Financial Independence? Go Take A Hike….

In the realm of professional athletes, the big sports come to mind first for most folks.  Football, baseball, basketball, etc…..  the “stick and ball” sports.  Then there are second and third-level sports such as cycling or maybe track and field where, if you’re a star you can make a lot of money, often by brand sponsorship.  If you’re not a star you might make a living, but you’ll be scraping by and likely need another job.

Professional Cyclists

These Guys Almost Certainly Have Second Jobs To Pay The Bills

Then there are the outliers.   Fringe sports.  Lots of people probably don’t know that there are professional rock climbers, mountaineers, and hikers.  Yep, they’re usually the best of the best, and they can get paid to do their craft.  Often by brand sponsorship, but also by guiding, speaking etc.

Ok, I get all that, but a professional hiker?  You mean, they get paid to walk in the woods?

Yep.  The rise of social media and “digital influencers” has helped create an environment where seemingly anyone can get paid to do almost anything.

Of course, you have to be that influencer.  Meaning, you have to have “followers”.  Like, lots of them.  You have to make a name for yourself.  So how do you do that by hiking?  Well, you don’t just go for a walk in the woods, you’ve gotta do some epic shit.


Rocky Mountain High, Sawatch Range Colorado


Blue Ridge Outdoors did a recent article about professional hikers and the road they took to making a living by hiking.  Yes indeedy, these folks make a living by hiking.

One of the hikers profiled, Tom Gathman, has 43,000 Instagram followers.  Another named Andrew Skurka has over 15,000 on Facebook.  These folks have done hikes and expeditions badass enough to warrant that kind of audience. 

People gravitate towards epic stuff, and companies go where the people go.


You’re off on tangents again Accidental FIRE, what does this have to do with FI?

As I was reading the article and wondering why the hell I chose a technical field in life when I could’ve just gone for a hike, the commonalities between what the hikers said and the general ethos of the FIRE movement were staring me right in the face.

Some quotes from the hikers in the article:

“What I love about it is being my own boss and taking on the responsibility for the success or failure of doing the stuff that I want to do, the way I want to do it” –  Alastair Humphreys.


Hmmm..   sound familiar all you FIRE folks seeking to start a business?  It definitely rings true for me.  I never had the risk tolerance to start a business with no safety net when I was starting out in the working world.  Being FI gives me that safety net and allows me to pursue things where I’ll be my own boss, and I’ll be responsible for the outcome. 

When the consequences of failure are negligible, perceived barriers to entry and much of the fear are lifted.


“I love my life and consider my job the best job in the world,” says Tom Gathman. “If I wanted to make a lot of money and have nice things, I’d be a banker. But that’s not what I value, that’s not the way I want live. What I want is to be in the woods and on the trail, and I’m willing to do what it takes to make that happen.” 


That’s me, seeking early retirement to be a hermit and enjoy the outdoors!  Maybe not so much the hermit-part, but it is nice to get away from everything for more than just the paltry two weeks that most jobs allow for vacation per year.

And I think most folks seeking FI or FIRE also tend to value other aspects of life besides “stuff” and “things” just as Gathman says.  I was more than happy to forgo the BMW and 4000 square foot house to make my dreams happen. 

But shit, I coulda been hiking for a living this whole time!!  (sorry just can’t get past it…)


“When most of the world thinks what you’re doing is irresponsible and crazy, it helps to know there are people out there supporting you” 


Irresponsible and crazy. 

I don’t know if anyone thinks striving for financial independence is irresponsible, but there are plenty that think it’s crazy.  They think it’s crazy to make a six-figure salary and drive a butt-ugly used Ford Aspire.  They think it’s crazy to not have a working dishwasher.  Hell, I work with people who think it’s crazy to bring your lunch to work!!

The second part of that quote is what hit home for me here – “it helps to know there are people out there supporting you”.  YES!  That’s what makes this personal finance community of like minded people striving for a better life so amazing.

It’s so great to have a community of people who support you and your choices instead of looking at you like you’re a side-show freak.  We live in a very conformist world, and deviating from the norm is usually not a comfortable situation to be in.

I’m sure Mr. Gathman is told he’s crazy to pursue hiking for a living.  His 43,000 Instagram followers are his personal finance blogging community.


East Coast USA Hiking, Tree Tunnels


Another hiker mentioned in the article makes the bulk of his living from a blog he runs that is recognized as an authoritative source for all-things outdoor adventure.  So let’s see, he did what he loves (hiking) and then started a blog to write about it, and that now provides a steady income.

Hmmm…. I don’t think that really relates to many in the personal finance community.  I mean, there’s only like three, maybe four personal finance bloggers out there trying something like this.  Ok ok, never mind that example…..


In the end, I wanted to share this great article with you as a testament and celebration to doing things your own way.  Even as recently as 10 or 15 years ago no one would have imagined you could make a living as a hiker, propped up by “followers” on the internet.  And now that you can, most folks would still think you’re crazy for doing it.

