Nobody knows for sure where the saying hike your own hike came from. Although I wrote a book called Hike Your Own Hike, I certainly didn’t coin the phrase. When I hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2001, people were repeating that mantra often, so an anonymous hiker may have come up with the saying in the 1980s or earlier. Regardless, it’s an old concept. Native Americans surely had a similar saying in their languages 5,000 years ago.
What does hike your own hike mean?
Hike your own hike means that you should hike a trail in the manner that you enjoy, and not the way somebody tells you to hike it. Although you should ponder the advice of others, ultimately make your own decision and focus on having fun! For example:
Hike your own hike also means that you can backpack in any direction you want. Most hike the Appalachian Trail north, a small fraction go south, and other “flip flop.” A Flip Flopper might hike north from Georgia to Virginia, then flip up to Maine and walk back down south to Virginia. In the end, Flip Floppers cover the same trail that the linear hikers cover, but just in a different way.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it. — W. C. Fields
In many cases, hiking your own hike may mean quitting the hike. Over 70 percent of the hikers who intend to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in one season quit. Some of them return the next season(s) to complete the sections they missed; thus, they become Section Hikers. However, many who quit never return because the hike wasn’t fun for them. After all, digging a hole in the dirt and squatting can get old after a while.
Whether you quit after 20 miles or you go the entire distance, the Appalachian Trail teaches you the same lesson: hike your own hike. Hikers ultimately focus on having fun. Consider what Bramble and Bushwack, a married couple, wrote at the end of their Appalachian Trail hike:
Hiking your own hike off the Appalachian Trail
Although the Appalachian Trail’s basic credo worked for thru-hikers, I wasn’t sure if it applied to life off the trail. However, after enough backpacking and deep thinking, I soon realized that it did. In fact, the pilgrims applied the hike your own hike belief before and after their journey. For example, Aloha! Ann describes how the Appalachian Trail created an Inflection Point in her life. She finally summoned the courage to hike her own hike:
Aloha! Ann realized that she was not enjoying the hike she was on (her job), and that she could not afford to put off enjoying it any longer. She decided to create an Inflection Point in her life. The first step on her new hike was the Appalachian Trail.
We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anyone tell you any different! — Kurt Vonnegut
Thru-hikers don’t blindly do what people tell them they should do, they do what they know gives them pleasure. Those who just do what society expects them to do, thereby ignoring their inner voice, are missing the point of life. A pilgrim’s purpose is to enjoy life now and not to put it off for retirement.
Many agree that the purpose of life is to enjoy it and will shout, “And it took you walking 2,168 miles to figure that out? C’mon, I figured that out this morning when I was doing the laundry!”
Yet for all those who agree, there are so few who fully enjoy it. Therefore, the challenge isn’t understanding the concept, it’s executing it.
Are you hiking your own hike?
To find out if you’re hiking your own hike, take this quick quiz. Just answer these questions with a simple YES or NO:
ScoringGive yourself 10 points for every YES. If your score is 70 or less, you need to make some changes to create an Inflection Point and start squeezing the most out of life. My book, Hike Your Own Hike, will show you how. If you scored 100, then go easy on the Prozac.
Share how you scored (or any other thoughts you have) in comment section below!
This is a modified excerpt from Chapter 1 of Hike Your Own Hike: 7 Life Lessons from Backpacking Across America. You can read the whole first chapter for free. Or you can buy the book at my shop, Amazon, Apple’s iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, and Google Books. (The best deal is at my shop). It’s also available as an audiobook.
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