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Hiking My Own Hike

Franconia Notch in Early Winter

With the end of the year upon us, I wanted to update you all about some of the life changes I set in motion a few months ago when I took a 3 month leave of absence from work.

I won't leave you in suspense. I resigned, amicably, from my job working for a well known search engine company, at the end of my leave.

New Work-Life Balance

I decided to hike-my-own-hike in order to radically redefine my work-life balance. I just couldn't do it as a full time employee within the context of my former position. Here's where I'm headed.

I want to give myself some time to really enjoy my life while I'm still young enough. I don't want to work until I'm 65 or 70 only to be too feeble to enjoy the outdoors and the active life that I have today. In other words, when there's snow in the mountains, I'm going to be breaking trail and climbing peaks, not dreaming about the weekend in my cubicle.

I want to spend more time with my wife and partner. Although we've been married going on twenty years, we've been closer in the past 4 months that I can remember. Having more time together, being able to pay attention and listen without interruptions or time limits, and doing things together every day, has made all the difference in our relationship.

I want to have a livelihood that helps people be happier. When you work in the fast-paced internet or software world, it's easy to lose sight of the value that your work provides towards the greater good. I want to be more spiritually vested in my work, where income or material possessions are NOT the primary objective.

I want to run my own business. I'm very entrepreneurial and have been involved with start-up companies most of my working life. I have some business ideas that involve outdoor recreation, helping people, and that I believe can generate enough income to live on with some lifestyle changes. I'm excited again. I making things happen and it feels great.

Section Hiker

None of these changes could have been possible without sectionhiker.com. This blog and the community that's formed around are the foundation of the new path that I've embarked on. It would be difficult to catalog the number of technical skills I've developed by running this site, becoming a better writer and photographer, and by engaging in a continuous dialog with all of you.

One of my yoga and meditation teachers always ends class by saying, "Thank you for your attention." He says this because he wants us to realize that concentrated, mindful awareness is the key to happiness.

Thank you for your attention, have a safe and happy New Year, and I look forward to being with you again next year.

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40 comments

  1. Hey – good luck!

    You write and review well and you tell inspiring stories. Believe me there's value you in what you do!

    I'm on a similar journey on the other side of the Atlantic…good job but time's up in 2011 – there's more to life. Scale back and take more time for the things that matter…to have different experiences and to share the experience gained to date.

    Don't neglect this site though!

  2. Philip, that are superb news! Really nice to see you quite the 9 – 5, become your own boss, spend more time with your wife and do the things you love. All the best on the trail ahead!

  3. Philip, Best wishes for this courageous change; you are setting a great example to us all. At this time of New Years resolutions, reading your story is very much food for thought on a much wider scale. I shall enjoy reading the next chapter in your life.

  4. Best of luck with your new direction. As you are probably aware, I gave up work in the summer. Fortunately, for me, working is an option not a necessity, so I've just chilled out. I have a few opportunities of (very) part-time work, but if they don't happen, it doesn't matter.

    Being at home with my wife has been wonderful for our relationship and we are so happy. Having the time just to be together is so life enhancing. I'm investigating various voluntary/charity work options as well, to give something back.

    I look forward to hearing more.

  5. Congrats on your decision… Im sure you wont regret it. If as much effort goes into your chosen new venture as goes into this site, Im sure it will be a success. A very happy new year to you and to all readers of your fine blog.

    David

  6. I hope everything goes well for you.

    Good luck.

  7. Earlylight,

    Good! Like you, I retired early to further enjoy life while I could(Computer Administrator & Software Engineer at a major school.) Soon enough, the long sleep will settle in, but, we will get our licks in first. You have to do what you like doing, else it ain't worth it.

    Time is something none of us can buy. Take time to do things with others and to do things you like to do.

    jdm

  8. This is great! I think you are doing the right thing for you, it must of taken a but of courage to pull the trigger on this.

    Good Luck!

  9. Steve – thank you. Not to worry, this site isn't going anywhere. It's too much fun to write for!

    Hendrick – thanks for the kind words. I must say that you have also been an inspiration for me, getting certified as a UL hiking guide and writing your wonderful blog. I treasure my international hiking friends, and hope we meet, maybe in Scotland or Montana, some day.

    Helen – thank you for the heartfelt wishes. You've added a wonderful new voice and perspective to the hiking community this past year and I wish you the best in everything.

    Robin – I remember your retirement announcement and am always fascinated by the gear tinkering and tweaking you do. Head for the hills, is my advice. You will find your calling (heart) there, and the reunion at home is that much sweeter.

  10. What an inspirational story of a journey. I've just started following your tweets & blog. I wish you godspeed and fair weather on your trail as 2011 starts.

