The elephant (snake?) in the room: fear, guilt, and excitement

In case you haven’t been able to tell from my social media or recent posts, I’ve been doing a lot of hiking lately.

There were the 16 miles I hiked solo two weekends ago. Last weekend I went with other people on Saturday, but alone again on Sunday. And let’s just say between trail conditions (SO MUCH MUD) and my brain, Sunday wasn’t exactly the must fun I’ve ever had out on the trail.

Actually, I’m just going to let Instagram do the explaining since I basically wrote a blog post in the caption there.

Type 2 fun / I’ve had better hikes on the AT // 7 long miles of what feels like straight mud that’s impossible to skirt around in places // in my head from the start about snakes because I guess it’s an “indulge your irrational fears” kind of day ? // I know sun + rocks makes overlooks snake magnets / omg what the fuck is that sign / WHY THE HELL AM I GOING TOWARDS THAT // pace slowed to a crawl. Scan the path carefully before the next step. I love hiking. I love hiking. I love hiking // “are you two freaking out about that sign, too? Cool, mind if I join you for the .15 mile to the overlook so that at least we’re three ladies freaking the fuck out about snakes TOGETHER?” // no snakes seen! Overlook conquered // on my own again and onto the last mile before it’s time to turn around // watch where you step, take it slowly // the blankets of ferns are gorgeous, pay attention to that // complete halt as the path narrows just before the second overlook with brain screaming “OMG SNAKES DON’T GO THERE” // what if I just turn around now? // stop. Breathe. “You’re fine, you’ve got this” repeated over and over. Take it one step at a time // I did it, I DID IT // zero snakes seen, many, many feared. Fuck you, anxiety, I beat you today // four hiking days in two weekends // this is as fit as I’ll be, let’s do this // Glacier National Park, I’m coming for you!

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Animals without legs are creepy as hell, the end

Basically I am ridiculously afraid of snakes. You need a bug killed? Cool, I’m on it (yes, I’ve been the bug-killer in at least one previous relationship, why do you ask?). But snakes are a hard pass for me. Doesn’t matter if I never come near them; the thought of them makes me want to run screaming.

To be clear, I don’t walk around every hour of every day paralyzed by fear of snakes. But when I find myself in situations where they become a real possibility, they’re suddenly in the back of my mind. I face that fear every time I go hiking, especially if I’m going alone; I can usually push it down far enough that I can get on with my hike without ruining it by constantly thinking about it.

Unfortunately Sunday was not one of those days and there were a number of times on the trail I came to a dead stop and thought about turning around (it DOES NOT matter that I didn’t see a single one. Because of course I didn’t, after all that worrying).

At one point, I was imagining myself running across a snake on the trail and yelling at it “if you’ll just move off the trail so I can be here, we won’t have a fucking problem.” I mean, I guess aggressively yelling at snakes (which, as much as I hate it admit it, have every right to be in my immediate vicinity when I’m out in their territory) is better than screaming and freezing up? Or turning back and heading for my car as quickly as humanly possible? Look, Sunday’s hike was kind of a low point at times.

Ferns are nice! Focus on that fact instead of what’s possibly lurking under them

Type 2 fun

And in that way it was a reminder that hiking (or insert pretty much anything else here) isn’t all fun all the time.

Sure, the views are amazing (assuming you pick a good trail for that!) and it’s so nice to get away from the city for a bit. And we all know I love plants and sunlight. But hiking often isn’t enjoyable while it’s happening. Climbing up a mountain in the heat and horrible humidity isn’t fun. It’s miserable.

Hiking 16 miles by myself two weekends ago was an accomplishment in mind over matter and ignoring the temptation to cut the second hike short since I wasn’t feeling fantastic physically. Sunday’s hike was a matter of ignoring my brain and making my body keep going, past that terrifying sign out to the first overlook, the mile to the second overlook where I was turning around, to the second overlook at all, and then all three miles back.

None of that was fun in the process. But I’m glad I did it anyway and pushed through to get stronger (both physically and mentally).

Onto the excitement: a bucket list trip!

