The Big Question: WHY
I guess I’ll start with the backstory. I caught the hiking bug in 2014, which is a relatively short time ago. A friend of mine was setting out on his thru hike and 3 of us started off with him as a sort of “support system”. I had originally only planned on hiking a week and then returning to my normal, everyday life. I remember the day so clearly, sitting outside Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap under the tree covered in boots, calling my boss to tell him I wasn’t coming back. Now I wouldn’t recommend handling things this way, and on such a short notice none the less, but luckily the job I had was just a little part time/minimum wage/high turnover rate job at a frozen yogurt shop so they probably expected me to leave soon anyways! After I called him, I called my parents. They were surprisingly supportive of my decision and I couldn’t thank them enough for that. My week long trip turned into me hiking from Springer Mt. to Damascus, VA.
Before I set out for that “week-long” trip I had little to no camping experience. Hardly even any hiking experience! But I was at a point in my life where I just wanted to take a risk and try something new. I went for it. I didn’t have any hiking gear, any camping gear, nothing! I think maybe I had a bandana in the back of my sock drawer and that’s about it. I gathered the cheapest gear I could find and stuffed it all, along with my film camera, into a backpack I picked off a sale rack at REI without even trying on. I had the world’s smallest budget and least amount of know-how but I was determined.
My pack weighed a ridiculous amount and on top of that it was too small for me but I made it work. I survived. I wasn’t always comfortable but I survived. And thrived. The trail felt like home. It brought out the best in me and pushed me to my limits. I was proud of myself and surprised by what I could endure.
More than anything though, it made me realize a few important things:
1) There are genuinely good people out there, willing to lend a helping hand for nothing in return.
2) Life is all a mind game and you’re the only person standing in your way.
3) There’s SO much you can live without. And odds are, you’re probably happier without it all.
My short time on the trail changed my life in so many ways and when I had to leave Damascus Post-Trail Days after realizing I just didn’t have the money to stay fed much longer, I promised myself that I would thru hike one year. I’d come back and I’d be more prepared physically and I’d have enough money saved up and I would have proper gear and I would be READY. What does “ready” even mean though? Nothing can completely prepare you for a journey like this I don’t think. You just have to take it day by day, mile by mile, step by step. The only “ready” you can be is ready and willing to undergo an ever changing adventure.
So I think the answer to the question WHY is ‘why not?’
You don’t have to live a life that others understand. Do what feels right to you, do what’s best for you. Learn at your own pace and in your own time. Trust yourself and take risks. They say the only way to grow is to step outside your comfort zone and here I am, throwing myself off the cliff.
I know the trail will catch me.
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