Trading an IPO for NOBO, and the Trek of My Life

It’s introduction time!  I’m Bridget and I’m thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail NOBO in 2019. I’m almost 28 years old and have lived near Boston my whole life.

I’m not one of those people who has been hiking or doing other outdoor activities since birth. I did my first real hike the summer before my senior year of high school and immediately fell in love. I tagged along with a group of friends to climb Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire and had no idea it would spark a new passion. I reached the summit and looked out over miles of distant mountains and forest, and it was the best feeling I had ever experienced.  After my first hike, I learned about the 4,000 Footer Club, which requires you to summit all 48 4,000-foot mountains in New Hampshire. I’m currently at 36/48 and will knock down quite a few of those remaining peaks during my thru-hike.

So, Why the Appalachian Trail?

Great question. I honestly can’t remember the moment I discovered the Appalachian Trail or the concept of thru-hiking, but it was some time in the fall of 2015. I was hopping between jobs after graduating and really unsure of what I wanted to do with myself. Once I heard about thru-hiking I knew it was something I had to do. The accomplishment of a thru-hike resonated more with me than any other milestone I pictured in my future. Since I didn’t have a stable job and was going through a bit of a rough spot in life, I decided to attempt a thru-hike in April 2016.

Long story short, I made it all the way to the Southern Terminus and became so anxious about the hike I turned around and flew back home. I’ve regretted it ever since. I am one of those unfortunate humans plagued with an anxiety disorder and it’s robbed me of a lot of cool experiences in life. Ever since I bailed on the trail in 2016 I’ve known deep down that I would try again. This was an experience that I wouldn’t allow my anxiety to keep me from. I would thru-hike the AT one day.

2019: Quitting My Job

Little did I know that second chance was coming sooner rather than later. In the fall of 2018 I became restless at my job. I worked in sales operations and though I enjoyed the work enough, I knew it wasn’t my passion. It was something I was good at and the company I worked for, an extremely successful tech startup, allowed me to learn and develop my skills at an accelerated pace. All in all it was a pretty great deal. I figured that once I had been promoted a couple of times and got to a comfortable salary it would all click into place. Even though I wasn’t passionate about tech, or motivated by the promise of an impressive career trajectory, I thought that once I hit this salary and this title it would all feel worth it.

Well, spoiler alert—all of that happened and nothing clicked into place. Or at least, not the clicking that I thought would happen. What happened instead is that I looked at my future and thought: so what? So what if I have enough money to live comfortably, save for a house, buy some fancy things now and then? So what if I continue to be promoted, and continue to build my career? It was a bright future ahead of me, one that so many people in the world are working for, but it wasn’t for me. I could continue on this path and live a comfortable and stable life, but it wouldn’t make me happy.

I realized I needed a change. I needed to quit my job and find something I am passionate about, even if it doesn’t pay as well or look as glamorous. With that realization in place, I decided 2019 was my year to hike the trail.

Hopes and Fears for the Trail

I’m incredibly excited for the journey ahead of me. I feel so much more ready this time around and I am much more determined to make it to Katahdin. I’m excited to wake up every morning and walk in the woods and look out from summits. I’m relieved to live simply—carrying only what I need and being free from the stresses of life in the “real world.”  I’m daydreaming of the trail magic and the amazing people I will meet along the way, and maybe even of my future trail family. I am determined to stand on top of Katahdin with the new confidence and profound pride that only walking 2,190 miles on the Appalachian Trail could give me.

I am also afraid. I’m afraid that I will let my anxiety, or doubt, or laziness take me off trail. I fear the potential injuries or family emergencies back home that could cut my trip short before I’m ready. And on some level, I’m also afraid of the person I will be when I finish. I know that this trek will inspire me to live my life how I’ve always wanted, to make big changes, and follow my heart that I have been ignoring for the last 27 years. I also know this will be a great gift. I can’t wait to start walking.

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