romanticized in movies, books, and on social media but it is anything but. You will hurt for days on end, you will walk for consecutive days in rain, you will be cold. You will often be uncomfortable. Perhaps you know all this already. I had planned for my hike for over 2 years leading up to it. I read people's journals for the two years before my  attempt to help pass time at work so I knew what I was in for. I FIRE'd right before my hike.

I strongly recommend you backpack multiple overnights, a week or more if you can, at least several times before you go. Know how all your gear works and be sure the gear you have works for you. For some people the amount of weight you carry can be a big deal. Some folks carry 50+ pounds, others are trending toward ultralight and can carry only 15-25 pounds, including food and water. My base weight was 14 pounds without food and water, which is pretty light, and hiking many miles with an extra 35 pounds on my back was challenging in the beginning because I was in mediocre shape. (I hiked SOBO and poorly chose to carry 4,000 calories per day for the entire 100 mile wilderness-no food drop- hence the extra 20 pounds)

What really sucks is turning your life upside down, quitting your job, vacating your house, etc. only to get 3 weeks in and realize the hike is not what you thought it would be, and you're quitting. Fuck. It happens all the time.

Bumbles8

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2018, 06:41:20 PM »
Thank you for all the responses so far.

Definitely looking forward to LASIK (if Iím a candidate) just because I have had such poor vision for so long.  Iíve been wearing contacts for over a decade and they are the first thing I have to do every morning.

To Mr. Green - all valid questions.  My longest bike to date is north of 70 miles (completed alone). I also hiked the presidential traverse in NH - but with someone - so I have essentially seen both sides of the AT.  I live near the Georgia part of the trail  and would prefer hiking NOBO. 

I plan on doing a 100+ mile hike this year.  Verify itís what I really want to do and also test equipment.  I got a stove recently but want to see if I like having it.

Definitely understanding of the ďembrace the suckĒ mentality that comes with thru hiking.  But you could be right, it could be romanticized in my mind.  But Iím the type of person who focuses on singular things until they are completed

Mr. Green

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2018, 07:20:50 PM »
Oh and I second that LASIK. One of the best things I ever spent money on. My vision was about 20/200 since I was 13 and I had it done when I was 24. I'm 10 years in and my vision is still 20/20. I dislike night driving more now but that could just be my getting old. Lol

FireHiker

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2018, 03:43:29 PM »
I would highly recommend LASIK prior to your thru-hike if you can swing it. I had LASIK 10.5 years ago and I am a backpacker as well. It is so much nicer to not mess with glasses or contacts anymore on the trail (I had used both over the years).

As for the thru-hike, I am envious! We have to wait until 2031 to hike the PCT (youngest will graduate high school 2030 and 2030 is our absolute latest possible FIRE date). In the meantime we do a lot of shorter trips. In the couple years leading up to it I plan to dial in the gear on some longer multi-week trips. The Wonderland Trail in Rainier is one of our practice trips we plan to do in the next few years once the kids are a bit older. I sure wish I'd taken the time to do a thru-hike before kids but it just didn't work out that way. I know it can be quite an adjustment coming back to the real world afterward though.

Unfortunately I don't have answers about insurance or your job. Yes, it's a risk to put to a halt your climb up the ladder at work, but if you're willing to delay your FIRE chances a little, I would take the risk, in as carefully planned a way as possible. Wishing you all the best.

TUCKER0104

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2018, 03:48:33 PM »
I quit and hiked the JMT. Loved every second.

tungsten

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #10 on: May 29, 2018, 04:05:53 PM »
I've hiked the AT and The PCT and am currently eyeing the CDT for the near future.  When I look back on my life, those big adventures stand out as some of the most important and formative experiences.  You'll learn things out there about yourself and the world that you can't learn anywhere else.. Consider it an investment in yourself.  Remember, we only get one go around in this life, so make it count and go for it!  For me, being able to say that I've completed multiple 2000+ mile long trips on foot has been very good in interviews with employers.  It shows a degree of dedication and perseverance that is uncommon.  If you've done 70 miles, then you know what it's like to do 2000+.  The only difference is 2000 miles just takes longer.  Happy trails

Blueskies123

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2018, 04:14:46 PM »
My only words of warning are that once you hike the AT you will probably want to hike the PCT the next summer. I keep fantasizing about quitting again to hike the AT but I need to build up my stash more.

Sorry but this is why I never hired anyone in 30 years as a manager that had a big gap in the work history.  I am sure someone will hire you but not me.  History is the best predictor of the future.

kaizen soze

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2018, 06:24:36 PM »
I have all kinds of advice if you want it.

