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The Best Year of My Life

Early Autumn on the East Pond Trail
Early Autumn on the East Pond Trail

“This has been the best year of my life”, I told Sam as we were climbing Wheeler Mountain in Maine. She replied, “You don’t hear many people saying that these days.” Isn’t that the truth?

It’s been 5 years now since I quit my job in corporate America and set out to declare my independence. I’m making a living as an outdoor writer on my own steam without having to rely on anyone else, I get up into the woods and mountains a few days each week to backpack, fish, and ski, and I get to help people who want to spend more of their free time outdoors. I never thought life could be so much fun.

I still work real hard, but without all the stress and angst that I had when I was a corporate exec. My work is play, if you get what I mean. I’m genuinely happy every day. I still have financial metrics like any businessman, but without the incredible pressure and guilt that comes when working for a company that is only interested in making more money. While you need some money to live on, you shouldn’t let making money take over your life. You can’t buy those years back after you retire.

Fishing on the Dry River
Tenkara Fishing on the Dry River

But I couldn’t have done it alone without my loving wife’s support and I hope you are as blessed as I am to have such a caring, loyal, and intelligent life companion. She’s always been there to encourage me when I’m feeling down or to distract me, when I need to be distracted.

While life has been good the past 4 years, I made a few changes in my routine this year that yielded big results in the happiness department. I’ve been supplementing our income during the past few years with a little marketing consulting work on the side, but I shut that down (and let my clients go) so I could have more free time to camp and hang out with my honey, focus more on writing new content, ski, fish, and hike even more.

Climbing Mt Moriah
Climbing Mt Moriah

That gamble paid off, much to my surprise, and Section Hiker readership doubled again this year to 200,000 readers per month. It’s hard to believe that a personal hiking and backpacking blog can garner so much attention when people have so many media outlets available to them, so I sincerely thank you for your patronage.

“Onward and by all means”, as my friends Tom and Atticus Finch say. Onward and by all means!

53 comments

  1. Good for you. Over the past five years you’ve become part of my morning coffee – except when I’m actually out hiking :).

  2. Timothy Dannenhoffer

    I posted this on facebook a few days ago:

    “I think I am tired of living in southern New York. I’m just not able to do what I love, what I NEED to do. And worse yet, I fail to meet the type of people I would like to meet – people that are also passionate about what I am passionate about, and want to do the things I want to do. I thought having a good job here with a fair amount of time off would be good enough to satisfy my need to explore mountains and wilderness when I got time off…but now even with xxxxing time off I have ZERO go to friends and companions to get away to wilderness with. I’m starting to wonder if I’d be better off shaking stuff up and trying to get a job out west. I’m just scared to because my employment is so stable…practically guaranteed if I just do what’s expected of me. But there is no doubt I belong somewhere else completely, and with the exception of a few people in my life, with completely different people. I feel like I am somebody else, wanting to be somewhere else, doing other things, trapped in a body going through the motions.”

    I LOVE backpacking, year round, and have NOBODY to do it with. I have experience and all of the gear. Please, if you ever want to get some backpacking in and would not mind company I’d like to join you.

    Skiing also, I have a Gore / Whiteface season pass and nobody to ski with most of the time.

    • Timothy, REI has some good guided backpacking trips which might be a way to make backpacking friends. Also probably a hiking club near you which would do same.

      • Timothy Dannenhoffer

        Bookhike, I worked for REI for about 2 years. Their guided trips are too expensive amd I am too equipped and experienced to justify paying those prices, just for someone to backpack with. Hiking clubs are OK but they don’t seem to do much backpacking, and when they do it’s only for a single night, or it’s really local and not too interesting OR they are hiking too many miles. I want to do multiday trips, reasonable miles, in exciting places like the Adirondacks…or Alaska!

      • Hay I live up near Watertown Ny.

      • Timothy, have you tried joining the AMC or the Green Mountain Club? My local chapters have all sorts of day hikes, weekend camping trips and even longer backpacking trips. Even if you don’t find exactly your dream trip, the clubs are a great way to meet like-minded people to organize trips with…

      • Tim, Check out the trip calendar at neohbackpackingclub.com. They run trips all over the country, and many international.

      • Timothy Dannenhoffer

        An Ohio based hiking community won’t work but thanks.

      • Health issues forced my wife and I moving from colorado to arizona. On line located a sight Meetup. Check it out, everything I need outdoors with like minded folks.

      • Hi, Timothy. You might want to try any of the many groups on Meetup.com. I am an older, slower hiker/backpacker type and I found a group for me (Fellowship of the Tortoise), which does have some fellow AMC members in it., and that suited me. You might find something that will suit your backpacking companionship needs. Many people use it for just that purpose. You can specify the area you live in and then search for groups as “x” number of miles from your home. Best of luck.