Like the hikers in the article, when you’re setting a different course by reaching for financial independence, you’re doing things your own way.  Don’t get too immersed in this bubble of personal finance bloggers and think it’s ‘normal’ to do this.  It’s not. 

But it’s your way. 

To most in society, your path is just as weird as being a hiker for a living, and for that you should be proud!  


New Hampshire’s White Mountains


I don’t want to write on this blog only for people who are like me, who are seeking or have reached financial independence.  I want to connect with people who might find this article and who are maybe not sure of their direction – be it FI or whatever.   Maybe they’re not sure it’s worth living a lifestyle that’s considered “out of the norm” by most of society to get to where they wanna be.

If you’re not convinced that the path you’re taking is the right one, you probably need to do some deep reflection and map out some life goals.  That’s hard for many to do, but you need something to point to.  When you figure out those goals, pay no attention to whether the lifestyle required to meet them would be considered normal by society.

Those professional hikers would have never gotten to where they are in life, living their dreams, if they shied away from the paths required simply because those paths are perceived as different, perhaps even reckless, by society.

Make them your goals.  Take the necessary path.  Make it your way.

17 Responses

  1. Love this. Too many people think there is a right and wrong way to doing things. The comparison you layed out between hiking and FI is excellent – find your own path.

    Who would have thought Blue Ridge Outdoors would be focusing on FI articles now 🙂 As an avid hiking in the Mid Atlantic, been following that pub for years.

    Well done.

    • Accidental Fire says:

      I love their site, great writing and they always seem to find little out of the way trails and parks that I’ve never heard of.

      Thanks for the kind words!

  2. I had the Fleetwood Mac song going though my head the entire time, “you can go your own waaaaaaay, go your own way.” ha ha! But yes the road to “success” no longer looks like one or two models of the “olden days.” But, it does take risk, getting over fear, enduring possible failure, etc.” to sometimes “go your own way.”

    • Accidental Fire says:

      Ha, that’s great. I wonder if Stevie and Lindsey wrote that song while they were hiking? Since it’s a breakup song they must’ve had a bad hike….

      Thanks for reading Tonya!

  3. As a FI person who loves hiking, I love this comparison!

    Hah, #ThereAreABajillionTicksInThatImage. East Coast problems!

    • Accidental Fire says:

      Ugh, they’re the scourge of the outdoors. I spend LOTS of time doing outdoor stuff, and ticks and the diseases they carry worry me more than anything else. Not afraid of bears or snakes etc, but those little bastards scare me. If we could make one species go extinct….

      Thanks for stopping by Erin!

  4. Busy Mom says:

    That was an interesting read! I haven’t yet found what I want to do with the rest of my life. But like you mentioned, I know that I will have the safety net to do it if I reach FI.

    • Accidental Fire says:

      Being FI opens up so many opportunities, it’s amazing. I’m finding them more and more each day.

      Thanks for the kind words!

  5. Joe says:

    We live in an interesting time. The internet enables us to blaze our own trails. Who’d thought you can make a living from hiking. Life is great!

    • Accidental Fire says:

      It is pretty cool isn’t it? So many new opportunities are opened to so many more people.

      Thanks for stopping by Joe!

  6. Mr. Groovy says:

    “They think it’s crazy to make a six-figure salary and drive a butt-ugly used Ford Aspire. They think it’s crazy to not have a working dishwasher. Hell, I work with people who think it’s crazy to bring your lunch to work!!”

    Three excellent examples of egotrage, my friend. Thank you for this very thought-provoking post. We live in remarkable times. Information on relatively obscure avocations (i.e., hiking) is at your fingertips for free. And providing information about relatively obscure avocations can bring in a nice income. And yet most of us are inveterate complainers! Hey, have you heard of Alex Honnold? I saw him on a Netflix documentary (I think), and I was flabbergasted. Anyway, great post as always, AF. Cheers.

    • Accidental Fire says:

      First off, “egotrage” and “inveterate complainers” are going into my quiver of linguistic weapons. Kudos!

      And yes as a climber myself Honnold is practically a climbing deity. He almost made it in this post since he lives in his van and climbs full-time, like a true dirtbag. And he actually now makes well over 6 figures in endorsements etc, yet still chooses to forgo most modern things and climb. I decided he probably deserves his own post.

      Thanks for stopping by groove-ster!

  7. Great article. Find your path. It doesn’t have to be the same as anyone else’s but it doesn’t have to be one you do alone either. Good stuff!

  8. steve poling says:

    big advantage of hiking is rock-bottom expenses. i’m thinking of an AT through hike just to live on almost nothing for a few months. i suppose that when the stock market stumbles (as it must) I’ll choose that time of panic to get away from the world.

    • Accidental Fire says:

      You should do it!! It’s a dream of mine and definitely bucket-list but I still work part time right now. When I fully FIRE.

      You’re absolutely right, all you need is a decent pair of shoes/boots and a day-pack to do great hikes. Very frugal hobby. Backpacking obviously entails more money but you can still get a set-up with tent etc for relatively cheap.

      Thanks for the comment and get out there on the trail!

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