Route to Recovery

A trip through the epicenters of the recession

An unemployed banker on the Appalachian Trail

November 18, 2009


Photo by Richard Daileader

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – When Richard Daileader was let go from a financial services company during the meltdown, he realized it was the perfect chance for an unusual sabbatical.

“For years my daughter and I had talked about hiking the Appalachian Trail,” he said. “When I was let go, she told me that there would never a better time for me to do it, so I went for it.”

After 30 years in the financial sector and 2,178 miles on foot, he’s wondering what to do next.

Daileader, 52, had four or five jobs in his career.

“I never had any time off between any of those jobs,” he said. “I always finished on the Friday and was in my new job on Monday.”

Prior to becoming unemployed, Daileader was commuting back and forth from Charlotte to Churchill Financial in New York, where he looked at potential acquisitions alongside private equity firms. Financing was raised through securitization, packing and selling bundles of loans on the capital markets, but the financial crisis brought that to an end.

“In 2007 the market began to fall apart and in 2008 funding became increasingly hard to come by,” he said. “Then someone hit the brakes and that market went away.”

Daileader was given a decent separation package by Churchill in the fourth quarter of 2008.

On Feb. 28 he began his hike along the Appalachian Trail, which stretches between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. He completed the journey on Aug. 13, having progressed about about 15 miles a day on the days he hiked.

“I didn’t have any great epiphanies while I was on the trail. Most of the time I was just focused on putting one foot in front of another,” he said. “But I am very lucky. I have no complaints because unlike many people I don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck and didn’t have to worry about finding another job immediately.”

(Click here to see his Daileader’s blog on his experiences)


Photo by Carlos Barria

After almost a year without work, Daileader said he has been thinking about getting back into banking.

“No one is hiring right now, though it looks like there may be some openings in the first quarter of next year,” he said. “What jobs there will be will likely have lower compensation following the financial crisis.”

“I don’t want to go back to New York, I’d rather stay here in Charlotte,” he said. “And one thing that I did realize on the trail was that I don’t want to kill myself with work anymore.”

At the moment he is talking informally to a defense contractor who wants to sell his business and retire. He may decide to leave the banking sector altogether and find work away from the city. In short, Daileader is not entirely sure what to do next.

“I’m not antsy yet about what to do and I have been frugal the past year,” he said. “But around the end of the year the separation package is going to start to run low and that it is going to start limiting my options.”

“Life was a lot simpler out on the trail. I put my country club membership on hold and now I realize I don’t need it.”

Click here for more Route to Recovery


I enjoyed the article, being a reformed banker, an “adventurer” myself, and having hiked the trail in NH, VT and PA. For the last 4 years, I was an “Operating Partner” with a Private Equity firm that focuses on the lower middle market. The last 1 ½ years was the CEO of one of our portfolio companies, an international capital equipment company headquartered in Charlotte. I was brought in to run the company and to turn around one division, a small defense contractor. I have 10+ years operating experience in the defense industry supply chain. This is an unusual way to “source” a business opportunity, but with a partner, we are now pursuing small acquisitions in the defense industry supply chain. If Mr. Daileader has a real opportunity here (referred to in 3rd to last paragraph), he should contact me. Your “webmaster” (or whatever) will have my email address. – Thanks!

Posted by Tom G | Report as abusive

What to do next? Read Emanuel Swedenborg and Jakob Lorber! What else did you think the answer would be?

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

I wish you all the best, you will make it.

Please could you send to my e-mail address this writing.
I would like to send it to a friend who is trying to go to the Applachian Trail.

Thank you so much.

Posted by sulamit shure | Report as abusive

We run a volunteer hiking web site in the Catskill Mountains called . We see a lot of people like Richard out there. Some are now starting to get jobs. Certainly a good way of recharging your batteries and clearing your head.


Sounds like Mr. Daileader found out that we should “work to live – not live to work”…
However, there’s another lesson he can teach those who “forgot” to save for a rainy day -take your own financial responsibility serious and don’t depend on the government (meaning the rest of us taxpayers) to bail you out of bad decisions.

Posted by Sandy | Report as abusive

WTF? Who cares? This is a headline article for Reuters? How much did Daileader pay for this ad?

