Watercoolers across America are buzzing with activity today.

“I’d buy houses around the world: Rome, Paris, Sydney, London.”

“I’d buy a Ferari. Wait, wait…no, I’d buy five Feraris for each of my five houses. And a private jet to take me to them.”

“I’d donate it all to charity. Well, almost all of it.”

“I’d buy two McDonald’s cheeseburgers for every person in the United States.”

“Hookers and cocaine.” (No, really)

In case you haven’t heard, the Powerball Jackpot has reached the highest amount ever, $1.5 Billion. Should the winner choose to take the lump sum, they’ll cash out at $561.7 Million ($930 Million less a fat tax hit). In case you didn’t catch it, that’s FIVE HUNDRED SIXTY MILLION DOLLARS. Whoa.

Did I buy Powerball tickets? Yes, three. Do I think I’m going to win? Yes, duh. Do I know that buying lottery tickets is a waste of money? I mean…

Here’s the thing: the $6 I spent on Powerball tickets has provided me hours of entertainment. In addition to daydreaming about what I’d do with the money, I’ve laughed and schemed with friends and co-workers about plans for their winnings. I had no idea my colleague wants to help underserved populations in South America, or that the guy at the gas station would like to adopt children from all over the world. Those six bucks gave me permission to ask big questions, and that’s pretty cool.

The odds of winning the jackpot tonight are 1 in 292 million. The odds of completing a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail are 1 in 4. Hiking the AT was a hell of a lot harder than buying a lottery ticket, so I’d say I have a pretty decent shot. But, when I wake up tomorrow and find that my numbers weren’t pulled I won’t be sad. Mostly because I’ve experienced something better.

I know what it feels like to fall asleep to a chorus of Loons calling across a lake in Maine. I’ve watched the sun fall and rise from the top of a mountain in Vermont. I’ve felt rain sting my face as I walked across an open bald in Tennessee. I’ve shared my life story with strangers, and felt comfortable asking them about their own. Money can’t buy those things. All it can do is put shoes on my feet and Pop Tarts in my mouth; the rest is up to me. Up to you. Up to all of us.

Buying a Powerball ticket gives us permission to dream. For five days we can think about everything we’d do, all the good things we could provide, all the people we’d serve. That little piece of paper helps us initiate conversations with strangers and puts us on a level playing field. For one night, we’re all in it together.

Thru-hiking did the same thing for me, but for a much longer period of time. Yes, it cost slightly more than $6, and yes, it took more time, and yes, I knew the odds were stacked against me. But money and minutes are fleeting, and odds are meant to be crushed.

So, go out and buy a Powerball ticket if you want to. Have fun with it. And then tomorrow morning, when you wake up to find you aren’t a millionaire, put a pen to paper and write down your hopes and dreams. I’m guessing you’ll find that you don’t need $560 Million to achieve them. In fact, I bet they’re well within your reach.


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Comments 3

  • Kelly : Jan 15th

    Hi Liz,

    I love your post. Did you complete your 2015 thru-hike?

    Did you at any time feel threatened by anyone on the trail being a woman? My only fear of a thru-hike is the security concern.


    • Liz : Jan 28th

      Hi Kelly,

      Thanks! Yes, I completed my thru-hike on August 19th. I can honestly say that I never felt threatened by another person on the trail. The hiker community is one of the strongest I’ve ever been part of – hikers really look out for each other. I hiked alone most days but evenings at shelters were spent with incredible people, sharing stories and eating dinner together. I camped alone 20 or so nights, and did not feel threatened at all (I was a little nervous my first couple of nights alone, though).

      I felt safer on the trail than I do now that I’m back at home. Honestly, the thing that scared me the most while I was on the trail was weather. Lightning is no joke and needs to be taken very seriously.

      Feel free to email me if you have any questions about hiking solo as a woman – I’d love to talk more about the trail!


  • High Five : Jan 15th

    Great post!


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