How to grab your dreams by the…

I could post a meme of a woman running through a field with an inspirational quote here, but I’m guessing if you’re reading this you’re looking for a lil’ bit more. My decision to hike the AT was a process; hopefully my experiences can help you get up the guts to go for your own dreams, whatever they are!

Step 1- Find your dream.

You know what your dreams are. Maybe you forgot them, or decided they were stupid. Maybe you’ve made new ones as time has gone by. I never thought I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. But as a kid I dreamed about being nomadic and going on adventures; living outside and sleeping on the ground every night in a new place seemed like the most exciting thing EVER. The AT became a way to achieve that dream without becoming a homeless drifter… which doesn’t come with a dental plan BTW.

Step 2- Decide to get ‘er done.

Need help with this one? Try almost dying. I’m kidding (kind of). I thought I had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted. The average lifespan is up to something like 79-80 years, right? Allllll the time. And then I got in 3 car accidents, back-to-back, in a month. The last one was awesome, involving ice, a Jeep with no airbags, and a flip/spin combo that would’ve made Jet Li jealous. When I opened my eyes and saw night sky where the roof should have been, I realized we can all check out of this life today. Not tomorrow. We won’t see it coming. Your dreams are a f#cking emergency. Decide to make it happen, captain.

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RIP, Mighty Mite.

Step 3- Make a timeline.

All that emergency talk is just fine and dandy, but some dreams require a little prep. When I finally decided to hike the AT it was June and too late to start a thru hike (although some crazy person has done it, I’m sure). I also only had about half the gear and a quarter of the cash it would take. So I began planning for 2017. Set a reasonable timeline to achieve your dreams and start taking steps towards it.

Step 4- Do your homework, but don’t find excuses.

I started researching the AT and what all it would take to get there. I read books (ahem, Appalachian Trials!) about thru hikers including Jennifer Pharr Davis and Granny Gatewood. I read forums. I perused REI and Backpacker magazine. It was real easy to find excuses not to go. “I can’t hike the trail without $10k in the bank.” “I can’t hike in my Merrells, or with my off-brand tent, or without a JetBoil.” Know what you really need to accomplish your goal, but don’t get bogged down with dumb ‘requirements’. Can you hike the trail in Keds with a knapsack? Does work experience substitute for a degree? Hells, yeah.

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What? You can’t hike in blue jeans? I can’t hear you over all this awesomeness!

Step 5- Execute!

And here I am, less than a month from my registered start date. Am I crapping my pants? Only if I think about it. Was I sad to have to quit my job? Of course. Would I change anything? Absolutely not. When my boots hit the ground in Georgia I’ll be like a kid at Christmas. It’s like learning to fly; you check the plane over, and you check it again. You check the weather, you check the checklist. I would break into a cold sweat on the taxi way, but once the throttle was up and the wheels lifted off it was all worth it. This is the shit that makes all those boring waiting-room moments in life worth it. This is living.

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Yup, so happy I didn’t crash. My life insurance wouldn’t cover the price of this plane.

Side note: Executing your plan is much easier with good friends! My husband is wildly supportive and you’ll hear me rave about him in probably every entry. An awesome coworker was the one to egg me on about doing the trail. Family has helped me financially and emotionally while I chased so many off-the-wall dreams (thanks, queen of the care package!). Once you’re excited about going for it, the people who love you will also be excited about it, making the experience even more fun!


Step 6- Don’t. Quit. Ever.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this one later, but being psychologically prepared for the worst is important (again, there’s a certain book you should read). Don’t quit when the going gets tough. Get your dreams done, and get some bad-ass points along the way. I once heard a man say “You have to have guts in your heart!” He may have been talking about something else entirely, but I like to think it applies here.

So there ya have it. Enough talk on the internet. Go forth and get ‘er done!

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Comments 7

  • Sarah Ilk : Mar 6th

    I’m so excited for you, Katie, and for your journey! And I can’t wait until I get to see you in MA!!!

    • katie sandage : Mar 9th

      Thanks Sarah! I can’t wait to get there 🙂

  • Morgan Meek : Mar 7th


    Looking forward to hearing about the hike.
    Time to grip it and rip it.

    Morgan Fairchild

    • katie sandage : Mar 9th

      LOL Thanks Morgan, glad to see you’ve kept up with your sobriquet 😉

  • Bravenewworld : Mar 8th


    Yours is one of many similar articles from young and elder and all of them are positive and uplifting (well, maybe some not so much)…a fact that long distance hikers absorb like warm sun light on a snowy trail. I am in my 70th year and would be nuts if I do not finally kick it off on April 1st of 2017. After a very eventful life as an architect, developer, artist, sailor, hiker, broker, chemical manufacturer and married father of four grown kids and two grandkids, the AT is still my favorite subject and longing. Having lived in Virginia for some 23 years, I have hiked about 300 miles of the AT but next spring is the thru-hike I have been reading and talking about for the last 25 years. Perhaps we’ll run into each other! I’ll be the guy hoping to reach 20 mile days and actually nursing my bones to 15! Best wishes, Kim

    • katie sandage : Mar 9th

      Kim, Thanks for your comment! My boots will be on the trail April 3rd (Lord willing and the creek don’t rise), so hopefully we’ll bump into each other sooner or later. It’ll be nice to meet a fellow Virginian out there. Happy Trails!

  • Jeremy Ramsey : Mar 10th

    Hi Katie! I have the pleasure of working with John and have been talking to him about your trek. Just wanted to let you know that I’m putting you on my churches prayer list for safety and sunshine! Hope to get to meet you at some point but until then know you are now one of my heroes!


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