Why this adventure is important to me

The roots of my desire to hike the AT started a little less than five years ago while I was studying abroad for a semester in New Zealand. I had hardly done any hiking prior to that time, but while there, I went on several backpacking trips. From the time I was a child, nature always fascinated me and I felt a strong connection to it. I always wanted to play outside in my yard and in the woods, with animals and insects. As I grew older, this connection faded from my awareness but as I discovered, it never left me.

Trekking into some of the most beautiful and remote terrain imaginable sparked something inside myself that I had not felt in many years. It felt like my eyes had been opened after being shut tight, afraid to see what’s real. It felt nostalgic and brought back memories of playing outside as a young boy, full of curiosity and wonder. I realized how much time and energy I spent trying to fit into society and meet personal aspirations that had nothing to do with anything outside meeting my own ego needs. There is an inherent interconnectedness to all life but I couldn’t sense it. I felt isolated. But standing on a cliff, overlooking snow crested mountain tops and green valleys as far as the eye could see shattered that illusion. And it felt like freedom, the kind that only comes from detaching from the man made world and fully immersing oneself in what has been here all along. All concerns and anxieties fade away as you realize that we are all part of the same life force.

These feelings didn’t last but their memory persisted. When I came back from New Zealand, I slowly resumed normal college life and didn’t put much thought into the great outdoors. At least not until my last semester in the fall of 2012. I didn’t have a job lined up yet and I realized that it wouldn’t be a big deal if I graduated without one. I would hike the Appalachian Trail instead! This prospect excited me but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

Which way? This way!

I received a job offer from a major paint supplier in the management field. As a business management major, I happily accepted. I worked for that company for three years but there was something missing. I enjoyed learning how to manage a store and increase my business savvy along the way. However, my heart was never fully awakened and impassioned by this job. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great company to work for and I have no regrets about staying there. It’s just difficult to find spiritual fulfillment in a retail corporation.

At some point in late 2014, I discovered meditation and Buddhism. This changed my perspective and priorities in life. Mymain goal was previously to become a millionaire by age 30. I wanted a high paying job with a bunch of people working under me. The root of that desire was an ignorant belief that having limitless funds and attaining some power in the business world would make me happy and confident. Through spiritual practice, I realized that this wasn’t a path that would lead to liberation and could only cause more attachment and craving for material things. I focused on external goals and neglected to delve into my inner struggles and pains from the past that caused me to build up an emotional armor in defense to the world. I wasn’t really aware of my feelings and would avoid situations that would cause fear and anxiety.

The process of opening up to what’s in the unconscious mind is a long and often painful one. I am still at the beginning of my path but I am taking steps down it, both physically and metaphorically. The Appalachian trail provides a rare opportunity to look deeply into myself and the world around me and gain insight into the true nature of reality. I don’t expect fun and excitement all the time but I will take the joy with the pain and learn from both. There is no moment except for the present and it has a lot to teach.

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Comments 1

  • Rob F. : Apr 20th

    I hope you find what you are looking for Alex. A very inspirational blog. I can’t wait until June to join you for a few days. I know it will be a struggle for me since I haven’t mountain climbed in many years but I’m up for the challenge. H & L would be proud…..:)


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