Its just one example of weird things that cause people to wait, and one in a very sad series of stories I have heard recently.
I read a book called “300 Zeroes” About a retired man who wanted to start hiking. Living in Florida has it’s own problems (sure you can hike a lot of Florida, but if you like heights, there are no mountains, and Florida’s highest point is 300 feet above sea level), so he decides to hike the Appalachian Trail. This is generally a six month adventure, for those of you not in the know, and someone walks from Georgia to Maine, over distance that could be covered in a six hour flight (8 if you count going through security and changing planes in Atlanta). Who does this?
Mainly twenty-somethings and retired people. The former have the freedom of not struggling with paying mortgages and putting kids through school and country club dues and working their way up the promotional ladder at work. The latter have done all that, paid off the house, settled down and need something to do with their off time.
But in the middle is a whole host of people that wishes they COULD do something like that. Often, however – there are things that make people wait. It’s hard to leave one job, take six months off and find another equivalent job (unless of course, you work at McDonalds or WalMart), and even if you could, how many spouses are not going to have a total flail-out shit fit over it? The guy in 300 Zeroes was lucky, along with a few other books I have read, his spouse was supportive. She went to hiking club meetings with him, helped him shop for gear, and wished him well as he boarded the bus or plane or whatever to Georgia. She even mailed him some resupply boxes along the way. She was in no way like “Some Guy’s Girlfriend” above.
But here’s the scary thing – Life is what happens when you are making other plans. I’ve read three stories this week about people who went on long distance hikes (The AT is just one of them, theres another called the Pacific Crest Trail on the west coast, and a few other long distance trails across the country) for one reason only:
They were dying.
The guy in 300 Zeroes wasn’t dying, but he nearly did. He had a heart problem he was unaware of, and when he got it checked out, it took him nearly a year to recover; thus the 300 Zeroes title. A zero day is a day where a hiker walks 0 miles. Just hangs around town or rests or does laundry, but no trail miles. 300 Zeroes would be 300 days, or about 10 months.
Another guy was doing a blog, and it was to be his last adventure, because he had cancer. I got my last issue of Backpacker Magazine today, and in the back of the issue was a several page short story about Andy, who also was suffering from a terminal cancer. They had done pretty much what they could for him, and told him in no uncertain terms, “You’re going to die in about a year”.
So Andy picked up and hiked the length of the Pacific Crest Trail (there’s a motivation to finish – you can’t come back and try again), and finished it. At the end of the story, he died. Not on the trail, mind you, but very soon after finishing.
Someone I know recently told me she got into hiking after surviving cancer. It was on her bucket list of things to do.
The thing is, why do we wait?
Why should people have to die to do something they truly want to do? Where does the time go? Why do we waste so much of our lives of petty meaningless bunk when there’s all this STUFF to go do and see? I don’t want to be laying in my death bed with hours to live thinking, “you know what, I really wished I could have seen the Grand Canyon, or gone bungee jumping, or parachuted, or learned to surf.” I for one could never hike the whole AT. Sure, it sounds like a major accomplishment, but it’s one I would prefer not to do at once.
I could spend two weeks, maybe a month, out there, but that’s it. I read these stories of people dealing with toenails falling off and black flies and constant damp and mildew and sweat and think, “nope”. But done right, at the right time of the year – say one month a year for six years in the spring, I could finish the whole thing. Of course – I don’t have the vacation time for it anyway. And thus – I wait. I wait until retirement, when I still won’t be able to do it because I’ll have to find a different job to make up the difference in pay, but there’s a chance…
BUT – It’s worth looking into. Why do we wait? Don’t wait until you’re dying to do something you want to do, just to squeeze it in before it’s too late.
As long as you can afford it, because, after all, if you DO die, someone else has to pay the VISA bill. If you survive your pilgrimage to your personal Mecca, those payments can be harsh at 14.99%