Seeking an Unconventional Life
It’s 2016 and I’m hiking Mount Greylock with my mom and our best friend, Jack. Close to the summit, I see a person with a gigantic backpack who looks like they haven’t showered in quite a few days disappearing into the woods. I knew of the AT and the concept of hiking the whole thing, but I never saw someone doing it before. I think to myself, “that’s pretty cool, but I could probably never do something like that”. Fast forward to the present moment, and here I am, giving it a try.
My name is Katie Frawley (no trail name yet!) and I’m attempting my first ever thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail this year! My partner, Christian, and I will be setting out from Amicalola Falls in early March for our NOBO hike – less than a month, I can’t believe it! If you’d like to hear a little about me and my reasons for hiking, read on.
So who are you?
Good question, I’m not really sure I know the answer to that yet! I am 24 years old and originally from Buffalo, NY. I graduated from Allegheny College in 2020 (yup, right after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic) with degrees in Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. I ran track & field throughout middle school, high school, and college, I’ve played the piano, clarinet, French horn, and trumpet in multiple bands and ensembles, and I’ve worked as a barista, sparking my love for coffee. I love adventures and challenging myself to reflect, grow, and evolve as a person. I struggle with self-confidence, social anxiety, and depression, and I think it’s super important to be honest and authentic about these things as I continue to work through them!
I’ve always loved traveling and the outdoors, and I can’t specifically identify where my love for hiking came from. I’ve hiked a few parts of the AT already, including Mount Greylock (MA), Franconia Ridge (NH), and parts near Delaware Water Gap (PA). I’ve also hiked in the Adirondacks (NY), parts of Phoenix, Tucson, and Sedona (AZ), attempted to summit Mount Borah (ID), been to eight national parks, and backpacked in Guatemala. I think it’s safe to say I’m super pumped for the hiking part of this thru-hike!
A thru-hike? Why would you do that?
As I just mentioned, I graduated from college during the pandemic. In March of 2020, I was sent home for the final two months of my senior year. My friends, track career, and everything I had known for the past four years was suddenly taken away from me, and I grieved. I had plans to travel with some friends after graduating college, but obviously that was not possible anymore. Instead, I ended up in the workforce, because what else was I going to do?
I started my first “real job” from my kitchen table, working remotely for the entire year I was employed. I quickly learned that working 9-5 Monday through Friday glued to a computer screen isn’t for me. My mental health suffered. I didn’t feel like this life was for me, but I couldn’t conceptualize what an alternative would look like (especially in a pandemic). Many of us are spoon-fed this ideal path of going to college, getting a job, working 9-5 Monday through Friday with a couple weeks of vacation per year, then you retire, and only then do you really get to enjoy your life.
So, you guessed it, my intense discontent with this idea is what led me to deciding that I would embark on a thru-hike. I don’t want to live conventionally. I believe there are other possibilities. I want this thru-hike to disrupt the conventional path that I was on, challenge me to grow, and help me discover new ways to live my life.
My reasons for hiking
Per the suggestion of Zach Davis and Appalachian Trials, I compiled a list of my reasons for hiking the AT that I will be bringing along with me on the trail. Here they are:
I am thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail because…
- I am seeking personal growth in this transitional & transformational time in my life
- I am unhappy working 9-5 and staring at a computer screen every day
- To go with the flow & learn how to loosen my grip on controlling my life
- I do not want to live a conventional lifestyle
- I want to gain confidence in myself & practice independence
- I want to practice & embody resiliency
- I hope to gain a better sense of how I want to live and the experiences I want to have next
- I want to practice being present, intentional, & grounded
- I want to do something RAD!
So there ya have it, folks, my “why.” As for the “how?” I guess that’ll come upon us soon enough!
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