My partner is leaving to hike the Appalachian Trail for 6 months

How I’m feeling and thoughts on what’s in store for both of us


Above is a picture of the first and the last time I went backpacking with my partner, Carp. It was about 7 years ago, and we climbed the infamous Gothics Peak in the Adirondack mountains, straight up a mountain with ladders and all. Carp kept saying we were almost there and we’d be up and down the mountain in a day — but then cut to us finding ourselves camping on the side of the mountain in a rain storm, Carp has a fractured wrist and I’m staring off into the distance hungry, tired and sure we’ll be eaten by a bear.

So I’m not joining him this time. But…

Ben’s going to be hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) from Georgia to Maine, and will be posting about it on his blog while I sit and drink tea and read books with my cats!

Last night I made him post a video of what he’s packing for the trip, because the people want to see it (and will honestly save me a lot of explaining because now I can just tell coworkers: watch this). I hope he posts videos consistently along the way and doesn’t get hung up on quality. We just want to be along for the ride with you, Carp!

Carp and I met doing adventures in California through AmeriCorps NCCC (camping and building trails and living on communes and organic farming for 9 months), so it’s never really been a question of whether we’d do more wild things in the future. Actually, we’ve been way more tame than I would have thought back then. So when he said he wanted to do this, I knew in my gut it was the right choice even if my emotions were screaming out a fear based “no, stay!”

Tomorrow we leave to drive from Kansas City to Dawsonville, Georgia to drop him off on the trail, and I don't have that many thoughts because we are currently focused on tasks. It seems there are endless people to text, blogs to write, books to read, animals to walk, and I still haven’t even started packing myself yet! I also know that tasks are also a distraction, so we’ll see what it feels like when it actually happens.

What I plan for myself while he’s hiking

I’ve done a lot of crying over the past six months, made a move to a new apartment near friends that I feel comfy in, and feel like I’ve processed it a lot. Still, I have no idea how I’m going to react the day I drop him off, or after the fact. I think routines and tasks will be helpful. Work is going to be good, routines with the animals are going to be good, and I’ve slowly been building out more of a social life to account for not having a built in buddy at home.

My laptop is broken, but still working. My friend is going through a breakup, but is still showing up. My cat threw up on my new bedsheets last night, and our dog threw up half a bully stick that had been stuck in his throat all night. Not everything is glamorous, but things are moving forward with a momentum that feels right.

I stood next to my partner as he told our friends goodbye, and as the more introverted one I realized that I was also kind of saying goodbye, in that I don’t know how often I’ll see people while he’s gone. We’ve been together for 9 years, and I’m not sure who I am when he’s gone for more than two weeks at a time (usually when he is gone, I take the time to recluse myself and get lots of reading done). I think it’s up to all of us who are partnered to find out who we are without our partners routinely though, and frankly I can’t believe we’ve gone 9 years without trying it.

4 possible scenarios after I drop him off on the AT

  1. I miss him so much and can’t move on and life stops (definitely probably not going to happen, but the specter of it hangs in the back of my mind. Keeping this fear in mind is healthy for now I think, because it will push me to interact with people more than I normally would to counteract this from happening.
  2. I will slide into a strange and comfortable new life of efficient reading, writing and activism and live a monkish life that I have been coaxed away from for 9 years by my ADHD FOMO ridden partner who is always looking outside the pages of books for thrills.
  3. I will spend a few weeks only reading, and then suddenly become very social and find this new idea of myself as a person who craves social interaction and my social anxiety will fade as I take social interactions into my own hands as a 33 year old living alone.
  4. Carp and I get addicted to doing our own separate adventures apart and we cherish the time we spend together but we spend the next 10 years doing thru hikes and working in national parks (him) and traveling internationally and teaching English to pay the bills (me) while we both write and hold down the fort at home, alternating adventures.

Things I’m nervous about for him

  1. Nutrients
  2. Not meeting people, or not the right people who make him feel safe
  3. Ticks
  4. Getting hurt and not being able to ask for the help he needs (either because of a physical or mental block)
  5. Water (either that he can’t find it, or that he has too much of it via rain and it damages important things for his trip)
  6. Bears
  7. The occasional creepy person he might bum a ride from

Things I hope for both of us

  1. We find confidence standing on just our own two legs, muscle that we haven’t been forced to exercise in 9 years since we’ve met.
  2. We meet good, adventurous people in the next 6 months who inspire us to continue exploring life.
  3. We connect with ourselves and come back together giving ourselves more grace, and in turn suffer less mentally.
  4. We get more badass.
  5. We write about it.