Choosing Calculated Chaos


I’m on a February shakedown trip and I huff in aggravation as I unroll my sleeping pad for the third time and drop it on the ground. My friend Julia is laughing under her breath a few feet away and I’m determined to not react. I have never been good at properly packing up gear, and there are few tasks more onerous than rolling up an inflatable sleeping pad. 

This is hyperbolic, but not totally untrue. I’m definitely more of a shover than a neatly tuck-and-roll kind of gal. Really, I’d rather just tough it out with only a Z-lite that essentially folds itself and a quaint delusion that I’ll get a good night’s sleep. 

Thankfully, I was having much more success with my spiffy new Nemo tent and was obviously a champ at shoving my sleeping bag into its little pouch. 

“You’re gonna have to get used to it so you might as well just practice now. That’s the whole point,” Julia reminds me. 

She’s right, so I take a deep breath and try again. Thankfully, a mindset change and some patience worked. I wrangled the rolled-up pad into its ridiculous little bag and tossed it into my pack. 



This was two months ago, and I while I now have a much healthier relationship with my sleeping pad, I am still thinking about “changing my mindset,” whatever that means. And as I daydream about starting my Appalachian Trail thru-hike next week, it’s something that has continued to poke into my daily thoughts. Mostly because I’m a little unsure how I’m supposed to be feeling right now.

I thrive on what I like to call “calculated chaos.” I need enough change and adventure to keep me on my toes with enough stability to keep me relatively sane. Staying in one place for too long makes me feel stagnant, but I don’t want my life to be a laundry list of places to check off. It’s important that I allow space for spontaneity and soak up the moment as much as I can while maintaining some semblance of a strategy.

For the past couple of years, I’ve embodied the calculated chaos lifestyle pretty well. I graduated college and promptly left to work on a small farm on the island of Maui for two months. I moved to Paris for a year to be an au pair and travel western Europe. My visa ran out and I returned to my college town for a few months to work as a fitness instructor and at a gear shop. 

What I anticipate my time on the AT to look like is a healthy dose of calculated chaos. There will be a general routine (Eat, walk, poop, walk, sleep, repeat), but every day will bring some new challenge and excitement. For this I am incredibly stoked.

Obviously, people are curious as to why I’m hiking the trail, which is a totally valid question that I don’t necessarily have a great answer to. 

“Because I want to,” is the first thing that comes to mind, but at the risk of sounding like a petulant child, I usually find something else to say to well-meaning strangers and friends alike. 

“Well I grew up wanting to do it and it’s been a goal since I was a kid… I have friends who’ve done it and had great experiences… I have five months free and little-to-no responsibilities and thought it’d be a good idea… I like a challenge and this seems like a challenge… I just want to be outside constantly and not look at Instagram for days at a time.”

A combination of these things is usually what I sputter out to people and it seems to suffice. All of those reasons are true, but I find myself questioning them. Shouldn’t I have some big reason why I want to spend my time doing this?

In a way, a months-long hiking trip seems like a drastic step, but compared to the last few years of my life it feels relatively tame. I’m not moving abroad solo or living completely off the grid. I’m just going for a long walk in the woods in the part of the world I’m most familiar with, full of most of the people I know and love.

I’ve yet to start my hike but I have sneaky feeling I will have much more insight into my motivations for completing the trail once I am finished. I’m not sure the floor of my friend’s bedroom in suburban Los Angeles (where I’m typing this up) is the place to pinpoint those reasons. Maybe I’m not supposed to really know what I’m feeling right now. If anything I will be able to fold and pack my sleeping pad in under a minute. An ambitious goal perhaps, but again, I like a challenge. 

I am so excited to get on trail and to share the experience with everyone here!



In an attempt to get to know me better, here’s a menagerie of fun facts about me: 

  1. My favorite food is melted cheese but I think I’m kinda lactose intolerant. 
  2. My favorite word is menagerie.
  3. If I could be reincarnated as any animal it would be a sand cat. Or a sting ray.
  4. I enjoy running, film photography, climbing, reading, hiking (duh), and knitting.
  5. As a child I had a series of beta fish that I named after each of the members of the band ABBA.
  6. I have a degree in journalism from UNC Chapel Hill (go heels!) 
  7. I studied abroad in Greece in college and if I could live anywhere in the world it would be the tiny sailing island of Poros.
  8. I got my first tattoo (a frog sitting on a surfboard) at 1 a.m. from a surf instructor at a hostel in Morocco.
  9. I have a weirdly high pain tolerance when it comes to hot food and drinks.
  10. I recently developed a passion for crossword puzzles. 
  11. If I could see any band live it would be Big Time Rush (unironically)
  12. I am the mother to little girl cat called Cleo.
  13. My biggest athletic accomplishment thus far is running the Paris marathon last spring.
  14. I have an unnecessarily large tote bag collection.
  15. As a kid I wanted to be an ornithologist because I had a weird fascination with owls.
  16. My celebrity crush is Robert Irwin, son of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin.
  17. I have seen the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice upwards of 200 times. 
  18. I have a low-grade addiction to gum because my dentist once told me it would prevent me from chewing the inside of my mouth, which I took to heart. I <3 gum. 

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Comments 2

  • Jim : Apr 18th

    Looking forward to following your hike! But P&P 200 times?!!! Oh my, don’t know what to make of that! Also, I’m not a young person (I’m 68), so I hope this isn’t a dumb question, but is Big Time Rush the same thing as the band Rush? I’m confused. Happy hiking!

  • Jingle bells : Apr 20th

    Out the gate swinging with pad/inflatable adventures, a Sillsy thing to do. I eventually settled on the weight penalty, and comfort, of a Nemo pad AND an inflatable. Sleep gods from D- to C+. Pad is good for lunch/butt-on-rock breaks.


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