Traveling with Baggage: A Guide for the Hesitant Hiker by Sarah D. Tiedemann

Follow Sarah D. Tiedemann on her journey from being a nervous wreck to walking cliffside along Kauai’s most perilous trail, snowmobiling through herds of buffalo in America’s oldest national park, and hiking to a windswept summit in the dead of winter. Troubled by anxiety from an early age, Sarah knows just how difficult it can be to step outside your comfort zone.

Do you want to travel to places you’ve only dreamt of? Do you want to navigate trails in breathtaking locations? Do you want to try camping, canoeing, zip lining, or other outdoor adventures? Do you want to do it all and not be as scared?

If you’re longing for a change of scenery but don’t know where to start, Sarah will show even the most apprehensive travelers how to get outside.

Disclosure: I was contacted by Sarah Tiedemann with an offer to receive her book. It was provided at no cost to me. My only responsibility was an agreement to complete this review. I was not pressured in any way to make a positive endorsement.


An Introduction


This is your book of courage. Does driving long distance to places unknown make you nervous? Have you never set foot in the woods, but always wondered what it would be like? Do creepy, crawly things or wild animals scare the living daylights out of you? Perhaps you’ve been hiking before, but that 3,000 foot elevation gain always seemed like too much. Well, Sarah Teidemann has suggestions for coping with all of those fears and more. She described her childhood as “inherent anxiety coupled with the [sketchy] neighborhood and subsequent sheltered upbringing,” all of which “led to her being a fearful person.” But she learned to be brave.

Even though my upbringing was indoors (or perhaps because of this), I’ve grown to love everything about the wilderness. A relaxing vacation to me now is running from place to place, logging as many inspiring locales and miles as I can.

Her point being, that getting out of your comfort zone can lead to new and exciting adventures that you never knew you would enjoy. Why deprive yourself of such wonderful experiences? Like Sarah’s decision to climb a mountaintop:

I kept telling myself over and over, “you’re and idiot” until I made it to the top of Mount Marcy, the highest peak in New York. At that point in time, I had been hiking frequently, but Mount Marcy was a game changer. I had never really pushed my mental or physical limits on the trail until that day. Despite being absolutely terrified, I was hooked.


Overcoming Obstacles


You may ask, but why do I want to leave my comfortable past behind? I’ve been getting along perfectly fine without stretching my boundaries. Sarah argues that if we never try anything new we risk becoming complacent:

When we’re thrust into an environment we’re not used to, we become hyper aware and alert to everything that is going on around us. New surroundings sometimes present new outlooks.

Being out and about in Nature also allows us to get out of our cocoons. Perhaps you have always been a loner, or are shy around other people. My observation over the years has been that a trail through the woods naturally breaks down barriers between hikers. It’s as though we have known that person we happen upon for years. There is a familiarity bred from the shared experience. Sarah addresses this:

In normal traveling experiences, you learn of the kindness of strangers, but on the trail, it’s amplified. People are inherently good and genuine most of the time. No words are necessary to connect with one another. Though you might be shy and scared to do so, engage with people you meet on the trail. Compliment them, ask them questions about the trail or their gear, or even just a smile should do the trick.

This book is largely about overcoming fear, of talking yourself through the mostly irrational thoughts you may have about being outdoors. Perhaps your fear is simply about traveling away from home. Maybe wildlife and snakes and poison ivy scare you so you stay away. The thought of encountering other unknown humans out in the middle of nowhere scares many. What if they’re a serial killer? As mentioned above, it is far more likely the opposite is true.

Sarah also talks about what to do in unexpected weather, how to cope with being out in the woods after dark when every single sound makes you scream, “What’s that?” As she says, “If you know anything about sleeping in the woods, you know that the sound of a squirrel or a raccoon can sound like a 400 pound bear!” She also covers how the wilderness is different for women. It is physically more demanding, leading sometimes to mental paranoia.

I never look back and say to myself, “Man, I wish I never did that.” It has literally never happened. I still keep coming back for more, so why bother with fear? I’m going to go anyway, so why bother going kicking and screaming and instead just give in to the experience.


