Beating the Virginia Blues: Thru-hiking strategies to help you survive your next big project




In 2018, I quit my job to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, also known as the AT. It took me 163 days. That’s 163 days of carrying everything I owned on my back, hiking for 10-12 hours a day, wearing the same clothes every day, and eating lots of foods in bar or dehydrated form.

The AT covers roughly 2100 miles as it crosses 14 states, from Georgia to Maine; Virginia is the single longest state, about a quarter of the trail. It has the reputation for causing a lot of potential thru-hikers to quit--so much so that the state of mind is known as the "Virginia Blues."

Virginia was the roughest state for me, by far. But using a variety of strategies, I was able to stay on trail and successfully complete my thru-hike.

Our work lives are full of large endurance projects. They can be really exciting, like:

  • Starting a new knowledge base from scratch
  • Taking ownership of an existing set of documentation
  • Building new curricula or programming
  • Building a major new feature
  • Hiking a really long trail (okay, maybe not this one)

In all of these projects, there's an initial phase of enthusiasm and excitement followed by a period of productive work. Then there's this period in the middle where things feel all wrong--we don't feel like we're making progress; the project feels like it will never end; we feel overwhelmed; and it might even feel totally hopeless or outright impossible.

Somehow, we power through and finish the project. But we don't talk a lot about that rough patch in the middle. Until now.

This talk is all about that rough patch in the middle. You'll walk away with some actionable strategies you can use to help survive this lull in your next big project. And a few random facts about the Appalachian Trail to wow your friends.

  • Conference: Write the Docs Portland
  • Year: 2022

About the speaker

Kate Mueller