I will second what someone else said: my wife and I attempted a thru of the AT after we FIREd and we made it only halfway due to injury. Don't trust any statistics you hear in drop out rates. If you look into it, there's almost no real way to know how many people drop out before Mountain Crossing, before Hot Springs, before Harper's Ferry, and so on. There are probably better stats for how many finish, but even then I wonder how accurate those stats are. But you've been thinking about this for ten years, and you have some backpacking experience, so there's only one way to scratch this itch and that's to give it a go. Even though we didn't finish, we did enjoy the experience and went on to walk the Camino Frances in Spain this past autumn.

But you should have a plan B in case you do need or want to drop out. You can keep your current housing situation, downsize to a minimal apartment, or just go homeless (or vanlife) for a while. There are upsides and downsides to both. If you continue to rent, you will have to continue paying rent for up to 7 months without using the apartment. But you'll have a home to return to and an uninterrupted rental history, which is a good thing. Also 6 months goes by pretty fast, even though it won't seem like it. If you go homeless, you'll either get rid of all your stuff or store it somewhere. If you can store somewhere for free, then great. If you would have to rent a storage unit, you'll have to do the math on whether that's cheaper than just buying all new stuff when you return (for us it was way cheaper to rent storage than to rebuy everything -- you might be surprised how much it costs to furnish your lifestyle).

Another consideration is your address. To maintain a driver's license, car registration, health insurance you need a home address. I used a friend's address for this purpose. You might be able to use your parents' address. Maintaining a tenancy makes this easy. But you will still need to have someone checking your mail. Our car registration notice is mailed every year in August, right when we were traveling. Depending on your state, you might be able to use a mailbox service, all the better if they will scan and/or forward your mail to you. But my state wouldn't let me use a mail service as my address for driver's license (although it worked for buying health insurance).

As for health insurance, look into how good it will be in the 13 states that you will walk through. Just to know if nothing else. I found that in Tennessee, I was unable to use urgent care for a minor issue and instead had to visit the ER. It was the craziest thing, due to some bizarre TN state law. I had to pay a lot for that ER visit since I have a HDHP. And it turns out I didn't have giardia, just a bad stomach virus.

I'm sure I could go on. But I'll finish with a suggestion to hike either SOBO or flip flop. The NOBO crowd is insanely busy. Even as far north as Virginia, we once we're unable to find somewhere to pitch our tent near a shelter and had to press on quite late in the day.

Have fun!

Bumbles8

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #13 on: May 31, 2018, 06:28:52 AM »

Sorry but this is why I never hired anyone in 30 years as a manager that had a big gap in the work history.  I am sure someone will hire you but not me.  History is the best predictor of the future.

Iím not super concerned about this - unless the economy gets crippled next year.  Iím not sure Iím cut out to manage 85 people at my current age:maturity level/mental health - and I wonít be looking to jump back into a production management job.

Iíll probably just re-start a career.  I donít have a defined path when I get back - so we will see what comes up. 

To all the other advice: thank you.  I do have a solid social safety net if all goes to pot.  I could live with my parents for a month or two - not the end of the world, just not my style

Also, injury is really the uncontrolled part of the equation.  Lots of people fail - I may end up being one of them, but I donít like failure


MrsDinero

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #14 on: May 31, 2018, 08:15:09 AM »
I think this would be a good time to hike the AT.

I think you have been given a lot of really good advice especially with what to expect after your hike. 

One thing I would like to add is, if you have the option of living with your parents I would do it.  You say it isn't your style to live with them, but I think signing a lease year long lease without any intention of fulfilling the agreement is pretty crappy.  I know you mentioned you can sublease it, but I'm sure this forum is full of stories where subleasing turned into a massive headache. 

mikedom

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #15 on: May 31, 2018, 08:27:35 AM »
Do it! My wife and I quit our jobs @ 26 to thru-hike the PCT. Our employers were both willing to re-hire us after the absence, but we decided to move to a different part of the country and find new jobs. All the employers I've talked to (previous, current, and jobs offers during those) have been impressed by the effort, the gap has never been an issue.

This was before the ACA, so we had catastrophic health insurance during the trip.

SOS

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #16 on: June 01, 2018, 08:48:35 PM »
Do it!

I attempted to hike it in 2016 made it Springer Mtn. to Damascus, VA. It was one of the happiest times of my life. Imagine a place where everyone is cool, you all share the same goal, it doesn't matter where you came from and even the people in the trail towns are very welcoming. You are young enough that you can bounce back BUT make sure this is what you really want. It would suck if you found out it wasn't for you and you gave up a good career...... Just my 2 cents, have you done a cold/ rainy weather gear test?  Wait until January or February and hike the approach trail in cold rainy weather.

