My Biggest Roadblocks from Thru-Hiking the AT: Healthcare and Old Parents



Let me explain, because these 2 roadblocks go hand-in-hand. I am a 23-year-old grad student who is still under my mom’s insurance plan that she receives through her job. Our family’s insurance is amazing. I could get my leg bitten off by a bear and need a prosthetic leg, contract lyme disease, collapse from severe dehydration, and be airlifted to a specialty hospital and end up paying very little out-of-pocket. My insurance could possibly come in VERY handy on the AT, and I believe everyone attempting to thru-hike the AT (or only spend even a couple of days hiking anywhere) should have health insurance. Injuries are almost guaranteed.

Here is my dilemma: my mom plans on retiring the same month I plan on heading out to the AT. Which means no more employer insurance for my mom, which in-turn means more expensive family insurance for my mom, which basically means I need to pay for my own health insurance. My mom had envisioned me graduating college, finding a job fairly quickly, and paying for my own insurance anyway. So, since I’m spending 6 months in the woods without compensation and paychecks, how in the world do I do this. Yes, I understand it can be expensive to hike the AT with food, hotels, new gear, etc….but I factored this into the “I have to save up $3,000 to $4,000 to live off of for 6 months” budget. I, however, didn’t factor in additional nearly $200 a month for individual health insurance through ObamaCare.

The other dilemma I’m facing is a lot of guilt. Now my mom is talking about staying at her job (that she utterly fucking hates) for 6 months longer, in which case (for some reason, I don’t really understand this big, grown-up money thing) she would have to fork out an extra $55 a month for family healthcare coverage. I don’t want to hold my mom and dad back from retirement, but on the same accord, I don’t want them to hold me back either.

My guilt lies in a question my mom asked me this morning: “Why do you have to hike the entire Appalachian Trail?” and I honestly couldn’t think of a better answer than “Because I just have to.” I figured this blog might be a space where I can flush out all of the things I talk about in my head and compile them into a paragraph that would actually make sense to someone other than myself. So in my best attempt to make sense, why I have to hike the entire Appalachian Trail:

I have spent the last 6 years in college. By the time I graduate, I will have spent 7 years for a Graduate Degree in Architecture. While I had a goal of obtaining a degree, pursuing it, and finally (within a year) achieving that goal, I honestly got my degree only putting half of my ass into my work. A lot of college students (not all!) take out copious amounts of debt in order to live on their own (even though their parents have a room for them very close by), pay for tuition, and in their spare time, party. I however, did not take this approach. Instead, I luckily have 2 very amazing parents who have helped me get through college debt free, but only if I got a job to pay for my own expenses and remained living at home (which btw, will cut your student loans in half if you can manage to suck it up and live with your parents as long as possible). So, since starting college I have worked at both Target and IKEA, and I still work at IKEA, a job that I am truly thankful for. If you are looking for a great college job with awesome benefits, IKEA. But, in having retail jobs through college, I have lost weekends plus a lot of hours during the week. If anyone has a friend or family member in an architecture program, you know that these programs are just as intense, if not more, than obtaining medical degrees or law degrees. For several semesters through-out school, I have practically lived at the school studio. Literally. Cots, mini-fridges, all-nighters three times a week. I have lost crucial time needed in order to put my full 100% effort into my work. I have given up on getting anything done between Friday and Monday. The point is, while obtaining this degree has been a challenge and will be a relief once I’m done, I haven’t dedicated my soul, my being, and everything I have into it. And more than anything, I want to put 100% of my soul into something in my life.

That something is the Appalachian Trail. Why the entire Appalachian Trail? Because I’m done only dipping half of my ass into the water. For the first time in my life I won’t have a schedule, I won’t have a job, I won’t have an agenda, and I would like to not have anyone to answer to except myself (The latter is growing seemingly more difficult now that this whole “mom retiring, losing my health insurance” thing has come up.) But why only do half of the Appalachian Trail, when I have the time and opportunity to do the entire thing? Won’t my sense of accomplishment be double what it would be if I did a half hike? Wouldn’t my self-confidence be 2x stronger than it would be if I only hiked for 3 months. Wouldn’t I learn twice as much about myself if I thru-hiked instead of half-hiked? I’m nearly positive I would be 2x more accomplished and grounded if I thru-hiked instead of only hiking half of the trail. Last year, I spent 2 months in Italy on a study abroad trip, and I can say with 100% certainty, if I spent 4 months in Italy I would have picked up way more of the language, understood the culture in deeper sense, spent more time exploring, and ultimately (and obviously) gotten 2 months more of life-changing experiences out of it. It’s that simple. If someone offered you 1 million dollars or 2 million dollars, and you knew you only needed 1 million….you would still take the 2 million.

Again, if my mom saw this, she would most likely come up with some sort of rebuttal of again, “So…why do have to hike the entire thing?” But that, at the moment, is the best response I can come up with.

If anyone has any any advice for me, is the same age as me in the same situation, or just wants to tell me to fuck off because you think I’m spoiled and have everything handed to me (you are rude,and a little bit correct, but I’ve never asked for anything my parents have offered to me and I’m extremely grateful towards them. I will be building them their dream home as soon as possible), please leave me comments!

5 thoughts on “My Biggest Roadblocks from Thru-Hiking the AT: Healthcare and Old Parents

  1. Your school may have some insurance programs or at least advice for transitioning/graduating students. Can’t hurt to ask.

    As for your mother’s question about why hike the entire trail? Tell her if you do it now you won’t have to quit your good job in ten years to do it then. She doesn’t need to know that you still might quit your job in ten years to do it again 🙂

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