Hiking is cool and all, but four out of four days in the last two weekends sounds a bit overkill, right? Yes. Normally I probably would’ve taken at least one of those three solo days off for doing all those obnoxious responsibilities that pile up during the week. Like batch cooking and applying for jobs. The truth is I was doing training of sorts.

I’ve made oblique references here and there (see also Instagram post above), but what I haven’t said explicitly yet is that on Thursday I’m headed to Glacier National Park. That’s the one in Montana, not Alaska, although I’d love to go there someday as well (fun fact, which I just looked up, the Glacier in Alaska is Glacier Bay National Park #themoreyouknow).


But say what now?

I promise I’m not hiding things on my spending reports

Yep, I’m taking a five day trip to go to a place that’s been on my bucket list for ages (especially because it’s probably a matter of whether the glaciers will be gone by 2020 or will last all the way to 2030 ?). Here’s the deal though, which is why you haven’t seen any mention of it in my recent spending reports: I’m not paying for this trip. Or at least, I haven’t paid for it so far.

One of my best friends is currently back in school and therefore has the summer free, lucky him. After I went out to visit him in LA in February, he mentioned that in the process of going places over his summer break, he either wanted to come out to DC to visit me and a few other of his friends, or do a trip with me. I don’t know how this idea happened in the first place, but he mentioned that we could do a trip to Glacier.

And then he said he’d pay for my plane ticket.

In no way did I ever set the expectation that I’d only go on this trip if my friend paid, or that I wasn’t going to pay anything at all. In fact, I offered to pay for the hotel room and got turned down. You’d better believe I’m going to be quick on the ball when it comes to paying for food and gas for this trip.

If the above paragraph sounds defensive, you’re goddamn right.

You know what’s fun when planning a trip? A whole hell of a lot of guilt!

Ever since we started talking about this trip as a reality—not a fun thing we’d both want to do in theory—and my friend told me he wanted to pay for my plane ticket so I could come on this trip, I’ve felt horribly guilty about telling him that yes, I had the vacation time to swing this trip.

Our financial situations are not at all the same, but it still feels like since I’m the one with a job and a paycheck (or two) every week, I should definitely be paying my way. But the honest truth is that flights were ridiculously expensive from DC (I’m the only one flying since he’s roadtripping from LA) and I would not have been able to afford to go.

Yes, I just dropped $600 on a CampFI impulse purchase, but the flight to Montana itself was a bit more than that, let alone splitting the cost of the hotel, plus food and gas. And there was no scholarship/ticket refund to help me out with this cost, either.

So it was either a matter of not going, or accepting my friend’s offer to pay for my flight (and the hotel) and then dealing with the ensuing self-imposed guilt trip.

I’ve talked about this with a couple of people, but something that Military Dollar told me has really stood out: she hasn’t seen one of her friends in ages because said friend won’t let her buy the plane ticket for the visit. When you put it that way, it’s a lot easier for me to swallow my pride. If it’s a matter of spending time with people OR being able to say “well I didn’t go on that trip because it would’ve involved letting someone pay something for me and thank goodness I didn’t do that!” there’s a clear winner here.

It’s not about the money

This is a fantastic reminder of why I’m pursuing FI in the first place: it’s not about the money.

Okay, for now it’s currently a bit about the money because thanks to my money anxiety I’m still not at a place where I wouldn’t feel immediately panicked if I lost my job. I’d be fine eventually (probably), but ideally I’m working towards a place where I could approach that news way more nonchalantly, with a casual shrug or “whatever, your loss” reaction. AHAHAHA I’m not there!

But ultimately I’m not pursuing FI for the sake of having a massive pile of money I can roll around in or so that it would be more worth my time to blow my nose with a $100 bill (that’s what rich people do, right?) than to bend down and pick it up. I want to be financially independent so that I can spend my time and energy with people I love (my friend, in this case), doing things I want to do (in the case of this trip, hiking and spending a few days in a general state of awe because nature is amazing).

And I want to see cool shit. Like Glacier.

Why pass up an opportunity to say I told you so?

