First Post: Why I’m Hiking the Appalachian Trail
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
–Henry David Thoreau
There’s a ~2,200 mile footpath connecting Georgia to Maine called the Appalachian Trail and every year something like three million people hike sections of it. I’ve heard approximately 1,000 of those attempt to hike the entire thing. Only 250 or so actually complete it. I’m aspiring to be one of those 250 by the end of 2019.
I’m choosing six months of unemployment, blisters, and dehydrated food over the security of four walls, the convenience of automobiles and technology, and consistent access to fresh fruits and vegetables. And this is the point where we’re all asking, “Why???”
Valid. Here are a few of the reasons I have so far:
1.) To cross an item off my bucket list.
I was in high school when I first heard about the trail from one of my favorite teachers. He’d completed a thru-hike the year after he graduated college and he talked about it being one of the most challenging and one of the most rewarding things he’s ever done, and it really inspired me. From that moment, I knew that I wanted to hike it if I could someday.
2.) To prove to myself that I can.
I said this when I started training for my first marathon too. I was worried about physically being able to run 26.2 miles, but I was more worried about mentally being able to do it. I’m expecting the AT to be similar, but with added layers for the emotional and spiritual aspect.
I finished the marathon, though, and it was worth the work to cross the finish line. I have zero doubt that I’ll be feeling the same way (only x83) when I’m hiking up to Springer Mountain in the fall.
3.) To show myself how little is really needed to survive and be happy.
In a world full of marketing and advertisements for the millions of products that I “need” in order to live a happier and fuller life, it’s crazy and so freeing to know that I can survive and thrive with only what I am carrying on my back.
4.) Because being in nature fills me with wonder.
There’s a quote that I discovered tucked away in my phone recently that explains this one the best:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
5.) For the stories I’ll collect along the way.
I’m going to make so many mistakes and I’m so excited about it. Mistakes make for some of the best stories.
I’m also going to meet so many people out here, each with their own unique story to tell. I’m just praying God puts me in all the right places at the right time to get to hear as many as I can along the way.
6.) To get to be a part of one of the most uniquely beautiful communities I’ve ever heard of.
They say the AT is the longest and narrowest community in the world and this feels very true, especially with the way technology has made it so easy to connect and communicate from practically anywhere. People of every age, race, religion, profession, sexual orientation, and language come to the trail hoping to find whatever it is they’re looking for. And everyone is accepted.
7.) Because walking all day with 40 pounds on my back means I get to eat whatever I want.
Food. Because food.
8.) To be able to say I’ve walked from Maine to Georgia the next time someone asks me for an interesting fact about myself.
This is real. Someone put me on the spot with this question once and the only thing I could come up with was that I can wiggle my ears.
9.) To connect with my family and friends.
This one was unexpected. When I started planning, I was preparing a solo hike and I assumed that what I was signing up for was to feel isolated and disconnected for the better part of six months. But when I started to tell people my plans, they rallied behind me, and honestly, I’ve never felt more connected.
So here’s my advice: when you’re afraid of how people will react, you might just have a big enough dream. Tell people about it, then watch and see how they help make it a reality.
10.) And lastly, to hopefully inspire someone else to chase the dream they might be afraid of.
Let me tell you, I’m still scared. I’m still feeling majorly unprepared. But I’m here and I’m realizing that the only way I could ever have failed was if I had allowed fear to keep me from trying in the first place. I have no idea what happens from here. For now, I’m grateful just to have made it this far.
THANK YOU to everyone that’s been supporting and encouraging and praying for this trip already. You’ve helped make this possible and it means so much more than you could ever know.
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