Hiking with a Purpose
October was the first time I spoke about the Appalachian Trail out loud. It had been a rough three years. I had uprooted my life post college and moved 6,000 miles for a man I loved, only to find that love alone could not satiate my needs for friends, community and personal passions.
I had a rough week and while venting to a close girlfriend, I bitterly joked that if shit really hit the fan, I would just start hiking. But once I had said it out loud, the thought kept returning. Over and over. Slowly, I started to realize that hiking wasn’t something I wanted to do out of desperation or sadness.
Hiking had always been a passion of mine and I didn’t want to set out to achieve my goals and live my passions as a “last resort.” I wanted to live my passions as a testament and celebration of myself, my identity, and my relationships. I needed to hike because of the good in my life, not as a means to escape the bad.
And so I began to work on refocusing my relationship, repairing my sense of self, and ultimately rediscovering my purpose. It wasn’t until December that I spoke about the Appalachian out loud for a second time, but this time it was in a totally different context. My husband and I were on a mini vacation to celebrate Hanukkah and the anniversary of our engagement. On a late-night pizza run to the only joint we could find open on Christmas Eve we began to discuss our dreams and how we could begin to attain them.
Fast forward two months later and I had begun upgrading equipment and was obsessively perusing online all things Appalachian. I had already visited The Trek many times, when I stumbled across the Badger Sponsorship and decided to apply. The Badger Sponsorship asked one primary question of its hikers:
“How will you give back to the thru-hiking community?”
And it made me pause. Until now, this hike had been all about me. It was about my goals and dreams and passions and purpose. It was about my identity. And am a little embarrassed to say, I had never particularly thought about it as means to give back.
In the video essay I submitted to the sponsorship, I spoke about how part of my philosophy as an informal educator was to encourage students to stretch beyond their comfort zones and explore their surroundings. I shared how I was changing campus life and culture and using my personal backgrounds and interests to expand students horizons.
I wasn’t selected for the scholarship, but months later that question still haunted me.
I began to reflect on the reasons and life experiences that had led me to believe that I was capable of walking 2,180 miles (the equivalent of hiking Mount Everest 16 times).
And the reason could be summed up in one word: family. It was family who had taken me on trails as a little girl. Who had woken up with me at 4 a.m. to see the sun rise over a peak, and who had sent me on adventure summer programs to hike and backpack across both the US and Israel.
These summer hiking programs transformed me from an awkward teenager into the confidant, independent (and still somewhat awkward) woman I am today. Trail life taught me responsibility and to keep “walking” when the going got tough. To not be afraid of getting lost, and to not take life too seriously. (Cue to me and a group of 20 teenage girls walking 12 miles in the wrong direction and hacking my long blond hair with a pocket knife before feasting on an ice cream dinner.) In many ways it made me who I am.
But what if I hadn’t?
What if I didn’t have that support system? What if no one had woken up at 4 a.m. and my family couldn’t afford to send me on summer hiking trips to “find myself”?
Who would I be then?
It was that sobering thought that pushed me to make my hike more than just a journey of self. Instead, I want this trail to be a way to allow other girls to also follow their own dreams. That is why throughout my hike I will be raising awareness and support for Hurricane Island Outward Bound. Outward Bound is an incredible nonprofit, committed to empowering young adults through outdoor discovery.
My goal is to raise one dollar for every mile that Sadie, Kimbo, and I hike.
100% of all donations will go directly to supporting a full scholarship for a girl to participate in the Hurricane Island Outward Bound backpacking experience.
To hike with a purpose means that you need your community support. I am so grateful to the friends, family, and strangers who have already demonstrated their belief in me and my cause.Please help me keep the momentum going by sharing my story.
I don’t know if I’ve found a way yet to give back to the thru-hiking community, but I do know that with your help, I’ve found away to pay it forward.
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