From Peace Corps to the Appalachian Trail
I’ve been thinking for a while now about how to start this, my “Appalachian Trail” blog. I’ve been keeping a blog for several years now while serving in the Peace Corps in Azerbaijan, but my long-winded posts about cross-cultural communication issues and the history of Azerbaijani holidays soon turned into pictures of daily life that did a better job of portraying my life abroad than my hastily typed out essays ever could.
Seeing as this is my first post, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Andrew. I’m a 24 year old who, upon graduating university, immediately headed off to serve for two years (it eventually turned into three) in the Peace Corps in Azerbaijan, a small country positioned in the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and Central Asia. My childhood was also filled with international travel – I lived in St. Petersburg, Russia for four years during my middle school years, attending a tiny international school where my best friends were from South Korea and India. Ever since then I’ve been passionate about international affairs, anthropology, traveling, and generally getting out into the world. My previous outdoor experience includes summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2010 and a variety of backpacking/camping trips with friends throughout the past six years or so.
The Appalachian Trail is an introduction, of sorts, into the life I hope to lead into my 20’s and beyond. I returned from the Peace Corps in July 2014 after bopping around Europe with my brother who headed out to start his own Peace Corps service in the Philippines pretty much the minute I got back. I started applying to graduate school programs starting in Fall 2015 and started working at REI in St. Louis. I soon figured out that waiting around for grad school to start in August wouldn’t really jive with my restless nature, and after outfitting an AT thru-hiker at REI one day in November, I thought to myself “Wait, why am I not doing this trail? When will I have this much time (and access to amazing discounted gear through work) again?” I’ve always had excessive amounts of wanderlust and really feel alive when challenging myself physically, so it made perfect sense.
So that’s why I’m doing this hike. I’ve read a lot of posts about people fielding questions from relatives and friends about why on earth they are undertaking such a crazy venture, but my experiences on that have been pretty different for the most part. Few people are surprised the former Peace Corps Volunteer who works at REI is going to hike the AT. After all, they’ve already determined I’m out of my mind after hearing about where I voluntarily decided to live for years in my early 20’s and what my living standards were like (the standard outhouse, village, shower-once-a-week deal most of you probably already associate with the Peace Corps).
Anyways, stay tuned for updates as I go through the last of my preparations and start the trail around March 8th, NOBO.
My next post should be a full gear breakdown – I just laid everything out tonight after purchasing my final couple items.
Yaxsi yol! (“Good Road!”)
Andrew “Tunes” Repp
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