Let’s be real: I am absolutely going to take advantage of these five days to give my friend hell for never even entertaining the thought of going hiking back when he lived in VA, but now that he’s in California, all of a sudden being outdoors is a thing he’s interested in. Except I’ll tease him nicely because I’m extremely grateful that I get to go on this trip. And that he does now want to go hiking with me, in a place I’ve had on my bucket list forever.

Actually he totally recognizes that he would not have even considered this trip years ago ?

Back to fear

As ridiculously excited as I am about this trip, this hiking isn’t without its own dose of fear.

I’m worried we’re going to have way more type 2 fun than type 1 fun and want to cut the hiking plans short. I’m worried about my shitty knees and ankles and my goddamn hip flexors. I’m worried my friend won’t be able to do all the trails we have planned because while he runs, he’s new to hiking. Hell, I’m worried I won’t be able to do all that hiking, and I just hiked a cumulative 28 miles over the last two weekends. But there was a week in between those for resting and for barre, which is the workout my body’s used to.

But it’s okay. I’m fully expecting for both of us to feel like shit after the first day and planning for that eventuality. If we have to let one of the longer hikes go, I’ll be sad about that, but it’ll be okay. Because it’s not like we can do all the hikes we/I want to do anyway (which is all of them).

Basically my anxiety is doing what it does best and I’m ignoring it. As for fear of the creepy, slithery kind, guess what? It’s there, too. But it helps that I’ll be with someone instead of doing this alone. If we see a snake (or hell, a grizzly bear, for that matter. Yes, bear spray was absolutely on the packing list), we’ll deal with it when it happens. I have a feeling I’ll be too excited to be in the park to be in my head like I was on Sunday.

Have I talked enough to get you through the next week and a half?

And that’s all I’m going to talk about Glacier for now because don’t worry, there will absolutely be an exhaustive post (likely it’ll be my next post, which’ll happen next Thursday) about the trip when I get back . In the meantime, I’ve gotta go delete all the photos and music off my phone to free up the multiple gigs of storage I’m sure I’m going to need for the ridiculous amounts of photos I’ll take.

20 Replies to “The elephant (snake?) in the room: fear, guilt, and excitement”

  1. Have an amazing time. You’ve got a lot of anticipatory worry here and I bet most of it melts once you’re there.

    My husband, btw, is also not keen on snakes. One of our cats got one that must have slithered into the breezeway once and brought it into the kitchen for us. I had to use a small trash can and a spatula to get rid of it. It was just a tiny garter snake, but you’d have thought it was a cobra given his reaction 🙂

    1. “Just a tiny garter snake” is not a thing…garter snake, cobra, they’re all the same! ? Also yikes. How uh kind of your cat to bring that present!

  2. you’ve almost got me talked out of every accepting a generous offer from a friend with good times involved. gotta try and lighten up and go have a good time. it’s just walking up a hill. that’s what i tell mrs. me when we go to the wilderness.

  3. I’m absolutely with Military Dollar on this one. Not cash, but the last three plane flight vacations we’ve “paid for” with points have included 1 or 2 additional people because we want them there. Trips are so much better with friends or family along, and we are absolutely willing to pay their way to join us. And now I want to make a trip out to Glacier, so thanks for that.

    Ps I’m not the resident bug killer, but the bug relocator (same with snakes) because you better believe I don’t kill them ?

  4. 1. I had a hike like that once, and I didn’t see a single one either, until I sat down on a rock exhausted towards the end and my friend quietly dragged me away because I’d sat down next to a rattler. I MEAN WTF.

    2. Go and enjoy! During my brokest days, one of my best friends would insist on paying for tickets for me to accompany him and his GF to events that I just couldn’t afford. Those were priceless memories looking back and he simply couldn’t care less about the money. He just wanted us to be able to spend time together. And though I felt SO guilty about it at the time, later on I realized that it was such an important part of our relationships because it meant I knew them well enough to help them with a really tough life altering issue. No one else was close enough to both of them (very required for this issue) to step in and help. And I’m ever so grateful now in hindsight that I didn’t let my pride get in the way. But even if that wasn’t the result ten years later, these opportunities are priceless and I hope it’s so much fun!