SOS

mm1970

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #17 on: June 02, 2018, 08:10:11 AM »
I attempted a thru-hike in 2016 and had to get off the trail due to injury. Have you ever backpacked before? Hiked alone, etc? I ask because you would not believe the number of people who start a thru-hike having never done any backpacking before. People quit in droves during the first week.  Statistically, 25% of people who start a thru-hike quit within the first few hundred miles. Half quit by Harper's Ferry (halfway), and only 1in 4 make it from end to end.

Thru-hiking is romanticized in movies, books, and on social media but it is anything but. You will hurt for days on end, you will walk for consecutive days in rain, you will be cold. You will often be uncomfortable. Perhaps you know all this already. I had planned for my hike for over 2 years leading up to it. I read people's journals for the two years before my  attempt to help pass time at work so I knew what I was in for. I FIRE'd right before my hike.

I strongly recommend you backpack multiple overnights, a week or more if you can, at least several times before you go. Know how all your gear works and be sure the gear you have works for you. For some people the amount of weight you carry can be a big deal. Some folks carry 50+ pounds, others are trending toward ultralight and can carry only 15-25 pounds, including food and water. My base weight was 14 pounds without food and water, which is pretty light, and hiking many miles with an extra 35 pounds on my back was challenging in the beginning because I was in mediocre shape. (I hiked SOBO and poorly chose to carry 4,000 calories per day for the entire 100 mile wilderness-no food drop- hence the extra 20 pounds)

What really sucks is turning your life upside down, quitting your job, vacating your house, etc. only to get 3 weeks in and realize the hike is not what you thought it would be, and you're quitting. Fuck. It happens all the time.
My favorite thing about thru hiking?  I just found out how to follow a PCT hashtag on IG.  I get to look at all the photos from the comfort of my couch.

I like hiking, but in 6 hour chunks where I get to shower and sleep in my own bed and eat hot food kind of way.

mm1970

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #18 on: June 02, 2018, 08:12:09 AM »
My only words of warning are that once you hike the AT you will probably want to hike the PCT the next summer. I keep fantasizing about quitting again to hike the AT but I need to build up my stash more.

Sorry but this is why I never hired anyone in 30 years as a manager that had a big gap in the work history.  I am sure someone will hire you but not me.  History is the best predictor of the future.
Rough for all those SAHPs I guess.

Hula Hoop

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #19 on: June 03, 2018, 01:10:50 AM »
My only words of warning are that once you hike the AT you will probably want to hike the PCT the next summer. I keep fantasizing about quitting again to hike the AT but I need to build up my stash more.

Sorry but this is why I never hired anyone in 30 years as a manager that had a big gap in the work history.  I am sure someone will hire you but not me.  History is the best predictor of the future.
Rough for all those SAHPs I guess.

Yes - the attitude that a gap in the resume is the kiss of death is kind of strange.  I would understand if the person was a job hopper or had multiple unexplained absences but taking time out to raise a child or travel seem like great reasons to me and show that the person is mature, good with money and highly motivated IMO.


Have you all read about Grandma Gatewood?  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandma_Gatewood I love her advice about buying a pair of kids and a shower curtain to hike the trail.  Also, how cool that most of her food was foraged.

DS

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #20 on: June 05, 2018, 08:56:53 AM »
Do it! Completed it in 2014 when I was 23. Never once regretted any aspect of it. Completely life changing, and you will always have that for yourself no matter what you do afterwards.

April 24 - October 6 NOBO, perfect window for weather. Only started getting cold towards the end. And could have completed sooner but just wanted to linger and enjoy the foliage.

Bumbles8

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #21 on: June 05, 2018, 03:54:10 PM »
Thanks for all the advice and encouragement

Iím going to do my research and do some longer hikes to prepare

Iím also telling myself that early next year is the perfect time to quit my job.  Iím having some burnout

mm1970

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #22 on: June 05, 2018, 04:03:53 PM »
Thanks for all the advice and encouragement

Iím going to do my research and do some longer hikes to prepare

Iím also telling myself that early next year is the perfect time to quit my job.  Iím having some burnout

My niece thru-hiked it when she was around the age of 30.  Loved it.

I know another guy who used to joke he'd thru hike the AT when he needed to lose about 30 lbs.  He's done it twice.  He's got a PhD in electrical engineering and is very gainfully employed.

peeps_be_peeping

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Re: Quitting to hike the AT
« Reply #23 on: June 05, 2018, 04:23:39 PM »
My only words of warning are that once you hike the AT you will probably want to hike the PCT the next summer. I keep fantasizing about quitting again to hike the AT but I need to build up my stash more.

Sorry but this is why I never hired anyone in 30 years as a manager that had a big gap in the work history.  I am sure someone will hire you but not me.  History is the best predictor of the future.

This was not a problem for me. I was honest about what I did (hiking and cycle touring) during my career break and my current employer was cool with that history. I also do not plan to work for 30 years. Another through hike is pretty far in the future, though I fantasize about it for sure!