Unencumbered: The Lure of
a Life Without Limits

Blog Post

Somewhere between the mountain of dirty laundry, scooping the stinky cat litter, and tackling yet another sink full of dirty dishes, it hit me: In less than three weeks, none of this will be my responsibility!

As I wind down my thru-hike planning, my attention has turned from counting grams (OK, I still think about that) to a more reflective approach. I’m preparing mindfully for life on the trail, focusing on the attitude and resolve that will get me to Katahdin.

While I contemplate questions like, “Am I really ready for nights alone in the woods?” and my introverted self asks, “How will I handle being surrounded by hoards of hikers?” part of me feels slightly guilty about going. That’s the part that knows I’m like a kid running away from home, eager to escape the day-to-day demands of an everyday life.


I have worked in some form or fashion, without a real break, since I was 15 years old. As I close in on my 52nd birthday, that seems like a mighty long time. Over the years my endeavors gradually progressed from babysitter to lifeguard to marketer to corporate exec. Eventually, I made it to self-employment. (For many people, that means you have the toughest boss ever!)

Along the way, I collected commitments like souvenirs. Married at 21 (and still happily so). Mom at 26. Pet parent. A mortgage. A house and cars to maintain. Volunteer. Missionary. Mentor. Board member. Board chair.

All these things brought me joy and a sense of accomplishment. I was needed. Appreciated. Useful. Unfortunately, the sense of being essential is like a drug, sparking a craving that’s hard to deny. For me, the more I played the role of a go-to person, the more I needed the affirmation of being the one people count on.

Eventually, the tide turned. I discovered that each little commitment carried weight, like the grams that add up to an overloaded backpack. All those “luxury items” were breaking my back. My load was too heavy, and I desperately needed a shakedown.

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