    1. YIKES, REVANCHE. Glad your friend was there to save you from that rattlesnake ?

      Ah that’s so wonderful both that you got to spend time with them and that it meant you were able to help them out.

  5. I have offered to pay for my friends’ travel costs, because while I care about money, I care more about doing cool things with my friends. So please don’t feel guilty. Like MD says, it sucks to not see your friends.

    Also, seeing snakes in the wild revealed my true colors. My husband and I were hiking (he’s deathly afraid of snakes) and he yelled out that he saw one slither by. For some reason I covered my head with my arms and ran away (did not look back to see whether my husband was safe). Haha, every man for himself!

    I’m so glad you’re going on this trip! And glad you’re doing it with a friend. I have to say I was a little concerned about your safety on these solo hikes. I watch too many unsolved mystery shows…

    1. Hahaha remind me to never find myself in a life-threatening situation with you since you won’t be any help! ?

      I’m a little worried every time I go on a hike by myself, but since the alternative is not going hiking, I decide I’m going to go. And I’m always glad I do! But yeah, no way I was going to do Glacier on my own.

    1. They really are! As much as I want to do some solo traveling, it’s always fun to have someone else along for the ride.

  6. Don’t yell at snakes, they have no ears. They will feel your vibrations as you approach however and silently scoot away, unless they decide to bite you for the heck of it! And there are no snakes in Glacier Park, at least your chance of seeing one is approximately zero.

    1. See, it’s the biting me for the heck of it thing I can’t get over, even if it never actually happens!

      Hah so I did see one in Glacier, but considering it was after having seen a grizzly at too close of a distance, it barely (hah) registered on my radar. Perspective!

  7. Glacier is one of my favorite national parks. You will LOVE it. There are a lot of lakes in and near the park. It’s fun to keep a blanket and some snacks in the car so that when you come upon one of these lakes, you can just set yourself up for a nice long lounge by the water.

    Have a fantastic time! 🙂

    1. Ahhhh it was so good! We didn’t do much lounging around by lakes (unless the lake was on a hike), but that didn’t make the trip any less awesome haha.

  8. There was one time I was hiking by myself and I noticed a rattlesnake right in the middle of the trail. He had clearly just eaten and it was very unlikely that he was going to attack anyone, which made me feel a bit better. I’m pretty sure most snakes are the “leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone” type of animal.

    Also I’m guessing you would not enjoy habu sake – that’s sake from Japan with a dead snake in it. Yummy!

    I have to say as somebody who did help pay for a friend to go on vacation with me, it’s totally worth it and you should not feel guilty. I had so much more fun with my friend than I ever would have alone, and there’s no way she could have afforded to come otherwise. Also, Glacier National Park is one of my favorite places I’ve ever been!

    1. Yeah, I’m sure most snakes are but that doesn’t stop me from feeling like they’re not! Hah I’ve seen bottles of that sake, and you’re right, no thanks!

      Yeah, it was an awesome trip and I’m glad I stopped feeling so guilty about it so I could enjoy it.

  9. I love your writing style; it’s really engaging. I do not share your fear of snakes, but I have my own version of that fear. For me its sharks. When I was 12, one followed me from the sandbar I was swimming to, back to shore. It was about 10 feet away when I heard people yelling shark, but it was not a dangerous species and did not attack. Every time I enter the ocean, though, its in the back of my mind. I love the ocean, and so does my wife, so thats a regular occurrence for me.

    Good for you to face the snakes as I do the sharks woth just as much anxiety. Where I live and grew up in different parts of the NYC suburbs, I regularly see a variety of species; even stepped on a gardener snake or two while mowing and not paying good enough attention. Fortunately, they bit my heavy work boots, and not me.

    I look forward to seeing the photos and story of your next hike through Glacier. Its on my list as well.

    1. Yeah, the ocean is a scary place. My family has been going for decades and somehow I’m the only one who’s been stung by a jellyfish, so that fear is in the back of my mind every time I get in the water. And wow that’s terrifying about the shark!

      If you get a chance to go to Glacier, you should. It was amazing.

      Thanks for reading!

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