    • Move to Seattle and join the Mountaineers – that lots of people find hiking partners.

      https://www.mountaineers.org/?gclid=Cj0KEQjwtO2wBRCu0d2dkvjVi5cBEiQAMEIVGZASN2nTFA1GRltl6bhPB2hqTGOEvrIWQpKLl6V_tYcaAiPd8P8HAQ

      or start a chapter in NY…

  3. I enjoy the blog and look forward to reading your posts everyday. Keep up the good work.

  4. I’ve always thought that the ideal “job” was to be paid to do something that you would happily do as a hobby. Sounds like you’ve got the ideal job for you. The rest of us can be inspired to work towards the same thing.

  5. I know what you mean. I had the incredible good fortune to spend the majority my career working in large wilderness areas in Montana and Wyoming on trail crews, as a biological and range technician, and lastly as a Wilderness Manager and outfitter-guide permit administrator. Most of my summers were spent working with pack stock or hiking in the back country in some of the finest country in North America. Wow, what a ride it was and thank God that I still have the health, ambition, and love for the mountains to get out and about now that I’m retired.

  6. You the MAN, Phil! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for years now and I look forward to it every morning when I get to work.
    Thanks for all the great content.

  7. I can’t help but say it, but I’m very jealous of your what your life style has come to be. As I sit here in my office, starting my day off reading through my emails and your post, I can’t help but long to feel the same happiness that you are experiencing. While I try to figure out how to do that, I wanted to thanks for sharing a slice of your life with those of us who would rather be out on the trail. Hope all your happiness continues and that you can say again next year, that this was the best year of my life.
    Happy trails to you.

  8. Good for you Phil! The information and insight you share are irreplaceable. I appreciate all of your effort! Enjoy life!!!

  9. Phil…thanks for the inspiration. I retired early then moved to Arizona one year ago. I miss new hampshire my hikes my ocean my skiing my exploring. Ive done some incredible hikes in the west but im coming home. Next month. Never to leave again. Im.new to this site. I want to read about all your weekly activities. How can I do that. Bill

  10. This is wonderful news, and reflective of our conversation at Diana’s Baths. I couldn’t be more happy for you. It takes courage to take an alternative route. Onwards, by all means.

  11. Hope you will extend your explorations to the eastern Sierra Nevada. Nothing like those high trails — a fine compliment to the other coast. Suggest you read Steve Brown’s recent piece Magic Comes Alive on 395 in the July/Aug 2015 Sunrunner if you need inspiration.

  12. I am so glad that you decided to take the risk, and reap the reward. No you do not hear very often your statement, in any profession.

  13. We live a minimalist lifestyle, and don’t work full time, so that we too can do the things we love. Because we don’t make a tremendous income there won’t be much world travels for us, which we don’t mind because we live in Maine, Vacationland. Congratulations to you for such a successful year and continued growth of your blog. It is definitely my favorite blog to read.

  14. congratulations! I totally support your actions and am happy you can pull it off. I enjoy your blog even though it is NE oriented and I live in the NW – hiking is hiking. Keep up the good work

  15. “Long may you run… ” A little celebratory Neil Young seems right:

    https://youtu.be/NyRXoTZXrzA

  16. Congratulation, Philip. Your experience, e-bulletins and website have been an invaluable resource. Thanks for the great work!

  17. I’m glad to see things are working out so well for you! 5 years and 200,000 readers later, this site is still as good as it was years ago when I first started reading here and following. That’s quite an accomplishment to have such a huge audience! I’ve been enjoying reading about your fishing you recently got into, but it was the lightweight hiking content that brought me here originally. Thanks for sharing all that you do with the hiking community. Happy trails to you good sir.

  18. They say if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life!

    Congratulations, Phil!

    I’m in my 60s and still love to play basketball, flag football, baseball, volleyball, soccer, etc., however, I can’t play any of those games the way I could forty years ago. I know the time will come when I can’t play any of them but as long as I can walk, I can hike.

  19. Very cool, Phil! So happy for you!

  20. Timothy Dannenhoffer

    Thom near Watertown if you ever want to get into the Adirondack backcountry for longer than a regular weekend and want some company look me up! I especially love the Five Ponds Wilderness so that would be super easy for you to get to! Me, that’s a 6 hour drive so 3 days minimum, preferably 4 days.

  21. Phillip, thank you for taking the time to share part of your journey with us. Congrats on finding the courage to step away from what many describe as the “false security”! I look forward to your posts, but this one adds even more warmth and depth to the force behind your words.

    Looking forward to more years of you sharing these adventures, both inner and outer :)

  22. It’s a great site Phil! Glad you are finding true success. It is the conundrum many of us hikers face: how to do more of what we love. Quality of life is often measured in available dollars to spend. I sometimes think of how much more money I could make if I moved to a big city. But I love running my own business and living minutes from the hiking trails of Acadia. I love walking quiet streets during a heavy snowfall.

