Why I’m Hiking the Appalachian Trail

I’ve chased mountain tops, waterfalls, sunrises and sunsets for the last decade. The wilderness has always been a place for me to recharge, overcome obstacles and disconnect from the fast paced world around me.

The idea of thru-hiking has always been intriguing, but life circumstances made me think a thru-hike would never be feasible.

I was diagnosed with melanoma at the age of 21. As a result, I have learned so much about being all-in on this one, beautiful life. However, I recently realized how much I have allowed this disease to limit me. I was living outwardly, but had become incredibly risk averse. I was constantly trying to control for everything in my day to day life. My biggest priorities were health insurance and job security.

So why choose to hike the AT, when the trail fails to provide the security I crave? It’s a great question, one I’ve asked myself repeatedly over the past 6 months. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

    1. To overcome a challenge that I chose and prove to myself that I am capable. My entire life I have been told I am lucky. I was convinced that everything I accomplished was a result of luck rather than hard work. Truth is, I have been very fortunate, but 99 percent of my resilience has come from learning to respond to challenges life has handed me. I want to flip the script and actively choose something that terrifies me.
    2. To re-discover childlike wonder and curiosity. I’m excited to disconnect, to journal daily, read thought provoking books, listen to podcasts and find awe in the little moments of each day. (Feel free to share book and podcast recommendations in the comments!).
    3. To find comfort in simplicity. It’s no secret that marketing and advertisement companies pull at our heart strings. They utilize scarcity to convince us that we need more, or that our problems will be solved when we purchase specific products. In reality, very little is needed to be comfortable and happy. I want to prove to myself that I can not only survive, but thrive for six months by utilizing only what can be carried on my back.
    4. To figure out what I want to do with my life and who I am, away from societal pressures. I fell into a pattern that conformed to what I thought society expected of meIt was safe and secure. I want to come back from the trail and actively create my life, rather than just show up for it.
    5. To challenge myself mentally and physically. Hiking the Appalachian Trail is a choice. There will be good and bad days, but at the end of each day, I am the one who must decide to stay on the trail. There is no instant gratification or fast track from Maine to Georgia, but there is a lot that I will learn about myself in the process.
    6. To be a part of one of the most beautiful and inspiring communities. There is something special about the Appalachian Trail community. Each individual who interacts with the trail comes with their own reasons for volunteering, section hiking and thru-hiking. This community holds so much wisdom, laughter, kindness and empathy.
    7. To hopefully inspire someone else to bet on themselves, rather than being limited by life’s circumstances. It’s hard to approach life from a place of love rather than fear. I’ve allowed fear of the unknown to limit me for over a decade. I have no idea if I have the mental and physical strength to get from Maine to Georgia. I’m terrified of not finding a job after the trail and have no clue where I will live. Instead of seeing the glass half empty, I see it half full – the possibilities are truly endless.

I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to trek through one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world and I’m excited to discover the beauty and wisdom this trail holds.

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