March 17th, AT, Here I Come!
Hello everyone! Wow. I can’t believe I’m finally doing this… writing my first blog post about the Appalachian Trail. I figured I’d use this post to introduce myself a bit. So, here goes nothing. My name is Ju (she/her), and I work as an occupational therapist. Really, I’ve only been an OT for 6 months since I’ve completed my graduate program in May. But, I’ll share with you why I am choosing to leave my short-lived financial stability behind.
Timeline of My Thru Hike Attempt Coming to Life:
I first learned about the Appalachian Trail through a book that I had to read for class. Most of you all have probably read or at least have heard of A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. Well, it’s somehow already been a decade since I was a sophomore in high school reading this book. I don’t remember much about my thoughts and impressions; however, I do remember thinking “wow, that’s so cool a trail like this exists — a trail from Georgia all the way to Maine?!” What is most memorable to me is that English class and my teacher, Bear, who has since passed away. For some reason or another, this book and the trail stuck with me.
Fast forward a couple years… I’m in college at Virginia Tech. I’ve already changed my major one month into school. I have no idea what I’m doing. The only bit of stability and consistency in my life comes from my weekend hiking excursions. There isn’t much to do in a small mountain town except to get away from it all, and luckily, a lot of other people I knew had the same thinking. As it turns out, so many of the popular trails near Virginia Tech are actually part of the AT. And so, I was once again confronted with the Appalachian Trail. At this point in time, I was also starting to hear a bit more about the trail and even knew someone attempting a thru hike. Things in my brain began to connect, and out of nowhere, I became consumed with the idea that I, too, needed to complete this thru-hike.
You know, I’ve never been an avid backpacker, but my love of hiking and being out in nature grew through the years, especially during graduate school. Nature has become my safe space and oasis. As someone who struggles with mental health issues, whenever I’m out running for a while or amongst the trees, rivers, crisp mountain air, and overlooks, my mind seems to quiet. My mind is never quiet. This disquieting mind has always gotten in the way of building/retaining relationships and reaching goals, which further impacts my mental health. I even reached a point in my program when I seriously reconsidered finishing during my second to final semester.
But you know what? Now that I’ve made it through all of this schooling, I just need some time for myself. Is this even what I want to be doing? Is this who I want to be? Who am I?! I am hopeful that my time in the woods walking 2,198.4 miles will be sufficient enough to have the hard conversations I need to be having with myself or enough to at least get the conversation started. And as the saying goes, “If not now, then when,” right?
If you know me, you know that I’m a pretty transparent person, and against my better judgment and advice from others, I was very open with my current employer about my future endeavors during the interview process, sharing that I would shortly be leaving for who knows how long to go on a long walk. Thankfully, they still hired me. I even ended up completing orientation with a former thru hiker! I have no idea where he went after orientation, but I’m taking both things as a sign that maybe now IS the time, and now, I need to seriously prepare for this.
I recently met up with a childhood friend who has started getting into backpacking as well and turns out she doesn’t live too far from Georgia. She agreed to hike the Approach Trail/Day 1 of the AT with me! So, I’m excited to be starting with this old friend of mine, hiking parts alone, meeting new people, and having friends and family join and support me along the way. I’m pretty nervous to be a solo, Asian, female hiker. A new challenge! I’m interested to see what this community looks like and how I can represent my community in this space.
March 17th, AT, Here I Come!
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