    It takes courage to leave the corporate life and make a new start on your own. Hikers want to learn more about hiking techniques, destinations and gear, etc but perhaps we also want to know how to make it more of an integral part of our lifestyle.

  23. I read your posts from far far far France, and I really appreciate style and descriptions of hikes in those mopuntains I’ll probably never see.
    The gear reviews are useful too, as you can always get a fair impression of the peace of gear tested.
    Thank you for your daily posts, and please go on and on like this.
    Congratulations

  24. Honestly, I’m a tad bit jealous of your freedom. Your level of enthusiasm after 5 years is an indication the change was the right decision for you. We all should be so lucky to find such balance. I appreciate you sharing your path with all of us.

    Kudos to your spouse for her understanding and support. I imagine she has days where she would like to work less and play more.

    Hike on and be safe!

  25. Congratulations, Philip, a job well done. I left company work four years ago. Similar goal to you I think, different route. Totally agree about the blessing — necessity, in fact — of having a supportive partner.

  26. I think this has to be the best post of your career – congratulations! Good job finding a way to focus on what matters and be more ethical. I think this is a great example and much needed inspiration for your readers – may they all quit Corporate America to build healthier lifestyles, families, and economies!

  27. What an encouraging bio! Terrific posts. Loved the one on Sect’s 11 and 12 of the Long Trail…..!

  28. I think we need to see a fully suited “before” photo :)

  29. I wondered why the tempo & quality of your blog had changed so much (for the better) when I considered the changes compared to years ago. You have been at this for a good bit of time now. Congrats !! What took you so long ? LOL

    Time to consider occasionally broadening your content and experiences. Travel ! It’s easier than you think and it’s a big world out there !!

  30. Glad it’s going well. Keep up the hikes and sharing.

  31. Your readership doubled because when you write something worth reading people will read it. Keep it up!

  32. Age 68, been living in Tokyo with my Japanese wife for many years, work 28 weeks and the rest of paid year round (one of the benefits of low paying international ed. jobs) Still, got to follow the passion. Time to go back to my little stucco shack at the foot of Mt. Wilson in the San Gabriel Mts, CA this February. Adjusting to jet lag both ways twice a year must be eliminated. Love my day hikes and always looking for backpacking light ideas. Always that conflict between light and being comfortable so mostly doing the day hikes. Even carry that Monarch 1 lb. chair in my daypack to rest my bones. Gonna live like a pauper and sleep like a prince, carless, with the tiniest pension imaginable but a stack of CDs. Toying with hiking the PCT desert section this coming spring. Love Eastern Sierras in summer and snorkeling in Thailand in winter. Life does seem to be a compromise but $ was never much of a carrot. Simplicity is the key! Would love to hear from other folks like myself.

  33. My husband, son and I hiked a section of Appalachian Trail this summer; it was my first and their second time. As a result of this experience, I came across your site and signed up for your newsletter. I thoroughly enjoy it and learn so much each time I read it. Thank you! You are doing a great job.

  34. Love the section hiker

  35. More power to your most excellent blog/e zine.
    Though on the other side of the world in NZ your weekly offering is eagerly awaited and read with relish. The info contained on the site has also proven to be helpful and has resulted in more than a few changes to tramping and fishing down under. One exciting acquisition is a Chinese telescopic rod which fully extended is 15 ft yet is only 18 inches long when collapsed. This can be used for tenkara, bait fishing with a float or jigging a small jig. The ultra light gear is not readily available here and to be honest many tracks through our bush are hard on even good 12 oz canvas backpacks (Lawyers and Wild Irishman being the worst offenders).
    Thanks Phillip for a job well done.

  36. Philip-I believe that I was subscriber 175,121….glad to have helped put you at 200k!! Think this is the only blog I read routinely and have the mobile short cut on my phone…in fact I don’t read blogs-so kudos to you for keeping it real and interesting and giving me something to do (and learn) before my next 200 mile annual AT section hike. I should finish HF to GA next year and HF to ME – umm 2022…unless I quit my job too (???)…looking forward to the next article…happy trails!

  37. Phil, congrats on taking the leap to the “pursuit of happiness” and thanks for Section Hiker! It’s an incredible resource for real, hands-on reviews, tips and tricks and White Mountains knowledge. I appreciate the consistency of your posts too. So many blogs are so sporadic that I lose interest after awhile, but SH keeps me “regular”!

  38. I was too close to retirement to stop working, but I share your sentiments 100% on the current state of working for a Corporation. It was way beyond “no longer enjoyable” and consuming way to much of my time. Just retired though and now getting time to get out in the woods anytime I want (Adirondacks, Long Trail). Planning an AT thru hike for next year (been in the works for many years).

    Congratulations on the “Best Year of your Life”!! May you have many more.

  39. Congratulations to you and your sweetie! It is great to see those doing more on less, as it encourages those of us counting our pennies and days until we, too, can return to the woods and the wilds.

    May the next five exceed even this! Best wishes.

    ~SE

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