The Truest Form of Myself: My Motivation for Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail

A little bit about me

Hi! If you’re reading this, it means you either already know me or, possibly, someday, I’m gonna write something that will pique someone’s interest enough that they want to return to my first post to see what I’m all about. Either way, I’m happy you’re here. 

My name is Lily and I’m originally from Brunswick, Maine. I’m the daughter of two professors and one of four children (third of four). In the debate of nature vs. nurture, I think a psychologist would have a lot of fun diving into my childhood to see why I’ve turned out the way I am. I certainly embody the middle-child syndrome persona. 

Currently, I’m writing to you from Big Sky, Montana. I’ve been living and working as a lift operator here since late November. I’d never skied out west (or spent any significant time out here at all), so last August I decided to apply on a whim. Now, I have a home and friends 2,000 miles away from my other home and friends. I love how that happens. 

My propensity for adventure

Since I can remember, I’ve loved shocking people with my seemingly random plans for adventures. When I was 13, I brought the idea of applying to a Chinese boarding school to my parents. As world travelers themselves, they were both encouraging and hesitant because, well, their 13-year-old wanted to move to China. I ended up going to boarding school a little closer to home in Exeter, NH, but I finally got my way when I studied abroad for a year in Beijing at 16. 

My next shocking adventure was telling my family I’d be running a marathon for St Jude’s Children’s Hospital in the fall of 2019. This was especially shocking because, although I grew up decently athletic, I hated running. I don’t really know why I thought running a marathon when I hated running would be a good idea. Well, beyond “It’s kinda funny if I succeed.” And, to many people’s surprise, I did succeed. 

So now, approximately 10 months after graduating from college, and 10 years after asking my parents to move to China, I’m determined to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. I still think they don’t necessarily know how to react. Neither do my friends. But here we are. 

How I learned about the AT

Growing up in Maine, I’d heard of the Appalachian trail in passing. The terminus is located a little less than 3 hours north of my hometown. I knew the broad details, but I can’t place my finger on the moment I became determined to complete it myself. I just know it’s been on the horizon for 2-3 years.

Maybe it was because I wanted the opposite of living in New York City (where I went to college). Or, maybe it was because my older sister loved working at one of the hostels in the Whites. 

All I know for sure is that ever since, I’ve been living life in “BAT” mode (Before the Appalachian Trail). I’ve been constantly thinking about life on the trail, carving out my opportunity to do it, and allowing “AAT” life to stay a little unplanned. 

My “Why”

I think like many thru-hikers, I have lots of why’s. I like to challenge myself. I love nature. I’m not ready to sit in a cubicle for the rest of my life. But what I’ve been trying to narrow down is what I’m gonna tell myself when I smell horrible, my gear is drenched, and the thought of standing up (let alone walking) makes my feet hurt. 

Maybe it will be the unappealing hypothetical aftermath of failing. Or, the thought of the drive home to Maine looking out the window knowing I should be walking those miles. Or, the thought of telling my friends that I just couldn’t do it. Sharing a beer with them that tastes a little less deserved when I reunite earlier and with fewer stories.

But the ultimate “why” that I think will get my legs moving towards Maine, no matter the pain, is the realization that if I quit, I would never know what it would feel like to complete it. I would never know if I was strong enough. I would never know what kind of person it would make me. 

That’s the part of hiking the Appalachian Trail that appeals to me the most, I think. It’s knowing that whatever version of myself that hikes back down Katahdin is, in my opinion, one of the truest forms of myself. 

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Comments 5

  • Sarah : Mar 11th

    so excited for you to embark on this journey! knowing how much I love BAT Lily, I can’t wait to see you blossom into AAT Lily <3

    • Lily : Mar 11th

      Love you! Can’t wait to see you right after 🙂 A drink with you will be part of my motivation for sure!

  • Pat Roche : Mar 11th

    Hi Lily – have a great hike. I see you are from Brunswick. You must have graduated from BHS. I coached girls soccer there with Martyn.


  • Jhony Yermo : Mar 27th

    Well written! Following along. Thank you


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