When I made public my intention to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2015, I immediately realized how ill-prepared I was to deal with all the questions, warnings, “tips” and material I received regarding my hike.
I started another longer hike on Jan 1, 2022 of the American Discovery Trail and as soon as I was announced, the memories of the repercussions came back. In this article, I’ll explore the psychology behind these things, why it happens, and how you can use your reactions as a powerful tool to educate and connect others.
Frequently Asked Questions
By the time I finished my hike, not only was I able to answer all the questions you had for me before you even asked them, but I was able to answer them in the order you asked them. , depending on whether you were a man or not. or female. I have had hundreds of these encounters to use as my database. It shocked me, really. Some of the questions you can expect: How long is this going to take you? Do you bring a gun? How do you transport all your food? Where will you sleep? Are you doing this alone? What do you do when it rains? Are you going to take a dog?
Many things were the same for everyone in the sense that their questions and concerns were more related to protection or danger. No matter how many times I was asked how much my bag would weigh or what kind of shoes I would use, I knew everyone really wanted to know the dark side, the negative and the dangerous, which brings me to something I ‘have been. do research for my own improvements.
The negativity bias
At the end of 2014, the first thing I was usually asked when I told people about my plan was also maybe the only thing they had ever heard on the Appalachian Trail. They narrowed their eyes and looked at me over their bifocals, leaning slowly and meaningfully. It was like they knew something bad was going to happen to me and that was their warning.
“Did you know that a woman disappeared some time ago?” “
I was well aware that Geraldine Largay, an Appalachian Trail hiker, had strayed from the trail in Maine in 2013 and failed to find her way back, unfortunately resulting in her death weeks later, a few miles from the last one. white fire she had seen. Although her remains were eventually found the year I hiked in 2015, she was still failing my decision to start. It was all the buzz once you mentioned any sort of hiking in Maine.
Why do people seem so much more interested in the macabre? Why do they ask the negative questions first? An article on verywellmind.com shed some light on the subject:
“Because negative information causes increased activity in a critical information processing area of the brain, our behaviors and attitudes tend to be shaped more powerfully by bad news, experiences and information. “
https://www.verywellmind.com/negative-bias-4589618#:~:text=Because%20negative%20information%20causes%20a%20surge%20in%20activity%20in%20a%20critical%20information%20processing%20area%20of % 20le% 20cerveau% 2C% 20nos% 20behaviors% 20and% 20attitudes% 20tend% 20à% 20be% 20formé% 20plus% 20puissant% 20by% 20mauvais% 20news% 2C% 20experiences% 2C% 20and% 20informations.
People who had never walked for a day in their life immediately started warning me about the dangers of being a woman alone in the woods. Be sure to bring a gun for the bears. You need bear spray. Take a huge knife with you. Protection, defense, security. The amount of negativity I was getting was alarming and a bit depressing in the sense that I couldn’t believe how quickly people were jumping on the dark side of things. I found myself irritated and I was still on the defensive for the track. After a bit of thought, I felt armed with the creativity and power of aversion that I found it necessary to file down the sharpness of those corners.
When I was asked about the disappearance of Geraldine Largay, or I told horror stories of people kidnapped, assaulted or worse, I would say, “You know, you can draw a 2,200 mile line. anywhere in the world and experience a bad situation. . I can get hit by a truck while crossing the road. There could be a flash flood or an earthquake that could wipe out us all at any time. There is danger in every part of life. While knowing how to avoid a bad situation is important, I’m not about to cancel what will be the best six month trip yet just because something bad may happen to me.
After reciting an interpretation of this 3 or 4 times, I shortened my spiel with a clever and shorter sentence: “Don’t be afraid; be ready.
Since then, I have learned to distract from the negative when writing. I recently published an article on the subject of hitchhiking and the focus was on how one can hitchhike effectively and what I have found to be effective regarding proper etiquette. I did not discuss the dangers of hitchhiking but how to behave and present yourself by the side of the road. The reader can always form their own opinion, but at least I can stand on my soapbox for the duration of the play.
I spent the whole morning trying to find a study that was done, or the precise meaning of giving someone a personal item before going on a trip. Giving gifts has been around since the dawn of time in one way or another. Chances are, if you have a large circle of people who know about your plans, a lot of them will want to give you stuff. Don’t worry if you end up with a whole collection of old memorabilia. The things people chose to give me for my hike surprised me.
No one gave me brand new ultralight hiking gear. Someone gave me a cartographer’s compass that was probably 40 years old. Someone else gave me a military compass. I ended up with 4 or 5 sturdy compasses of different styles. Another popular item were maglites and other matching flashlights. I received heirloom jewelry to wear, many knives, binoculars, fire starter kits, first aid kits, snakebite kits, whistles, bells, MREs, solar flares (you can’t make it up that), mess kits, a thermos, and enough paracord to go around the world several times.
I wanted to see how much weight I would have to carry if I brought all of these items with me, so I put them in a box. It weighed heavier than my own fully-filled backpack. Why do people give away personal items like this? My only guesses, other than the fact that they are doing everything they know to take care of you (which is very sweet), is that they give you a piece of it in the hope that they will. part of your journey in a sort of way.
We are humans and creatures of nature. While the human race has survived for so long, technology has emerged and a lot has changed. People live in houses, drive their cars, take airplanes, stay in hotels, and eat in restaurants. I believe that everyone still has an instinctive connection with nature. Many don’t exercise it as much as they should, and that’s why they’ll put you on a pedestal, praise you, and want to bond with your business as well.
You might think of yourself as an ordinary outdoor enthusiast who has chosen to take a long hike. Many others, however, see you as a prolific trailblazer on a dangerous mission. A hero. Someone who does something they haven’t and probably won’t do.
Helping people by sharing your adventure is priceless and you won’t realize the positive impact it has on others. I was writing a blog about my AT hike that I started months before I even got to Georgia to start my trek. Some of my readers have actually done trail magic for me. I didn’t know who they were until they said something. Some readers drove out and left sandwiches for me in state park bathrooms. Others sent me packages by post. People want to be part of your trip. Take that as a compliment and an honor and let them be.
I made sure to send lots of postcards and letters while I was on the track. It’s one of the easiest and cheapest things you can do that has a huge impact on others. Use this method of communication to educate people on what it really is. Create an image in their mind.
What did I learn from this experience? When you advertise a hike, most of the answers will be the same. Better equipped to handle your audience gives you an advantageous angle to present your own type of education.
Let people follow from their homes. Help them see what you see. Thank them for the gifts. Thank them for the “advice” you won’t take. Don’t let the negativity and worry of others put you off. Seek your answers from other hikers, not the general public. Above all, don’t forget that you will soon be able to disconnect and enjoy the freedoms and beauty of being on the trails.