The People, The Places & The Things We Leave Behind (but mostly the people…)

Let me start by saying that the single hardest thing for me to tackle in my preparation for an AT thru-hike has been finding the best way to tell the people I care about. Explaining what drives me to spend 6 months hiking & living in the woods is nearly impossible, but I’m going to do my best here because damn, I’m excited! To the few people in my life who do get it (or at least try wholeheartedly!), THANK YOU for helping reinforce that I’m not totally crazy, or perhaps you’re just as crazy as I am. Either way, you’re awesome, and this wouldn’t be possible without your support. And this is where I try to articulate how I’m feeling. I’ll preface this with a quote that played a huge role in why I first decided to thru-hike the AT:

“Do you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” – Danielle LaPorte

First of all, YES! I do! But it’s taken me a few too many years to get back there. I’d begun to do exactly that this summer when I rediscovered my journal from my 2012 AT thru hike planning and it all fell into place. All of a sudden the stress of choosing a different state to live in, finding a new apartment and a new job immediately lifted. I still can’t wait to land somewhere new when I finish my hike, but the resurfacing idea of thru-hiking the AT gave me a wonderful sense of relief. Finally, something that felt RIGHT. I will return to this blog post when I’m out on the trail, especially on the uphills, the rainy days, and the days that I start to forget why I’m out there. There are a lot of reasons that I’ve chosen to go on this adventure. Here are a few of the most important: I crave adventure & this is one that, by growing up in the woods, I inadvertently spent my life preparing for, and also one my dogs can join me on; I want time to reflect on my life, and to really think about the direction I want to take it; I want to challenge myself physically and mentally in a way I haven’t before, to prove to myself what I can accomplish; IT FEELS RIGHT!!

To The PEOPLE I’m Leaving Behind:

It’s not you, it’s me. Cliché I know, but for once it’s the truth. I’m not leaving you, that’s the absolute wrong way to see this. I’m doing something wonderful for myself. I’m truly living this life I’ve been given, during which I want to do as many amazing things as I can! As I said, I don’t expect most of you to understand, so I just ask that you keep an open mind. Understand that this will be a great and positive step in my life (though literally it will be many, many steps…). I’m not making this decision based on your thoughts, reactions, approval or whether or not you’d choose the same adventure, I’m making this decision for me. Yay! I’m a strong, confident, independent woman who is preparing for the adventure of a lifetime. But I can’t do it alone either. I need your support more than ever. I need you to encourage me to reach my goal of finishing my thru-hike, to tell me to get my butt in gear when I’m whining about the rain or how much my body aches or how badly I’m craving ice cream. I believe in myself enough to know that I can reach my goal, and I need you to believe in me too.

To My Parents: You didn’t do anything wrong, you did it exactly right. You raised me to be fearless and see endless possibilities when I look at my life. You helped shape the person I am today, and now it’s time for me to do the rest. You can be proud you’ve raised a daughter who is reaching her full potential, even if it’s not exactly in the ways you envisioned. Thank you for that gift. 

To The PLACES I’m Leaving Behind:

The Midwest. Where do I even start with you? As I prepare for the first snowstorm of the year in November I’m not sure I’m in the best frame of mind to be thankful. But I’ll try anyways. Thank you for giving me miles and miles of wilderness to grow up exploring. You’re the reason I fell in love with camping & hiking, the reason I find such peace in being utterly alone under the trees and under the stars and the reason I’m an adventurer at heart.

I’m equally grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to travel, to see and experience other cities, states, countries, continents and cultures. These are the opportunities that have helped open my mind in ways I never could have imagined. These are the reasons I will always crave more, that I won’t settle for what I already know.

After I thru hike the AT I will be moving away from the Midwest and away from what I have always known. It’s a bittersweet and sometimes terrifying feeling when you find yourself heading out of your comfort zone, away from the people, places & things you know. To me though, that isn’t reason enough to stay.

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” – Azar Nafisi

To The THINGS I’m Leaving Behind:

What I’ve learned from all of this is that the things we leave behind are only that. Things. As I’ve thrown away bags of unnecessary belongings, sent items to garage sales, posted to craigslist and begun to find a safe place for what I do actually need, I realize how often we cling to things that have no real meaning or significance in our lives. I’m hoping my thru hike will enforce this even more. The exception I will offer is that I currently find significant value in the things that will be accompanying me on the trail, as they will prove quite necessary in my survival. Also to the things I make $$ from selling: you’re awesome since you’ll buy me a bed for a night, a hot shower, or above mentioned ice cream when I most need it on the trail! To the rest of the things I’m leaving behind: Good riddance!

To The Current SELF I’m Leaving Behind (the bonus – my trail reminder):

It’s ok to let go of the past to make room for what comes next. It’s ok to move forward in the way that you know is best for you even if it’s not what’s best for someone else. Some people, some places & some things do get left behind and we can accept that as the natural progression of life. Taking charge of my own life has helped me realize that the best parts of all three get to come along with us, that’s what helps us continue to learn, to grow and to better ourselves. Following your heart without fear of what might come next has a way of leading you to people who are a lot more like you, places that are better suited for you, and things that are more important to living a happy life.

 “Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you or makes you happy.” – Robert Tew

Happy hiking! Can’t wait to see you out there this spring!


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