Posted by habakak | Report as abusive


Posted by a | Report as abusive

Sounds like a nice story – Who really gives a damn !!! There are many formerly high income families / people who are now living in hotel rooms with their wives and children. Look at the numbers for people on food stamps ! Everyone loves a good story, but the reality is that many more people are having a really hard go of it right now. I also cannot believe that in the current economy Reuters posts a story on newly minted billionares. I would dare to say that if things get much worse the heads of these billionares will be displayed on sticks. In the history of the world I don’t know if the wealth disparity has ever been so great. The future ought to be interesting.

Posted by JIMI D | Report as abusive

Maine, the way life should be!

So banker loses job. Banker has enough money in the bank to sustain a trip on the Appalachia for him and his daughter for 2,000 miles.

I have neighbors who are down at the food banks in Millinocket Maine. Did he stop and offer a donation on the way out of town?

Posted by Uncle Buck | Report as abusive

isn’t it nice to be wealthy and healthy enough to hike the AT. i’ve done parts of it, but nothing extensive. my area is mt. washington…burrr.

of course we don’t want to kill ourselves with work (unless it’s a labor of love). most of us work just for money to live and have a few things. most of us will die poor.

on the other hand, what ‘most of us’ really want is for the rich and powerful to get out of our way so that ‘we can be all that we can be’. (such a small thing…)

this is where BIG GOVERNMENT comes in (or should): keeping the rich and powerful in check!

the first big success for BG in this area was getting rich and powerful whites (partly) off the black man’s back as well as getting him a little break from being at the back of every line all the time. (although, the age of reagan ended that!) a man on the moon was BG’s second big success. the period between 65-70 was great!

now, i don’t know about you, but i’m willing to pay (more taxes?) for more of that!

for more of that, BG has got to regulate all major industries and place a nice health tax on corporations and ‘the church’ (yes, it’s high time they start paying up) and the rich and powerful that own them. nobody needs to be a billionaire!

these taxes could raise a ‘boat load’ for social reform (my favorite–fee ed. from K to PhD) which will allow more people to get out of working just for money and to do something significant. this is ‘the road back’.

now, of course, corporations and rich people won’t help in such an effort (just look at the obstruction of health-care reform). they have to be ‘made to help’. they need a little ‘convincing’. (enough of that…i’m giving away my political leanings…)

oh: a little advice: Daileader, don’t drop your country club membership! you’ll need it when you get back into banking.

perhaps though, you’ll take the hippie road of “drop out, turn on, and tune in” to reach “peace, love, and understanding”. you can find these along the AT from time to time.

in any case, best of luck to ya!

Posted by dr arp | Report as abusive

actually, my favorite social reform is free ed. from K to PhD, not fee ed. (which we already have).

Posted by dr arp | Report as abusive

I got word of my layoff on April 1, fortunate to have 90 days notice and a good severance package. After the shock came some healthy hiking and bicycling including standing on the top of Humphrey’s Peak in Flagstaff and lots of introspection every day. Yes, I felt privileged to do that but also like it was okay to take a couple of months and get myself sorted after working nonstop from 15-51 and putting work before my family. Never again. I have started a small company and am also looking for full-time work again, work with a better balance, no doubt making much less money and knowing it’s okay. Knowing full well my glory days as a mid-level executive are over. That’s okay, too. And I don’t begrudge anyone for handling their “career transition” any way that makes sense to them in manner they can afford. I’m no millionaire, BTW, as in 3-4 months I’ll have to cash out my 401k to make my responsibilities. But I am hopeful. Everything is cyclical.



You are a smart, wise man. Enjoy your time off while you have it. This is probably one of the best adventures. If you can afford it why not get a round the world ticket and see the world?

Posted by Robin Ozan | Report as abusive

Love this article. I was lucky enough to experience the downturn much earlier. Got to see my kids grow up more than I would have. Learned scuba and took them on diving trips. Of course no one knows what around the bend, but it’s best to keep learning and stay adventurous.


Okay, I get it. I am not going to give this guy a hard time because I know how it feels to be tied down to a job for years and never feeling free. Moreover, getting layed off and the fear of it happening are never more real than they are today. If he needs some time to live, let him. I have been thinking about hooking a pop up trailer to my v-6 honda accord and taking off for a year. I got laid off and I have spent my life raising my kids and I feel like I deserve to spread my wings. The perspective and lessons that I gain from road trips are exponentially returned once I get home! Just hope the job market is better when I get home!


