Part 5: The Who, What, When, Where, and Whys!?

Part 5: Why

Like any pursuit in life, having a reason, as well as the motivation and determination to follow a dream is crucial. This post brings us to the final part of the “Who, What, When, Where, and Whys”; in my opinion, Part 5 is the most important part in determining the success of a thru-hiker (or anyone trying to achieve a goal). Being able to identify why you’re thru-hiking the AT, will ultimately give you the motivation to physically train/push yourself, and the mental determination to keep on going when times get tough. If you haven’t read the first four parts of this series, please do, here are the links: Part 1: Who, Part 2: What, Part 3: When, and Part 4: Where.

Sculpting Your Reasons

Imagine an artist sculpting a form; he/she is fueled by inspiration, experience, and desire. A person needs these motivations to sculpt their own reasons for a challenge. Without the discipline to sculpt (contemplate) your own reasons, you’re failing to create your own masterpiece (Hiking Your Own Hike, HYOH).  There are many areas that you can look into, to refine and polish the reasons why you’re thru-hiking the trail.

  • Desire is fueled by what we are looking for, or what we want out of life (journey).
    • List what you are looking for (it could be a wide variety of things)
    • Experiencing/Connecting with Nature
    • Getting in Shape (losing weight)
    • Creating Art (Photography, Writing, Film, Etc.)
    • Connecting With Others
    • Taking on a mammoth challenge.
    • Discovering the beauty of America
  • Experience has led us to where we are now, and it has refined us into “us”.
    • Recount the experiences that you’ve had that have led you to want to take on a thru-hike.
    • Write these experiences down, or talk about them with the people you’ve shared them with.
  • Inspiration is what we gather with our senses, a spark to our desire.
    • Read of other thru-hiker’s accounts (Blogs, Videos, Books, Etc.)
    • Talk to other people about their own adventure, journey, and travels.
    • Immerse yourself in your own interests.

There are two ways to look at these three aspects. The first is the three-legged stool approach. Where each leg has equal importance to our balance; ultimately, helping us better examine ourselves, and the reasons for the 2,189 mile hike we are about to take. The second way to view Desire, Experience, and Inspiration is a continuous cycle; where each aspect shapes the next–these viewpoints are somewhat abstract, but will make more sense once you take action in creating a list.

Taking Action

Once you’ve taken your own personal influences into account, form a list of expectations and reasons for your thru-hike. I want to point out an important thing to remember, an undertaking such as the AT is a life changing experience; so, some of our reasons, inspirations, and desires may change. The list I created for myself started like this: “I’m hiking the AT because ________, ________, ________.” Then I put, “My expectations for hiking the AT are ________, ________, ________.” I do want to point out that we should never expect anything from the trail (or any experience for that matter), so that led me to say, “When these expectations are not met I will _______.” Lastly I wrote down, “Finishing the AT will allow me to _______, but not finishing the AT will ________.”

Making an in-depth, and well thought out list like the one above will allow a person to confidently Hike Their Own Hike, and be opening minded to new experiences along the way. Making this list sooner than later will help with your motivation in preparing beforehand. Your idealized sculpture (journey) before the start of your trip may look way different by the end of your thru-hike; but that’s great (it means it was an adventure)!

Concluding the 5-Parts of The Who, What, When, Where, and Whys!?

It’s probably a lot more fun to talk about the newest/lightest gear, or other tangible aspects of a thru-hike undertaking; but, the intangible aspects, the reasons for doing it, will be the fuel to push you from Georgia to Maine (or the opposite for SOBO’s). There is a quote that I came across when preparing for this adventure that I really like, “What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.”–Meister Eckhart. Find your reasons, write them down, and go live them!

This five part series has included different areas that I’ve looked into for preparing, and areas that I still need to prepare for. I found many of techniques or questions helpful in my own planning and hope others have as well! This 5-Part series is not a concrete guide, but a small drop of water, meant to be soaked up for others to use and refine. Good luck luck to all the upcoming 2018 thru-hikers; I can’t wait to meet you all out on the trail!

“Photo Courtesy Flickr/Erik Drost”

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