Should You Wait Until You Retire to Go Hiking?

woman hiking in the sierra nevada mountains in california by lakes in hungry packer
woman hiking in the sierra nevada mountains in california by lakes in hungry packer

A few times per year I run a virtual backpacking bootcamp where I teach you the framework and foundation for what you need to know to go backpacking safely and confidently. In every single bootcamp, there are multiple people who tell me that they are waiting until they retire to go backpacking.


Whether you’re retiring in 10 years, 5 years, 2 years, next year, or in 6 months, you should not be waiting until retirement to start backpacking. If you continue to wait for retirement, you’re not only setting back your own process and only further delaying your chance to go backpacking while you can.


I understand where the thought process to wait for retirement comes from. This is a super common belief amongst people – wait until you retire to travel, hike, backpack, and essentially do the things you want to do.


It’s something we’ve all been taught, and it comes from this hustle and never put yourself first culture. We’ve all been conditioned to put your life and the things that light you up on hold and only focus on them at the end of your life… if you have time to get to them.


But is that a life well lived?


Now, no one is telling you to quit your job and travel (unless you want to then go for it). But you also should not be waiting until retirement to start living your life. You can continue to wait, no one is forcing you to start today, but if you continue to wait, you’re only going to be putting your own progress further behind.


I talk about my grandparents quite a bit on here and on my social media channels, and I love them to the next galaxy over and back. But they are my example for a life I don’t want to have.


They’re now in their 80’s. They’ve traveled a little bit when they were young and lived in Russia. But for my whole life, I’ve been hearing about how they want to visit places like France and just never do. They’ve spent their whole lives hustling (and still work in their 80’s), putting their children and grandchildren first, and never focusing on their own lives.


It’s heartbreaking.


Even though they claim to put their lives and traveling on hold for first their kids (my dad and aunt) and then their grandkids, all of us want them to go live their lives. Because we understand how short life is.


The older you get; more medical conditions start coming up which will either change or possibly entirely prevent you from doing the things you want to do. So when you get to the end of your life, sit in front of the TV and only wish you had a chance to go backpacking.


The most painful memory is remembering the life you didn’t have.


This is why you should not be waiting for retirement. You can’t predict what your health will look like in 2 years. Plus if you started now, started training now, and started doing the trails that you do have time for now, how much further are you going to be on your hiking journey in 6 months or even 2 years?


So when you finally do retire, you’ll already be ahead of the game and be able to do more challenging trails instead of starting from zero and playing catch up.

You might not be able to hike something like the Pacific Crest Trail now, and you might have to wait until retirement to do that one or a similar trail. But what can you do with your weekends? With holidays? With vacation time (which is part of your compensation package by the way)?


I’m all for working hard and focusing on your career, but I’m also all about finding harmony in life. Because otherwise what are you living for?


What does the quality of your life look like if you don’t pursue the things that light you up? What happens if you don’t use your time wisely and make the most out of it?


Because what’s the alternative? Continue to waste time waiting?


If you’ve found aha moments through this blog post, share it with a friend who needs to hear this too. Below, sign up to get weekly email blasts from me that are going to help you on your backpacking journey.


  • Susie Rizzo

    August 14, 2021

    Hi Jenny, I think I was meant to read your blog today. It’s 5 am and I am hurriedly backing my suitcase for my flight to Los Angeles (I live in NY). I am joining some of my family for a 6 day hike in Yosemite, including climbing Half Dome. I am 62 yrs old and just l my husband last month (we were together 38 years). This trip was planned back in March and my husband knew how much I was looking forward to it. The last thing my husband said to me before he got his diagnosis was “don’t cancel your hiking trip”. I had to pull out of the hike when my husband got sick and we learned how serious it was. Anyway, I am doing this backpacking trip for the both of us. I was once told “the mountains are big enough to hold both happiness and sorrow”
    Thanks for all the information . I love your posts!


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