All of you people complaining about this guy not making donations and whoa is me and my bad luck, leave the guy alone. He saved, he did what he was supposed to do. He’s 52 years old if you’re his age and you’re not nearly stable enough to retire then you screwed up. Why should he have to pay for you? I don’t understand where America is going. You have the right to PURSUE happiness, it’s NOT provided for you. Yeah some folks caught a raw deal, maybe things are a little too shakey to feel comfortable retiring whether you have a nestegg or not, but you know what? If you don’t its noones fault but yours. personally I’d like the government to stop handing out money. I’m tired of having people in walmart hand in their foodstamps and wic checks to buy essentials then throw a case of crablegs, a case of booze, and a carton of cigarettes on the counter. If you have to use government assistence to buy your milk and eggs you shouldnt be sitting at your dining room table eating Filet Mignon, delivered from angus by yourself with your 22 inch rims.

Posted by Timbo | Report as abusive

It’s great this guy got to hike the AT; it makes sense to do some soul searching after being laid off, and most people don’t bother adventuring outside their city or even their state nowadays.

However, for regular people who are unemployed, nearly broke, and in debt (I admit I fall into that category at the moment), things like this aren’t really possible. I agree with what’s been mentioned before in previous comments: the wealth disparity in this nation is too great. The fact is, corrupt financial institutions had their part to play in causing and initiating the process of this current recession, and an already indebted public is picking up the tab.

I hope Daileader can at least show his appreciation for those volunteers who work hard to maintain the Appalachian Trail, by making a generous donation to the Appalachian Trail Society, in return for the positive experience he has had while hiking.

Posted by Lauren T. | Report as abusive

must be nice to have enough money to take family and go for an extended vacation.My wife was laid off from a well paid job,at first she recieved unemployement for about a month but then that stopped without warning with a letter vaguely stating that they had run out of funds and needed to reinterview her in 45 days time,she had paid into the fund for 15 years and had never asked for anything until needed.So we go hiking two or three times a week to the 99 cent store to by cheap ,about to expire foods.We lost our home and have massive dedt that we will never be able to repay,so this bogus fairytale makes me want to throw up.I wish you would invite the rest of your banker friends up into the mountains and then the rest of us could have an open hunting season on your theiving hides,that would be a story worth publishing.

Posted by Great white Hunter | Report as abusive

Ok sure he hiked the trail. I work in a town that has a LOT of thru hikers and not a one has been clean shaven. How does he make it the whole way to Maine and have a clean shaven face?

You know how? Staying in hotels at night, that’s how. Hike the trail how it was meant to be hiked. Fake.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

The accomplishment of a “through hike” on the AT is significant. I join the many friends and well wishers of Mr. Daileader in saying “congratulations!”

Posted by Jeff Turnbull | Report as abusive

What a great story. For those of you bashing Daileader, he is a great guy – I actually know him. I recongnize that it is easy to point frustration from a tough situation (lost home, etc.) towards someone who is lucky enough to do this. Remember he mentioned how fortunate he was to not live paycheck to paycheck. However, his ability to do this has nothing to do with others having difficulty. In fact, I was laid off the day before Rich started his trek. Was I envious, absolutely. Bitter about his situation compared to mine, absolutely not. One has absoutely nothing to do with the other. Great job Rich.

Posted by Bedford B | Report as abusive

Good for him! He made a pile of money while on the job (he wouldn’t have commuted othewise!). Now he took a nice sabbatical and looking to go back into banking. Nice role model! How many people lost their jobs as he made decisions on all the acquisitions and mergers! How many people cannot even think of taking time off work to clear their minds, get fresh air, or see the world?!
Hypocricy. Pure hypocricy! And Reuters is presenting him as an example to the rest of us who work for living, for most part. And try to save for retirement that is becoming more distant and a blurrier as a concept every day. The difference, I believe, is in how much you make while working thus how much you can afford to save. Does not work with my average salary.

