22 Things I Learned On Trail (for my 22nd birthday)

It’s easy to come to the Appalachian Trail and feel like time is standing still. The only sign that time is moving at all is the change in foliage or weather. But, some of us are lucky enough to celebrate birthdays during our time trekking long trails.

I woke up on July 5th to a cosmic brownie stuffed to the very edges with candles — twenty-two of them. We sang, we ate, and we were the very last folks out of camp that day. It was a simple and happy. It was perfect.

Trail birthdays are special. They remind us that we are growing older and wiser to match how we feel. While hiking the Appalachian Trail, you’re almost forced to learn. To learn about gear and maps, but also to learn lessons about what it means to be more fulfilled. After all, you’re probably surrounded by fulfilled people every day on-trail — that shit is contagious.

So, in celebration of another year around the sun for myself, I thought about the things I had learned as a 21-year-old. I learned about courage and how to make your ideas a reality. I thought about how lucky I was to learn those lessons at such a young age. I feel excited, anxious, prepared, overjoyed and ready for 22.

1. Always find a reason to celebrate.

2. You really could live out of a Wal-mart.

3. Optimism heals, and so does consistency. If you want to get better (from injury, for example), believe you will and execute on that belief.

4. Everyone else feels nervous, anxious or unsure too. Just keep learning.

5. Hikers can pollute a hot tub with their rankness.

6. Pursuing challenges with others means you find yourself among some pretty special people with a lot in common with you.

7. Have less, prepare more.

8. You have one life where you can be more than one person. Everyone out here was someone else before, and now we’re all on the same path.

9. There’s no “perfect” career path, just take the opportunities as they come. Writing about hiking the Appalachian Trail? Sounds like my kinda gig.

10. Listen to people when they cheer you on, and take criticism or advice from the ones that count.

11. Beer is worth the wait, and the weight.

12. You can make friends anywhere — literally.

13. Remember to thank your body for all it does for you. Yoga, a hot bath, whatever it needs.

14. It’s okay to be afraid, as long as it doesn’t control you. Keep being brave and trekking on.

15. Epsom salt has magical benefits.

16. Your plan will never go to plan.

17. Both good and sucky things pass by (relatively) quickly.

18. Don’t drink iced coffee before physical exercise. No matter how delicious it is — it’s not worth it.

19. Chase the discomfort instead of running from it. Discomfort is the space between what we are now and what we’re capable of.

20. It’s okay if your pack (or your life) is a little lumpy and messy. Perfect organization isn’t a system that works for everyone.

21. Comparison is a mood killer. The number of miles you’ve done today is enough.

22. You you’ve got this, bitch.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 1

  • pearwood : Jul 11th

    Or, in my mother’s words, “Comparisons are odious.” (:-D


What Do You Think?