Why the AT?
Sometime at the end of 2018 Hannele and I were discussing that we would like to use some of our long service leave to take a bit of time off work and do something totally different and amazing. We initially thought that it would be a 4WD trip up the north end of Australia because 4WDing is one of our passions and this is an area we are keen to explore. Somehow the conversation turned to a recognition that we could do this anytime we want and, if we are going to take a big chunk of time off of work, we should do something that is exciting, challenging, and not anything we ever thought we would be doing. I am still not sure how we landed on hiking but Hannele suggested the AT and the rest is history.
Stepping Away from Your Job Mid-Career
We are very fortunate in Australia to be able to access long service leave. Basically, after ten years of public service, you can access long service leave that accrues further over time. After 15 years in our jobs, we both have six months of leave at full pay up our sleeves or we can choose to take it at half-pay and double the time away. The best part is that your job is still there when you get back. This is yet another reason to love Australia! So, come March 2020, we will be packing up our lives in boxes, putting them into storage, and setting off on the adventure of a lifetime!
Hiking When You Have Never Hiked Before
Hannele is the proverbial mountain goat! She grew up in Finland, was a scout all through her childhood, and loved the outdoors, hiking, skiing, and anything else that you could do outside. I, on the other hand, loved the thought of the outdoors and was known to saddle up a horse for a nice long ride but had never hiked before. Add to this that I have been significantly overweight for most of my adult life. I realized that in order to be ready for AT2020, I would need to do a lot of exercise and start a significant weight loss journey. Hannele has been amazingly supportive and we joined a gym together, got ourselves an awesome personal trainer, and I started watching my intake.
We also started just walking. It terrified me how unfit I was but with perseverance we have both become much fitter and were eventually able to add in some hikes. The first hike was not pretty at all! I pushed my body to the point that there was nothing left in the engine (something I had never done before) and then had to dig deep to make the climb out from the coast to the top of the mountain. This was a turning point for me because I got to see what rock bottom looks like and I realized that I am much stronger than I thought I was. Initially, everything took me twice as long as what the recommended walking times were, but on our most recent hike, I was able to walk at what I like to call a normal human pace. It was also the first time that I felt part of the hiking community which was amazing!
Geared Up and Ready to Go
We have spent so much time researching different gear. OK, let’s be honest here. Hannele has done all the heavy lifting with the research; her brain likes that kind of thing! We then look at the options, weigh up the pros and cons, and get the gear we like best. There is only one choice that we made early on that we later revisited and that was our backpacks. After doing a couple of hikes with our initial purchase, we found that they weren’t as comfortable as we hoped and ended up buying new backpacks that we just love! There are still a few odds and ends that we need to add to our gear but we are nearly there!
Most importantly, we got our US visas for extended stay last week and our flights are booked for March 21, 2020! Roll on 2020. We can hear the AT calling our names!