The 15 Most Important Things I Have Learned From 2014 (and AT thru hike planning)… And What That Means For 2015 (and my AT thru hike)

1. Life is hard, crazy and beautiful.

Life is an amazing journey, there’s no denying it. Instead of spending time and energy overanalyzing the reasons for life’s happenings, I’d like to spend more time being thankful for the blessings and learning from the rest. I’ve become more flexible in my expectations, as life has a way of veering the path just when you think you have it all figured out. Instead of trying to control what I can’t, I spend more time enjoying the ride. For the moments it’s still overwhelming, my mama tells me to just breathe.

Hiking the AT is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it is and will be absolutely insane, and it will be filled with beautiful moments of clarity, beautiful people, & beautiful scenery.

 2. The past is exactly that. But it’s also important to becoming our best selves.

Each of us has a past that shapes who we are. It’s important to understand where we come from, to appreciate the ways it has influenced our lives, and to use that to become better versions of our current selves. We can’t change where we come from, we can’t relive our past, so we appreciate the good parts, learn from our mistakes, and continue to move forward.

Learning from the trail, learning from others on the trail and learning more about myself will all help me to be successful in my hike and I will be stronger as I begin the next chapter of my life.

 3. Being present matters.

The past is the past, the future is something to look forward to and to set goals for, but the present moment is what truly matters. Though I always want to be looking forward, I want to spend less time wishing away the present moment. I want to be excited to wake up on a Monday morning instead of immediately wishing for the next weekend. I want to look ahead to the momentous occasions in my life, such as the start of my AT thru hike, but I also want to truly enjoy each moment I have with my friends and family here over the next few months. I want to create a life that I enjoy, appreciate, and feel ever-present in.

Though I will be envisioning my end goal, I want to truly enjoy my time on the trail. I don’t know when I will have an opportunity like it, I can’t predict what each new day will bring, so I will savor each moment as it happens.

 4. Be grateful.

I want to remind myself every day how grateful I am to be alive, for every breath (Kid President– an amazing video that remind us of awesome things like breathing, dancing, and corn dogs). We come across so many amazing people every day, we go to new places and have new experiences, and I’m so glad I have opportunities to do things like hiking the AT.

Every day that my body aches on the trail I can be grateful I have the strength and determination to attempt such a feat. I will be grateful for every breath I take, every sunrise & sunset I have the privilege to watch, and every day I am lucky enough to be surrounded by all that Mother Nature has to offer.

 5. Less is MORE (and better in almost all things).

Being caught up in a life revolving around material possessions is something we’ve all probably experienced at some point. I’m so grateful to have found a path that has helped me to reevaluate what is necessary to truly bring more happiness into my life. I promise you it is not what is hanging in my closet.

Every ounce I leave behind I will definitely be glad I didn’t have to carry those 5 million steps… I’m not even out to the AT yet, but just in preparation I’ve realigned my thinking in such enormous ways in terms of what one actually needs to live and to live happily.

 6. Follow your heart, soul & passions (& learn how to recognize each of them).

Following your dreams is not an easy task but one that will be worth it in the end. Listen to yourself, trust yourself and wholeheartedly believe in yourself, however challenging. Learn to follow your own path in search of your passions instead of following the ones laid out for you. By doing so we may disappoint the people we care about, but in the end all they want is for us to be happy anyways. It’s taken me a long time to be confident in the fact that I am the only one who truly knows what I want and need to be happy with my life. Listening to the advice of those around you is important, but it’s ok to choose not to take it and head a different direction.

The AT is not a vacation, but it is freedom for me. This adventure will challenge me in ways physically and mentally that I can’t possibly understand yet, but I am so excited to push myself. I know every step, every mile, every hardship will be so very worth it, in the amazing experiences along the way, in what I will have accomplished in the end, and in what it will bring to me personally as I continue throughout my life.

 7. You can do ANYTHING you set your mind to.

Moving towards a goal with passion means putting your whole self into the effort. Hard work and determination, when you’re working towards something you believe in, creates an unstoppable combination.

Hiking 2,186 miles. Yep, I can definitely do anything after that.