  11. David – It's funny, I'm not really that hung up on the success of the new venture(s). I will work my butt off, but I think just doing it will be reward enough. Thanks for the kind words and for being a regular reader.

    John – Thanks for the good wishes. All the best to you and your family this new year.

    Marco – you are a wise man and I know we share many of the same values. I appreciate your regular comments on SH and look forward to meeting you this summer in the dacks!

  12. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up

    Seems I’ve tried a hundred different things

    Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy

    Jack of all trades, master of none

    So many interests, so many distractions, and a siren’s call to every port

    Except for the Trail, always the trail and its far off horizon

    There I’m young and it's yesterday, today and tomorrow

    Best wishes on you journey

    That's the way to live it!

  13. This is good news, especially since I'm always trying to figure out if it's possible for me to actually live a life that keeps me doing all the hiking I want to do. I've been toying with ideas to make a meager living with my experience as a hiker, but it's certainly not an easy market to get into. I've already found your blog to be inspiring, since you've made a pretty big thing out of what you love to do. Now I can't wait to hear how the next set of projects works out. Good luck!

  14. Excellent. Excellent. Excellent. Aside from personal seething jealousy, this is tremendous and I wish you the best of luck.

  15. Philip, you are my hero man!

  16. Love the idea of "hiking your own hike." Good luck to you.

  17. And thank you Philip!

    I love your blog. Seems you have hiked and written yourself into a new chapter of life.

    I too left a profession that made me feel unsatisfied and dreaming about weekends.

    I am so much happier!

    It is clear that you are on a good path. Thanks so much for sharing your adventures and leaving some maps.

  18. Gosh what a fantastic time you will have! I'm all for it!!!! I'm wishing I can go back to that, but gotta get back to work. Only 28 years old and no money saved up and in the past 2 years went out on the PCT for 3 months and lived in France for two years and exhausted all my savings. The plus to going back to the workforce I can really go after a career that will be trail related. I've been applying to all types of ranger jobs and biological field research stuff (I have a biology degree). My latest idea is to get a higher education in wildlife or forestry or something that will allow me to research out on the trail. Any ideas of something cool I could study? Maybe study giardia levels in streams from year to year? Or study the amount of aluminum in snowfall in the high sierras? Anything type of research in the back country would be awesome!

  19. Best of luck amigo. I wish I had the guts to try this!

  20. Jolly/James – thanks, and I want to hear more about this new environmental stuff you've gotten into. Change is in the air.

    Guthook – I'm not living off of section hiker yet. As Robin, our resident economist, will agree, the secret is compound interest. Live frugally and invest every penny. If you can hike a long trail, you're predisposed to this, and you can do it. I have faith in you. :-)

    Mike – beautifully said brother. I have embraced the permanent impermanence of a continuous life-hike.

    Steve – welcome from Africa. We look forward to reading you blog.

    Robin – the hardest person to convince was my mother. I think she understands now and has faith in me. Thanks for the good wishes.

  21. Hikezilla/Steve – you still make me laugh. Miss you buddy.

    Donna – I borrowed the line from Francis Tapon, sort of.

    new/old – Thanks, always a treat for me to hear from you. I like that, "written a new chapter…" How apt. :-)

    George – I turned to my wife one day and said, "I can't do this anymore." From then on, it was easy. Thanks for the extra luck, though.

  22. Well Philip – That's quite a bit of news. Congratulations and I wish you well.

  23. Best of luck! I'm sure it wasn't an easy decision to leave the security/pay/benefits of a 9-5 but the freedom you gain and extra time spent with your wife trumps all the rest. There's no doubt that you will enjoy life much more now than ever before.

  24. Thanks, Phil. I appreciate it quite a bit. I used to hold the dream that I could live off of something like a hiker website, but now I'm thinking more along the lines of having lots of little projects. I'll let you know how it goes. I think living within society is a much scarier adventure than any long trail I've seen :)

  25. Brian – try the conservation biology program at Anitoch. If I had a biology degree, I’d do this. Here’s some more info. http://sectionhiker.com/interview-with-tom-wessels-on-conservation-biology/

    Another area, I’ve looked into is land surveying. There’s a long licensing process, but with your backpacking creds, you might be able to land a job/mentorship in a trail maintenance organization. There’s a huge shortage of land surveyors in the US. Nice portable skill, too.

  26. Very happy for you. Your passion for hiking has always been evident in your writing.

  27. Welcome to the club. My job got shipped to China in 2003 and after a couple of years of living off my savings, I concluded that Social Security and my corporate pension account would eventually be worthless and my 20 + years of hard work and frugality would be punished instead of rewarded.

    Since then I've been going through my personal retirement savings and preparing myself for life as an impoverished senior citizen the way our socialist rulers want me to be.

