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Investigating the motivation for female participating thru-hiking and the contrast between thru-hiking in China and USA

Written by: Liu, Yining

University: Lincoln

Abstract: In recent years, there has been an increase in female participating in extreme events like thru-hiking, this has become an interesting phenomenon and it is worth to investigate the motivation of female going on thru-hiking. China is a country with a huge number of population this caused China to have a very unique education system. By interview one of the thru-hiker in China, it could provide a valuable contrast between thru-hiking in the United states and China.

Key words: Thru-hiking, Comparison, Female, extreme events, motivation.

Thru-hiking is defined as a type of end-to-end backpacking trip on a long-distance trail such as the A.T. or the PCT. More than 2,100 miles long, the A.T. runs from Georgia to Maine, while the PCT, at more than 2,600 miles long, runs from Mexico to Canada (REL, 2018). The basic idea of thru-hiking is that hikers need to plan their trip in very specific detail because one thru-hiking activity usually took several months and even half of a year, so hikers need to plan the route carefully and prepare enough food and emergency treatment items. If one looks at thru-hiking itself as a sporting activity, it could be very healthy and increase physical strength as well as mental strength, however, people might argue there are a lot of alternative choices which could be much safer and cheaper. This leads to the investigation of the motivation of people going on thru-hiking. There could be a number of reason why people going on thru-hiking which include firstly sometimes people just feel bored of their day-to-day routine and they want to try new and exciting things, hiking just pop up onto the top of their list. Or some people treat thru-hiking as an activity to achieve goals, they will set themselves some particular goals and they would like to enjoy the feeling of achieving goals. Another motivation could be when people want to be fit and healthy, they might go on hiking which could be an effective way to keep fit. In this perspective, both male and female could go on thru-hiking as long as they want to. If people think traditionally, thru-hiking is an extreme event for a male because the male was perceived as physically stronger than female, however, there are actually a lot of females were interested in trying thru-hiking.

The origin of thru-hiking is actually from an inspiring story, the first people who went on thru-hiking is a woman called Lillian Alling, she was a 27-years old Russia immigrant live in New-York city, one day she just felt homesick and decided to return home on foot from New-York city to Russia, she was actually in lacking funds and she was 12,000 miles away from home, but with the help of a string will, she finally made it home. Her recorded journey started in New York and went westward through Southern Canada, British Columbia, the Territory of Alaska, and possibly across the Aleutian Islands to Russia and refusing all of the invitations for a ride. According to Smith (2011), her journey was not all flat roads, and she walked across the rugged Rocky Mountains and hiked the untested wilderness of British Columbia and the Yukon. After that, Lillian Alling was actively involved in thru-hiking activities Lillian has been the subject of novels, plays, epic poems, an opera and more of the story-telling which can be remembered. Her life has been subjected to speculation, fiction, and exaggeration. This example shows the importance of determination. She could be a typical example, but there could be a lot of more achievable motivations.

The argument established in this discussion paper is that participating in thru-hiking could be beneficial for female both mentally and to their future. There will be an interview conducted in the conference paper, the interviewee is a Chinese woman who was at the most important time point of her life and she decided to took on a thru-hiking trip, when female started to decide to participate in thru-hiking, they might be facing some hard choices in their life and they decide to go away from all of the troublesome. When they come back from thru-hiking, the most inspired achievement might not be the increase in physical strength, but the mental refreshment. According to Sima (2018), sometimes women were more acting as a carer role, so when they went on thru-hiking, they just provide a different feeling compared with male. They might feel a sense of belonging, this actually brings a lot of benefits when they went on with their life. In the interview of this conference paper, the interviewee finally found a job in Garmin marketing department. The reason for her to be selected for this job is that she became really extrovert and outgoing, their personality is quite suitable for marketing jobs. By looking at this example individually, it is clear that thru-hiking could be beneficial for the female career.

The interviewee has been actively involved in Chinese thru-hiking field and she has her own perception and understanding of the difference in atmosphere between Chinese thru-hiking and United States thru-hiking, this could provide a reasonable foundation for the future research study in Chinese thru-hiking. She also provides an insight about the safety in thru-hiking especially for the female, because unlike other sporting activities, there is hardly any safety protection during the thru-hiking session, so hikers need to take their own safety into consideration.

References:
REI (2018) Thru-Hiking Basics [Online] Available from: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert- advice/thru-hiking-basics.html [Accessed 25 April 2018]

Sima, C. (2018) Hiking memoirs, wilderness therapy and female empowerment: Cutting edge, Tourism Review, Exp. 73:3.

Smith, S (2011). Lillian Alling: The Journey Home. Extraordinary Women. Caitlin Press Inc.