Why deprive yourself of glorious scenes like this? Photo by Jeff and Dave Clark


Sarah is a freak about planning, organization and lists as a coping mechanism. She makes lists to simplify, and she makes lists of lists. Some of her lists that are solid advice for anyone planning to travel or get out there include:

All trailhead addresses, maps, and routes. I will look through as many trail reports as I can get my hands on. I want to be prepared to go out there and I want to know what to expect. I obtain all emergency numbers for rangers in the area, and I keep a list of our emergency contacts and health conditions in each of our backpacks. You should be prepared to travel or go into the woods. It would otherwise be irresponsible to yourself, the people traveling with you, and those who will have to come and save you. BUT, you have to learn to put a cap on it and not obsess too much.

Her point about researching trail reports is exactly why I started this website in 2011. I am the same way. I want to know what to expect before I head out on a trail, particularly a difficult one. I don’t like surprises. When I got real serious about hiking, there wasn’t a whole lot on the internet about specific trails. So I started Meanderthals to help out. Now, more than five years later, there are tons of helpful trail description sites available. Folks have seen the value of sharing experiences in order to help others be prepared.


What Did I Think?


This doesn’t just apply to hiking or the great outdoors, if the only thing keeping you from trying things that you have dreamt about, or that you have seen your friends enjoy without you, is fear… then perhaps all you need is just a little nudge. Sarah’s book is a whole series of those little nudges.

I kept finding little nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout. For example:

  • When talking about bears: brown, stay down and black, fight back.
  • On poison ivy, oak or sumac: there is a manufacturer who makes a pre and post poison wipe.
  • Whenever hiking above tree line, check for the quickest route back down to the forest in case an unexpected thunderstorm rolls in.
  • The only real cure for altitude sickness is to go down.
  • Knowing the signs of hypothermia: you will stop shivering, you will become clumsy, your speech may be slurred, and you will be drowsy with difficulty making sound decisions.
  • When camping overnight: check your surroundings while it is still daylight. These are the same woods. The only difference is it will be dark later.
  • Avoiding panic: nothing has really changed… only your perception has changed.
  • Things are just different for women in the woods. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. Coming to grips with that will make you more comfortable.
  • Choosing a pack: our bodies are so vastly different that no amount of straps or adjustments can fix an ill fitting pack. Mere centimeters can make a difference. So try many before making your choice.
  • Learn your limits: don’t go too far or too high.
  • Taking classes helps: orienteering, shelter building, general first aid.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected: take extra food, water, and clothing in case you have to spend a night outdoors.
  • After traveling: unload your suitcase at the washing machine.

This is an easy read, done with occasional humor. It is organized by topic [which fear] and solution [relief]. The book is small enough that you could even take it along with you, stowed in your pack, until you feel more comfortable with your adventures. In addition to being a book of tips, A Guide for the Hesitant Hiker enables your courage. Sarah concludes:

It’s important and human to be afraid. If you’re in a situation wherein you shouldn’t be fearful, thank your body and mind for doing its job, but tell yourself it’s a false alarm. Be confident, but cautious. Start saying yes and see where it leads you. You’d be surprised what you can do if you make the decision to just do it.

I am glad that Sarah shared her book with me.


About the Author


Sarah D. Tiedemann was born and raised in Central New Jersey. She has always had a passion for story telling. Ever since she learned how to read, she would devour any book she could get her hands on. After high school, she moved to the Big Island of Hawai’i, then on to O’ahu, where she was educated at the University of Hawai’i and graduated with honors. During that time, she found her calling in journalism.

After college, she moved back to New Jersey to pursue a career. In addition to writing, she [now] enjoys traveling and hiking with her husband (and writing about it of course).

Traveling with Baggage: A Guide for the Hesitant Hiker sells for US$10 and is published by Sarah Tiedemann’s own publishing company New Boot Goofin Books. You can order copies from Amazon.

Disclosure: I was contacted by Sarah Tiedemann with an offer to receive her book. It was provided at no cost to me. My only responsibility was an agreement to complete this review. I was not pressured in any way to make a positive endorsement.


This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.


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