Why I decided to take a gap year to Thru-Hike

As a recent high school graduate I have received more questions concerning my thru-hike than the usual thru hiker has to endure. Some are concerned with my safety (a valid concern), and others just thoroughly confused as to why I would want to walk in the woods for six months. Although, for some reason most people believe that while I am on my 2000+ mile journey every single college and university is going to disappear and I will never get my chance to get a higher education (sigh). So in honor of exactly four months until my goal start date, I have decided to write about why I decided a gap year thru-hike is the best choice for me.

Being a nineteen year old from a small Florida town it is obvious that my one and only dream growing up was to get out into the world and see what else was out there. Sure, I have been to NYC, Philadelphia, etc but there was always a feeling of wanting something else when it came to visiting new places. Now don’t get me wrong, I am in love with city life, Philadelphia especially but I always felt like there was another side of  travelling that I wanted to know about. One day during my Sophomore year of high school I discovered the concept of thru hiking and was immediately in love, obsessed, and all sorts of other emotions I can’t explain. I was instantly sure that I had to do this, but where? So I continued my research and on top of discovering thru hiking I also found a forum titled “Thru Hikers Georgia to Maine” and I was like ‘whaat? I have found my people!’. You can only imagine a mothers reaction when her sophomore comes to her and says ‘so in 2016 I have decided I am going to go hiking for six months’

There are many reasons on top of wanderlust that make me want to take on this challenge, but one of the most important reasons is for mental clarity. Dealing with anxiety and depression is nothing new to me, but spending six months with nature personally sounds like the best thing I could do for myself as a newbie in the adult world. I want to be confident, and sure of myself before I am truly on my own. Lets be honest, nature is the most healing power there is, it’s 100 times more effective than therapy, and to be honest it’s a hell of a lot cheaper too.  Thinking about letting myself open up for nature to do it’s magic sounds like ultimate peace to me, and I believe the best thing you could ever do for yourself is to find yourself, love yourself, and understand that learning to love yourself is so important to live life beautifully. I’m not there yet, but I will be soon.

Another very important reason I am thru hiking the Appalachian Trail, is for my grandfather. Thru-hiking the AT is something he has always wanted to do, but never had the chance due to enlisting into the military, family, etc. My granddad is my one of my biggest inspirations hands down, he has lived his life and will tell you exactly that. Although he lived his life amazingly, he still never got the chance to hike the Appalachian Trail and I feel like while yes it is going to be my own journey, I am without a doubt also doing it for him.

My thru hike has so many purposes, and I can honestly say it is the best decision I have ever made for myself and I haven’t even begun yet. I know it is going to be especially rough, and I am going to discover so much about myself that I don’t know about yet, but I am ready to take those steps towards self confidence. I am excited to experience trail life, meet amazing people, make memories, and find myself.  So for anyone asking, I am gap year thru-hiking because life is so incredibly short, and if we only did what society told us was “normal” for the rest of our lives, are we truly living life to the fullest? One thing that really stuck with me growing up is that I do not want to be sixty years old and look back on life and say “I always wanted to ____.” the idea of those words coming from my mouth terrifies me. I could go on and on about why I am taking a gap year to thru hike but it would just end up sound like more of a rant than it already does. To everyone who supports my hike thank you, and to anyone who doesn’t I hope this article cleared things up!

End of rant.



Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 2

  • Allison : Nov 18th

    God I wish I had your [email protected] at that age, my life would be very different if I did! Best of luck and hope I see you in NY!!!!

    • Chels : Nov 18th

      Thanks!!! That’s actually a very pleasant thing to hear while hearing negative comments most of the time!!! Would LOVE to see ya as well!!


What Do You Think?