This is the first in a four-part series from Guest Blogger and UpLync CEO Mike Bristol sharing his six-month epic experience running a VoIP phone business as a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail.
It’s not all that uncommon. Many entrepreneurs don’t start with a plan. Some don’t even intend on launching a business when they embark on their entrepreneurial journey. That’s how it was for me – chasing a pie-in-the-sky vision without a roadmap. Isn’t it ironic that some of life’s best adventures begin this way?
A few years ago, I found myself in a strange, new stage of life. All my kids had graduated and were out of the house. My business had just finished its second decade but was once again reinventing itself. And, I, too, was starting to reinvent myself. After spending the first half of my adult life passively doing what adults are “supposed to do,” I began contemplating more and more about doing something just for me.
Finding My Something
A close friend mentioned a weekend backpacking trip he’d been on, and something about it resonated with me. I started listening to audiobooks and watching YouTube videos about backpacking. Everyone talked about hiking something called the “A.T.” and aspiring to do it as a “thru-hike,” whatever that meant.
After a little googling, I learned about the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), a 2,200-mile footpath stretching from Georgia to Maine. Most people enjoy walking sections of it as a day-hike or maybe spending a week covering longer stretches. But then there are the thru-hikers. They attempt to hike all 2,200 miles from start to finish within 12 months.
Something inside me clicked. THIS was it. THIS was the “something just for me.” I was going to thru-hike the A.T.
About 3,500 people start the trail as a thru-hike each year; however, not surprisingly, only about a fourth finish. Not great odds, but that didn’t deter me. No, the time commitment just made me think twice about my decision.
It takes roughly five to six months to complete the trek. How could I do this and still run a voice over IP (VoIP) phone business? It seemed like a pipedream. But then I remembered something I’d read numerous times in several business books. It’s the concept that an entrepreneur should build a business that can exist without them. By putting together a team of skilled people and giving them the
systems, processes, and resources they need to succeed, the business will (hopefully) take on a life of its own, to function even in the absence of its founder.
Was that even possible for me? I wasn’t sure, but I knew that it would take significant planning to make it happen. If I wanted to have my grand adventure, I would have to “embrace the suck” of planning and put in the effort to make my business sustainable while I was away.
Making It Happen
It took three years. Three years of working with my team to document and expand upon the operations of a growing business. Three years of researching how to become a successful thru-hiker of one of America’s iconic long-distance trails. And three years of figuring out how to maintain a business back home with nothing more than the things I carried on my back.
I started the trail on April 1, 2021, and finished exactly six months later in October. While I stayed connected to the team back home, life as a thru-hiker required me to minimize my involvement significantly and trust in our pre-hike planning.
Learning Along the Way
I brought home many lessons from the trail. The most surprising was how being a thru-hiker and running a business are so similar – overcoming adversity, balancing work with home life, planning almost every day, etc.
More to Come!
Over the next few months, I’ll share more specifics about these similarities and stories from the trail.
See More of Mike On the Trail!