Why Me? Why Now?

Put Yourself in My Boots.

Have you ever been so stress free that you can feel an immense weight lift off your shoulders? So happy and full of hope that you can’t not smile? That even the tiniest of details in your life seem exciting? Yeah, I didn’t know that was a thing either. That feeling first hit me while I was gazing at the night sky in Saguaro National Park this January. Now I feel it again as I am sitting in a small coffee shop, people watching, and writing about whatever I want. I have no due dates, class schedule, work meetings, and my next obligation isn’t until 2 days from now for a dinner with friends. When I decided to take a semester off from college and from coaching a rowing team to travel the country and backpack the Appalachian Trail I thought I would be a little sad to leave my civilized life behind. I never expected to feel the bliss of getting into the rhythm of no obligations. I never expected how content I would become with so few things to take up my time and thought. I never expected that I would realize this is the best decision of my life a month before I even leave for the trail.

Why Me?

My name is Matt Morelli, I am a native ATLien, a sophomore at Kennesaw State University, and a future history teacher, who is embarking on his solo NOBO attempt at the Appalachian Trail for spring of 2017. But how did I get here? Since well before I could walk my father has always taken me into the wilderness. He would take my sister and me on trips all through southern Appalachia. I think he knew that he was planting seeds of adventure in me but even he may not have known how powerful my pull to nature would become. By the time my 12th birthday rolled around I had done my first overnight backpacking trip with my dad. That trip made a special mark on me for I remember a moment where I stood alone on a boulder, in the middle of a river, surrounded by mountains, looking up and watching the golden leaves of a fall breeze shower over me and realizing how much the earth had to offer. It was in that moment when that small realization occurred but I had no idea how strong it would become. Fast forward to my senior year of high school and my buddies and I plan a 12- day senior trip to the state of Washington to backpack Olympic National Park. Shockingly, we actually get out there and the trip goes off without a hitch. I remember declaring it the trip of a lifetime. It still is, but, oh man, does it fail in comparison to the daunting adventure I have before me.

Why Now?

As you can tell from the “Why Me?” part that my decision to backpack the Appalachian Trail has probably been a thought since before I could form my own thoughts. I really never had a chance to refuse, considering my whole life I have been slowly pushed in this direction. The cliff that I was pushed off to make my final decision to set a date to do it was surprisingly small. In fact, it was not even fully grown, because that cliff was an 11-year-old girl. I went for a small day trip in North Georgia, Thanksgiving of 2015 to try to find new roads to explore. Instead, I accidentally wound up in the parking lot for Springer Mountain and decided to do the very short hike to the top. Just after I got to the top a group of thru-hikers came in finishing off their nearly 2200 mile trip south. I congratulated them and shook hands with them all. All of them appeared to be between 25 and 35, skinny, hairy, and in great shape. Then I noticed a little girl. She came up to me and stuck her hand out. She had hiked the whole thing with her dad at the age of 11. I couldn’t believe it. I decided I was being a huge bitch and it was time to commit. I went home that night and declared to my parents that I would be leaving spring of 2017 for the Appalachian Trail.

Keep Your Dreams a Reality!

What the hell is some 20 year old doing trying to tell you how easy it is to follow your dreams?! Yes, I know how this looks and it’s weird for me too. But I am in the process of experiencing something that few people will fully get to explore. I get to take time away from the world and experience it totally departed from obligations. I have followed my dreams to take 8 months off of everything. No school, no work, no events, not even a hair appointment. And the monumental process I had to undergo to be able to pull this off? Put myself in a position to have time and money available (easier said than done). My parents started saving a while ago for my college and I very wisely decided to go to an in-state school. Taking time off of school for me isn’t as big a deal because it’s inexpensive to begin with. If your school is expensive though, think of it this way, it costs you $20,000+ a semester to go to school and only $3,000ish for a semester on the trail. Either way just do it before you start a job! It only gets harder, the longer you wait. I also lived within my means, meaning I had some money saved up (and a small inheritance) to make me financially able to attempt the trail. Last, but not least, I made the decision. My decision to do the trail was thought over for a whole second. Since then I have been determined to act on that decision. So when it comes to being able to do the trail, or any other great undertaking, it takes a little bit of perseverance and then many other things will begin to fall into place. In the words of the immortal Shia Labeouf, “Don’t let your dreams be dreams!” and make the decision that will lead to dreams becoming memories.

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