Posted by And the point is...? | Report as abusive

Hey great white. Being hunted by you would be like having Elmer Fudd on the prowl. Sounds like you did a poor job of managing your finances when your wife was working. I pity those who seek a scapegoat for woes of their own making. When bankers lend money, we expect to get it back.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

I know Rich Daileader and can 100% confirm his through hike accomplishment. People are entitled to their opinions about the article but Rich’s completing the trail is a FACT not a fake. And he didn’t stay in hotels, either. He lost about 35 pounds during his 5+ months on the trail.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

I walked 200 miles on the AT with Rich Daileader; he was a great friend and supporter of my own multi-year goal to walk the entire Trail – especially in urging me on when my own surgically repaired knee was hurting like heck! When I read through the posted comments, I realize just how hard the current financial crisis has hit so many of us, but I worry that the number of negative comments illustrates a terrible trend. Everyone’s path to walk is different, yet we all are the same. We all want to be loved; we all want a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment; and we all want to have a sense of who we are and where we belong. If we are lucky, we get the chance to re-examine ourselves and what matters before the end of our life. Long distanc ehiking on the Appalachian Trail is an amazing thing – yes, it is a physically demanding 2,175+ mile long footpath, but it is so very much more. Created by volunteers; transformed into a National Park, and protected by a unique combination of federal and state agencies, and the non-profit Appalachian Trail Conservancy, it truly is “The Peoples Park.” The AT provides a uniquely accessible personal and social context in which a person can truly grow. In my eight year long journey along the AT, I have met financially blessed people like Rich Daileader, college kids counting every dime, hikers who have not lived in a home of their own for years, and everything in between. One thing that they all have in common is an amazing can-do spirit, combined with an amazing spirit of giving selflessly to each other. The Trail does that to you – can’t is not part of your vocabulary, and while self-reliance is key, so is your sense of a community much larger than yourself. So, stop the sniping, and start walking – hike your own hike and celebrate “Da Leader’s” accomplishment, just as you should anyone else’s!

Posted by Clark Wright | Report as abusive

I’m still waiting on an answer on how he was able to not grow any facial hair on this walk on which he didn’t stay in one hotel.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

This is a wonderful encouragement to people to use change to experience freedoms. YES, it is nice to realize the membership in the country club isn’t needed. And WOW, there is life after that all controlling job! And HEY — maybe Thoreau had a point, “Everything you own, owns you” [paraphrased]. Daileader hiked the trail the way he wanted to, and that’s good for him and us. Thanks for sharing.

My husband was a banker and I’m a speech pathologist. Our “change positions”? ? ?, relief and development practitioners — a great second career for both of us. Change can be for the better.


Hello Steve – to answer your question, it’s called a razor. When I walked with Rich, I would look like a scraggly mess, while he would wash and shave every day – you are right that he was disgustingly clean on the Trail, but you are wrong to imply that his personal habits somehow means he is lying about having walked the entire AT . . . I think the better question to ask yourself is why were you motivated to question the legitimacy of his hike? One of the wonderful lessons of walking the AT is that everyone does it their own way, and everyone’s way is different. The common phrase you hear from thru-hikers, long distance hikers, and even section hikers is HYOH – “Hike your own hike!” As with the rest of life, there is no one “right” way or “wrong” way – there is only each of our individual ways . . . A favorite hiker prayer comes to mind: “Lord, if you will lift them up, I will put them down” . . . one step at a time, kept up with grit, determination and the encouragement of others, can accomplishe amazing things.

Posted by Clark Wright | Report as abusive

I know Rich.He is a man among men.The internalization of of personel experience is a hazard of existsenilism

Posted by Fred Thoro | Report as abusive

This guy sounds like a real creep. I am so tired of these fat-cat banker types who ruined our country. Now I am forced to read about how he found his soul? Outrageous!!. Where was his soul when he was forcing widows and children to live on cat food? I also agree that he must be a fake, where is the beard?!! He will probably spend his “golden years” building nuclear power plants along the AT, to ensure that no one else ever gets to enjoy it!

Posted by Johnnie Cup | Report as abusive

I guess I should stop being surprised why people would read this article and judge the man and not just enjoy the article or quit reading it. I do not know this guy, but the story is enjoyable and to fault stories about glimmers of light in this economy is crazy. Just because he worked in the world of finance seems petty to immediately assume he forced people into poverty. Actually, his job seemed to be just the one we need today: influx of money to sustain new businesses. Also, to judge him because he spent the hard earned time and effort on education and work to get to a position where he could afford such luxuries is hypocritical and against the principles this country was founded on. A better use of your time would be going and upping your education and joining the producers of the world and quit the whining.

Posted by Ken | Report as abusive

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