Suffering and Storytelling - Exploring Extreme Leisure Through Trails, Trials, and Tales
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The purpose of this thesis is to better understand the motives and outcomes associated with a punishing yet profound leisure experience. A thru-hike was chosen as a venue through which to explore the motives and outcomes associated with extreme hiking behaviour. Thru-hikes are those in which hikers complete a trail all in one effort. In this case, I was interested in thru-hikers’ posts on a website (Whiteblaze.net). It is popular among thru-hikers pursuing a 2,190 mile (3,525 km) hike of the Appalachian Trail (AT). I used thematic analysis to analyze posts within a specific forum on Whiteblaze.net as well as thirteen personal blogs. CATPAC II was used to assist me in my analysis and three themes emerged from within the posts. The first and most prevalent theme focused on the supportive nature of the AT hiking community. Thousands of posts were written by hopeful hikers who sought information. Their questions were invariably answered by several experienced hikers who had already completed a thru-hike. Others posts were written by those currently on the trail. They reported how family, friends, other hikers, miscellaneous posters and even townspeople along the trail supported them through acts of kindness (trail magic) and posts of encouragement. The second theme that emerged focused on the setting. The setting was key to both the challenge and the reflective capacity of the experience. Their reports spoke to the often visceral experience offered by the trail. Many commented on both the difficulty (the effort) and the beauty (the reward) of the trail. The final theme focused on this difficulty. Participants both accepted and expected pain and suffering during the pursuit and devoted a great deal of energy into preparing for that challenge. Much of the communication on this site was devoted to that preparation. Overall, the community emerged organically to aid in the completion of daunting yet extraordinary task. The implications of such an experience for both research and practice are discussed.
Cite this work
Chantel Marie Pilon (2017). Suffering and Storytelling - Exploring Extreme Leisure Through Trails, Trials, and Tales. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/11261