A Summer Sabbatical

For reasons personal, logistical, professional, and spiritual I have decided to take a writing and blogging sabbatical for, what I anticipate will be, the duration of our hike. A summer sabbatical.

As it is, the blog has been very quiet but I have been trying to "keep a presence" at FIMBY Facebook with photo albums and hike updates.

When Damien and I first decided to do this thru-hike I assumed writing and publishing was out of the question. And then we got iPads and we established a writing workflow for me and I was thrilled that I would, theoretically, be able to hike and write. Long distance hiking and writing, in practice, has proven much more difficult.

One complication is the simple matter of time. We spent eight to ten hours a day hiking. Some days more. Hiking is my full time job. Then there's camp chores followed by my favorite time of day, bedtime at 8:30 pm. Life is simple in the woods, but very full.

For several weeks I tried a 5 am morning writing practice but it was hard to maintain with the physical, and for me emotional, intensity of a thru-hike. My body needs sleep more than it needs the creative outlet of writing.

I also find it hard to publish during this "extreme" life season. This hike is nothing like I've experienced before, physically or emotionally. Writing about that and writing my way through that is just not in the cards right now.

The depth and breadth of this experience is frustratingly impossible for me to express right now. I feel like my job out here, right now, is to "simply" live the experience. To photograph it, record my thoughts, reflections, and memories in my personal hiking journal, and to someday publish about it here. Someday, but not now.

Since early on in the hike I felt a writing sabbatical was necessary but I fought the inner tug to take a break (oh did I fight it), because I was scared of losing something. My voice, my online identity, my readership, I don't know. It just felt like a loss to me. But the longer I'm out here the less I care about my online identity and the more I care about who I'm meant to grow into through this experience. And perhaps to grow into the next stage I need to have a period of online quiet.

And so what initially felt like a surrender has now become a sabbatical.

Will I still be a writer if I'm not writing regularly? A blogger if I let the blog go silent for a few months?

I believe that, yes, I will still be a writer and blogger if I take a break. In fact, I think I'll be better at my craft. Already I can see I'll be more focused and disciplined when I return to writing. I also know I will have an amazingly deep writing well to draw from. A deep well to live from.

And that's really what it's all about for me, and always has been. The living comes first, the writing second.

The fireflies in Virginia are magical. I've been trying hard to capture their ephemeral beauty.

What this means is that the blog will be quiet now till fall. I also will not be maintaining photo albums on Facebook like I had been during the first month or so. Which I regret deeply since I love sharing photos. Our time is town is just too busy and internet connections too sporadic to keep that up.


I will continue to take Instagram photos, as often as possible, with our current mileage.

Our video series Beyond our Boundaries is alive and well and publishing the story of our hike every ten days or so. That remains the best place to follow our hike and get a peek at what a family thru-hike looks like.

This post was published, in between laundry loads, from the Blue Dog Art Cafe and Hiker Hostel in downtown Buena Vista, Virginia.

« Is Family Thru-Hiking like Family Bootcamp?
Not how it was supposed to end »
  • Nana

    Nana on June 15, 2014, 9:23 p.m.

    I am so glad you are protecting your priority of "living in the moment (hours and days)" during this challenging season that demands all available energy for body, soul, and spirit. From my brief two (wonderful) weeks spent with you on the trail I am still trying to process the depth of commitment and courage of what you and your family are experiencing. You are a strong woman - may "the living" fill your well to overflowing. Love from Mom.


  • Sarah

    Sarah on June 15, 2014, 11:43 p.m.

    Certainly, I will miss your posts and photos--BUT this is a life journey for YOU and your family and I so, so admire you for having the courage and clarity to declare that and make decisions that most nurture that journey. I think almost anything as transformational or intense as a thru hike would be incredibly difficult to write about (and incredibly vulnerable to write about). It is hard for me to delineate between what life experiences I share and what I don't, and when I do and when I don't... and I can only imagine it is even more difficult for you! As always, I hope you experience this full experience as fully as feels right to you. Love and support to you and your family, Sarah

    P.S. I was running a relay around Lake Tahoe in the Sierras this past weekend and I ran into the PCT blogger Carrot Quinn (http://carrotquinn.com/) in town (maybe you've read her blog, too?). I was a bit star struck and you're one of the few people I know who I felt would appreciate that, so I thought I'd share :)


  • Laura

    Laura on June 16, 2014, 11:43 a.m.

    Renee, I'm glad that you are following through with what is best for you at this time. Soak up all the goodness of this experience with your family. We ook forward to hearing about it this fall!


  • Lee

    Lee on June 16, 2014, 12:27 p.m.

    Hi Renee - glad you are following your wisdom and taking the time you need to experience and process. This is Lee of the Black Forest in Germany, and I was excited to see you having "fun in my backyard". I grew up in Lynchburg, and spent the happiest days of my childhood in the Blue Ridge Mountains around Buena Vista. The fireflies are indeed wonderful!

    I will be waiting with the others when you return. We begin our own family adventure soon as the military takes us to the Pacific Northwest for our next assignment. We've planned a month to drive from Virginia to Washington, catching as many national parks along the way as we can.


  • Alaina

    Alaina on June 16, 2014, 2:01 p.m.

    I think this is wonderful that you are following what you believe is important by taking a break.  Not just thinking about having a break and knowing it would be the best thing, but actually having the courage to it into practice.  Although your blog will be missed, I will patiently wait for when you're ready to come back and write some more.


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on June 17, 2014, 1:29 a.m.

    I feel you, my friend. No need for more pressure to perform. Just be. And feel all you have to feel on that path you are walking. Thinking of you a lot over here. We closed the sale on our house today, finished emptying it and moved into our bus last night. A week of garage appointment and we are off... Much love to you. xxx


  • Kika

    Kika on June 18, 2014, 3:53 p.m.

    I can only imagine the 'soul' work that must be taking place as you work through this season of life. Once you are back, have had time to process, and are ready to share some of that I will be here listening. xo


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