You know those life-changing moments when someone says something and everything in the world make’s sense and you have clarity. I had one of those moments while I was sitting in a hostel living room telling my friend Chris about how much I wanted to shave my head. Their response to my hesitation was a blunt “Why Wait?” followed up with an explanation that I was holding off doing it because I was scared. To say the least, those two simple words changed me from that point on. I shaved my head a week or two after that conversation in an impromptu gathering of my friends. I cut off everything holding me back from being who I wanted to be and doing what I wanted to do. In the months to follow, I felt unapologetically free and fearless, and my outlook on life changed. I learned that If I wanted to do something I just decide to do it and work towards that thing. Its a very simple life lesson I know but it took me 23 years and living in a country where I knew no one and could hardly speak the language for me to really understand my own ability and confidence.
A few weeks after my head shaving adventures I was invited by a family I went to church with to go on a three-day hike in Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi which is around Bariloche, Argentina. We hiked up to Laguna Azul and spent two nights up on the mountain hiking around the area. On our walk down after the two days, I was running, hopping, and skipping down the trail. I ended up leading us down and came out of the trees with a big ol’ beaming smile.This family took me on my first ever backpacking trip and taught me so many things about hiking. The most important lesson being that you should always have chocolate in your pack, and I now live by this rule. They gave me the chance to get outdoors and explore with them in a way I never had before. After my sconed hike with them to Laguna Azul, I knew I had it in me to hike the AT and told myself that now is the time and so around February of 2017 I was planning my thru-hike.
Now going back to waiting
I have always had a problem with it, and stalling, and buying myself time. I almost gave up hiking the trail in total because I was given a chance to work at a hostel in a small beach town in Uruguay. I had made up my mind and skipped my flight back to the states to work there until the end of the summer. I got to meet some truly amazing people from all over the world. Spending our time making music and art, cooking, and learning from each other. Life was as we called it “the way it’s meant to be” it was free and we were free. I felt like I found a new home and a new family but I always had the trail in the back of my mind. I missed the mountains the trails and how I felt when I was out walking along rivers and in the valley of mountains. I thought about how I have never hiked 2,000+ miles and lived 6 months mostly in nature. I was given a hard decision and I still have no idea if I picked the right one, but I decided to come back and hike the Appalachian trail. I took the option I have never done that I knew I could learn a whole new set of skills and life lessons from. I took the trail that led to the greater uncertainty and more questions because I know that by the end of it all I would come out with some new understanding.
When I was talking to people about hiking the AT in 2018 my friend Chris responded with nothing more than “Why Wait?”. The conversation was over after that and so here I am trail bound.
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