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Hiking, Self Care, Travel

Life lessons I learned hiking the Appalachian Trail as a homeless hiker

Appalachian Trail hiker learns life lessons as homeless hiker


Homelessness is often equated with despair, and misery, and hopelessness. But maybe there is another side to this issue. Maybe, as crazy as it sounds, choosing to leave the comforts of home can be a liberating adventure.

An unusual group of people, including perpetual travelers, digital nomads, and long-distance hikers, often make the conscious decision to become “homeless.” This means giving up certainty about where they are going to sleep each night. Far from family and friends. Going to a favorite restaurant to order the usual isn’t an option. The job that provides regular income is long gone. They see these challenges, and rather than follow the logical path, decide to plunge into the unknown.

I became one of these intentionally “homeless” people last year. I wanted (needed?) to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. For nearly 6 months, I lived off what I carried on my back and the generosity of others, many of whom I had never met before. In this new world, shaving was discouraged, every day was casual Friday, and the only rush-hour was a frenzied race to reach the All-You-Can-Eat before they switched to dinner prices. It was glorious.

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(almost) funny, Hiking

Celebrate International Yoga Day AND Hike Naked Day #multitasking

Hike Naked Day

June 21 marks the first day of summer. Words like scorching, sweating, sweltering, and sunburn are part of our daily conversations. It’s time to get away, preferably someplace quiet and cool. Maybe a short hike through the woods to a secluded spot. You’re not picky, but a nearby waterfall spilling into a refreshing pool would be nice.   


If you’re heading outdoors to get away from the craziness and chaos and heat, you might be in for a surprise. June 21 is International Yoga Day AND Hike Naked Day.

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(almost) funny, Bucket-Lister Pro-tips, Hiking

7 tips GUARANTEED to make the most of your bear encounters

bear encounters funny wilderness survival hiking tips

I smelled them long before I saw them.

It wasn’t the flailing arms and hurried pace of a pair of day-hikers dressed in bright t-shirts and shorts rushing towards me that got my attention. It was their laundry detergent. Tide. Maybe Cheers. Either way, it was delicious enough to break the hypnotic spell that comes from hiking 20+ miles a day for more than two months.

“Hey!” the husband shouted. He was a little out of breath. “Hold up. There’s a mama bear and her baby cub back behind us.” The wife, also excited but a little triumphant, held up her cell phone. “I got pictures!”

Yup. I thought, Definitely Tide.

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Want to hike like a Ninja? Better check with your Trail Mom first.

Miss janet

I’ve seen the movies, so I know all about Ninjas. These solitary creatures move unseen and unheard from destination to destination, accomplishing impossible feats with superhuman agility and stamina. For big moments that require every last ounce of awesomeness, there’s even a blood-curdling battle cry.

Those of you with experience in the outdoors probably already know that Ninja-ing is exactly the same as long-distance hiking. Sure, the metal cups, poop shovels, and Crocs dangling from our 40lb packs tend to make a racket when we stumble over rocks and roots, but if no one is around to hear it, it’s just as good as silence. And we all know that those bi-hourly Snickers breaks aren’t pauses to catch our breath or contemplate the sanity of climbing the mountain in front of us; we’re just giving the mountain a chance to submit to our greatness before we show it who’s boss. Our battle cry (which is sure to elicit a reaction from even the most hard-hearted): “Crap! Where the hell did I leave my toilet paper?”

I understand if you have a few lingering suspicions about your ability to join the elite ranks of Ninja-ing hikers. If it weren’t for the timely advice and encouragement of the Appalachian Trail’s Sensei, I’d probably be right there with you. Continue Reading…


Hostel tips for backpackers: Hostel personalities

hostel personalities

Spring is coming.

I’m probably in the minority here, but I’m not ready for winter to leave us yet. One more monster storm that gives me a week’s worth of excuses to stay holed up inside, binge-watching Netflix and not shaving, would be perfect. Ready or not, Spring is on its way. Which means we need to lock in this season’s travel plans.

I think Monica and I have a pretty good system once we’ve picked a location. Whether we’re heading someplace exotic that requires updated vaccination records, or returning to a familiar haunt, we split up the chores. This means booking flights, checking for those can’t-miss activities that require reservations, arranging ground transportation if necessary, and finding the right lodging. Of these, lodging is usually the sticking point.

For several years, one of us had unreasonably strict criteria for what constituted suitable accommodations: room with a locking door, bed, and private shower; nearby restaurants (or better still, room service!); and no uninvited bugs, rodents, or reptiles.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail and staying in dozens (hundreds?) of hostels, relaxed my standards. Aside from the bugs, I don’t really need all those extra bells and whistles anymore. (If it weren’t for my “tree-hugger” tendencies, I’d be waging all-out war to eradicate these nasty nuisances.)


Our next big trip will put my newfound flexibility to the test. We’re going to hike the Camino de Santiago through France and Spain. Together! This means staying in hostels, and churches, and if experience is any indicator, even stranger’s homes. It’s gonna be awesome.

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