What to Expect When You Tell Them You’re Hiking – The Trek

What to Expect When You Tell Them You’re Hiking – The Trek

When I went public with my plans to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 2015, I immediately realized how unprepared I was to handle all the questions, warnings, ‘advice’, and material items I received in regards to my hike.

I begin another, lengthier thru-hike Jan 1, 2022 of the American Discovery Trail and upon my announcement, memories of the repercussions came flooding back. In this article I will 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’d finished my thru-hike not only was I able to answer every question you had for me before you even asked, but I could answer them in the order in which you’d ask, depending on whether you were male or female. I had hundreds of these encounters to use as the basis of my data. It shocked me, really. A few of the questions you can expect: How long will it take you? Are you bringing a gun? How do you carry all your food? Where will you sleep? Are you doing this alone? What do you do when it rains? Will you be taking a dog?

A lot of things were the same with everyone in the sense that their questions and concerns were more protection or danger-laden. No matter how many times I was asked how much my pack would weigh or what kind of footwear I’d use, I knew that everyone really just wanted to know about the dark, negative, dangerous side, which brings me to something I have been doing some research on for my own improvements.

The Negativity Bias

Back in late 2014, the first thing I was usually asked when telling people of my plan may have also been the only thing they had ever heard of the Appalachian Trail. They’d squint their eyes and look at me over the top of their bifocals, leaning in slowly and meaningfully. It was as if they knew that surely something bad would happen to me and this was their warning.

“Did you know a woman went missing there a while back?”

I was well aware that Geraldine Largay, an Appalachian Trail hiker, had wandered off the trail in Maine in 2013 and failed to find her way back, unfortunately resulting in her death weeks later, mere miles from the last white blaze she’d seen. Although her remains were eventually found the year I hiked in 2015, she was still missing upon my decision to begin. It was all the buzz as soon as you mentioned any sort of hiking in Maine.

Why do people seem to be much more interested in the macabre? Why do they ask the negative questions first? An article on verywellmind.com shed a little light on the topic:

“Because negative information causes a surge in 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.”


Source: https://thetrek.co/what-to-expect-when-you-tell-them-youre-hiking/