    Lightweight backpacking is my ultimate fall-back position. A dollar a day for food, some quality Phil-tested gear and wandering happily through the wilderness until death.

    Really doesn't seem all that bad now that I think of it.

  28. Happy New Year, and best wishes for your new direction!

    Don't knock old age, though–as Finis Mitchell, a pioneer fishing guide, hiker and climber in Wyoming's Wind River Range put it, "We don't stop hiking because we grow too old; we grow old because we stop hiking."

  29. Alan – Thanks for your kind wishes. Lord Elpus!

    David – you'd be surprised what an easy decision it was to make. Thanks.

    Tommy – Thanks too. I know you're behind me on this one.

    Lostalot – Living under a tarp is my fall back position. Rice bowl in hand.

    Granny – Amen to that. Hiking is a metaphor for me for unencumbered living. Makes sense, huh? The time to live full time is now. Thanks for the best wishes, and the same to you.

  30. I wish you great luck with this. I have to admit that when the $*@&!*!! university administration, $*@#((! grant reviewers, and #*#*@&!* students start to drive me around the bend, hiking sites like this (and especially this one) help me stay sane. Now I wonder if this would work for a sabbatical?

  31. Hi Philip – thought you'd write something special for end of year. Glad the new direction is working out. Look forward to meeting up again – on the trail or off-piste :-). Best wishes for 2011!

  32. Rob – Thank you for the best wishes. I leave it up to you to spin a walkabout into a sabbatical year. :-)

    Graham – What a pleasure to hear from you! Happy New Year. You have to update me on your route planning for the TGO sometime. Come back tomorrow for my New Year's Resolutions post. That's always a little special, too.

  33. Woo-hoooooooooooo!!!

    Way to set an example of hiking your own hike! It's often that first step (quiting a comfy job) that is the most terrifying. However, after taking it, the only regret most people have is, "Why the *(#@& didn't I do this sooner!"

    BRAVO! Keep us posted!

    P.S. I agree with your "sort of" remark to Donna. I certainly didn't coin the HYOH term. At best, I've done a little to help popularize it a bit more. HYOH was already a well known saying when I thru-hiked the AT in 2001. Unfortunately, I don't know who originally coined the term.

  34. I figured you'd get a kick out of this. You're absolutely right about the "What the heck?" moment. I haven't been this happy and relaxed since I was 5 years old! Have a good new year Francis. I'm sure we'll be in touch.

  35. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify…

    Always admire those who follow their dreams. Takes guts and a true calling. You will be fine Phil and probably just added a decade to your life by getting rid of the stresses of a 9-5.

  36. I am envious. I have been trying to figure it out for over 30 years and and still trying to figure out what I am going to be when I grow up. My wife and I are recent empty nesters and enjoy spending more time together. The White Mountains is in the plans.

    I too have worked in startups for most of my career and have lived the stress and had a tough time with the balance. I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel with my youngest being a freshman in college. Good for you that you can not make your passion a part of your career. I am starting to do some real soul searching about the next phase of my life and how I can incorporate my passions into a career. It is never too late.

    Namaste

    David

  37. Phil- Congratulations on your decision and your courage. I have to admit I have been struggling with the stress of my work life much more after my hike this Spring. The trouble with enlightenment is that it can make you see what you were blissfully unaware of in the past. I know a change is due, just haven't found my direction yet.

    I have been reading a new trail book over the holidays called "Hiking Through" by Paul Stutzman. Probably not for everybody, but it is very Spiritual and unexpectantly thought provoking. Several things spoke to me, but one line in particular stands out (which I am paraphrasing because I don't have the book in hand)- "If you can't carry it in your heart or your backpack you probably don't need it". That one will stick with me for a while.

    Best of luck in your new endeavors!

  38. jerze – thanks for the vote of confidence. My friends at New Years even remarked at home much happier and relaxed I am.

    Oldcaddie – if you're willing to give up some salary, there are a lot of things you can do career-wise that are far more enjoyable.

    DripDry – Change is constant. I think hikers understand that more than most. I think if you embrace that fact, change can become your norm and not a threat. Easy for me to say though; I don't have kids.

  39. Nice dreams – looking forward to hearing the actual steps for implementation. Good luck.

  40. This is the "other David". I wish you the best. I have my own business and I'm taking more time off for the trail than before. I'm not trying to build an empire, I want to enjoy hiking with my grandson while I'm still healthy enough to do so. He's seven now and turning into quite the hiker. I think he loves backpacking almost as much as me.

    Grannyhiker–I fell in love with Finis Mitchell's work on a trip to Wyoming in 1975. I ended up buying every postcard he'd produced. On another trip through there, my wife, daughter, and I visited with him and his wife for a couple hours in Rock Springs. He was inspirational.

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