What to Do If You’re Having Pre-Adventure Hesitation
You've spent ages preparing for a trip, but now it's right around the corner and you're having second thoughts
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Welcome to Tough Love. We’re answering your questions about dating, breakups, and everything in between. Our advice giver is Blair Braverman, dogsled racer and author of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. Have a question of your own? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My friend and I have been planning a big backpacking trip for the past two years or so, since our junior year of college. It started out as a far-off dream that, truthfully, I didn’t think would really happen, but step by step we’ve done everything for it. We’ve saved money, gotten in shape, bought and tested all our gear, and gotten time off from work, and all that’s left now is to do it. The exact day we leave will depend on a few things, but we are planning to leave toward the end of July or early August, so our departure is coming up fast.
Here is the problem that’s gnawing away at me: I am not sure I want to go anymore. I feel like the trip seems like a lot less fun than it used to, and now I have started to find myself dreading it, and thinking of all the other things I could do with that time (basically, I could enjoy a vacation). I don’t want to disappoint my friend, because he’s very excited and assumes that I am too. Do I have to go on a trip that I’m dreading? And if I choose not to go, is there a way out without ruining our friendship?
This is definitely a tough situation—and the best course of action depends, in large part, on your ability to be honest with yourself about your plans and your feelings.
If your biggest problem is that you’re feeling discouraged and unmotivated, your friend might be able to help. Explain to him that you’re having trouble finding the excitement you once had, and you’re experiencing some new doubts. Maybe all this planning is exhausting, and the fatigue is catching up to you, and the two of you could take a few days to just hang out together, doing something fun, rather than obsessing over every detail of the logistics. It could also be that you’re feeling overwhelmed from other stress in your life, and if you’re able to take it easy for a bit, you’ll feel more like your old self again. You could even build in a week or so of rest before your hike, so you can replenish before undertaking a new big thing.
You should know that pre-adventure hesitation is very real, and sometimes it’s wisest to trust your past self—the self who put the whole plan in motion—and move forward. A lot of trips feel most daunting right before they happen, when pressure is highest and you’re hyper-aware of everything that might go wrong. Sure, some people enjoy planning, but for many others it’s a long slog that they need to push through to get to the real thing. If that’s you, you may find that once you start moving and you’re actually on the trail, doing what you once dreamed about, you’ll remember why you wanted to do it in the first place. That’s when the good stuff—the joy and the meaning—kick in.
If, in your heart, you’re already planning not to go, and you’re just finding for the right exit plan, you should tell your friend immediately. He’s been looking forward to this adventure for years, and more importantly, he’s counting on you (and trusting your intentions). The sooner you tell him that you’re not going, the better the odds that he might be able to rearrange plans and find a new companion, or else figure out a way to make the trip solo. And the longer you wait to tell him, the more likely you are to ruin his trip, and possibly—unfortunately—your friendship.
In fact, even if you tell him you’re not going, the right thing to do—and the thing most likely to preserve goodwill—is stay involved and help solve the problems that your leaving creates. For instance, if your friend finds someone else who’s interested in making the trip with him, you could lend that person the equipment that you bought, thus making it more likely that they’ll be able to go. If your friend decides to backpack solo, but certain parts of the route are tricky to go alone, you could drive out and join him for occasional challenges. Or if he was counting on you to carry necessary gear, you can find other solutions for getting the gear where it’s needed.
I still think that if you go on the trip, you might surprise yourself and enjoy the adventure—or, even if you don’t enjoy it per se, find it worthwhile. Getting to the starting line is often the hardest part of a race, and in this case, you’re almost there. But if you’re not going, make sure that you take as much responsibility as possible for the ways that your friend is relying on you, both on and off the trail. Even if he doesn’t plan trips again with you in the future, he should know that you care about him when it counts.