 8. It’s OK to fail.

When I was mountain bike racing in college I came out of a pretty technical course with plenty of bumps and bruises, feeling like I’d spent as much time eating dirt as I had upright on my bike. One of my teammate’s wise words post race stuck with me, “If you’re not crashing, not getting banged around a little bit, then you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.” It’s a thought that has stuck with me through a lot of different things in my life. Failure is seen as something to be feared, but a certain amount of failure, crashing and burning now and again, helps us to learn, to grow, and to push ourselves to do better next time.

Some days will be incredibly hard. I’ll fall, I’ll get bruises or maybe even scars, I’ll definitely be sore, and I guarantee days that I will struggle mentally, but I’ll keep learning, growing, getting stronger & in turn I’ll be closer to reaching my goal.

 9. Make a bucket list. And check things off of it.

I’ve already written a post about bucket lists (What Is A Bucket List), but it’s something I’ve come to believe in. I want to spend my life in a constant state of living, learning, exploring, and growing as a person. A bucket list helps me to stay motivated to follow those dreams and reach my goals.

The AT will be one of my first major bucket list items to check off. Woo! I also view it as a guaranteed gateway to other new people, places & experiences. The beauty of a bucket list is its ever-changing state.

10. People are SO amazing.

Planning for an adventure like thru hiking the AT has led me to analyze myself and my life in so many ways, one of which is acknowledging the amazing support system I have. I am so fortunate to have a partner who understands and supports me in every way I could possibly ask for; awesome friends who support me even if they don’t totally understand all of my endeavors; and family who isn’t afraid to tell me they think I’m absolutely crazy, but who I know will always be there for me. (My mom has even promised to send me cookies on the trail and I don’t think I even have a clue at this point how amazing that will be when I’m out hiking.)

Though I appreciate my solitude, and I am excited for a solo thru hike, I’m looking forward to the AT community, and to learning something new from everyone I meet along the way.

 11. Dogs are also amazing.

I am ever grateful for the constant companions who greet me with such exuberance when I come home, whether I’ve been gone for 2 minutes or two weeks. I can’t wait to show them what I can of the world throughout their lifetimes, while I continue to explore myself. They get to have their very own bucket lists! One of my favorite quotes of all time: “I want to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.”

Though they will make my experience more challenging, I am also looking forward to time spent with them doing something we all love to do. As a dog trainer I spend hours training other people’s dogs, but in the rat race of life it ends up taking time away from working with my own. We are all at home in the woods and will only have a better understanding of one another after the AT.

 12. I know very little about the world.

The more I do, see, experience, the more I realize how much there is left to see, how little I really know, and that I want to spend my whole life learning more about myself and my place in the universe.

Nature always has a way of making me feel like such a small part of something so much larger than myself. I imagine the AT will make me feel like this on an even greater scale.

 13. Stop waiting.

The time is now! The time is always now and we are the only things standing in our way. Making a change, however small, is the first step. Stop waiting for tomorrow, we only get a limited number of those, and we never know exactly how many.

We can always have more time, more money, more things in place, but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. Once you open a door there are surely more that will open, but you have to start somewhere. I happen to be starting at Springer in March.

14. Do not underestimate the power of positive thinking.

 Living a positive life takes conscious effort, positive thought, and healthy life choices. Don’t dwell on negativity or things that just don’t matter. Surround yourself with people who lift you up and share in your positivity – your family, friends and significant others will significantly influence your attitude & actions whether you want them to or not, and we do the same for them!

 The AT is the beginning of healthy, positive change for me. Embracing the outdoors, an active lifestyle & a lifetime of exploration.

 15. Do YOU First.

Learn more about yourself and your strengths, be confident in your abilities, find your passions, and ultimately listen to yourself. Making decisions for you doesn’t make you selfish. You will be a better friend for it, a better partner, and a better and happier individual. Knowing your own dreams will give you an idea not only of your own path, but how others fit into your life and ultimately how they can help you grow and become a better person.

Deciding to hike the AT has been a prime example of following my own dreams, and my hike will continue to be a process of learning more about myself and becoming a better and happier individual moving forward with my life.

Moving out of my comfort zone is the best way I know how to grow as a human being. I’m ready to do that, to be challenged, amazed, disappointed, awed, focused, transformed. I never make New Year’s resolutions, but I do look back at the previous year, where I was and where I am now, and I think about where I may be in the future. I am feeling incredibly centered going into 2015 and although I expect it to be one of the most challenging, I also know it will be the most amazing so far.

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” ― Neil Gaiman

Happy New Year & Happy Hiking!

Maija Le

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