So You’re Planning to Thru-Hike? #MeToo
Well, hello there! My name is Julie. I’m 28 years old. I was born and raised by a single mother of four in the good ole’ little town of North Plainfield, NJ. Currently, I’m working as a physical therapist assistant at a subacute rehab facility in South Jersey. That’s right. I motivate our older folk to exercise. Although I love my work family and helping my patients regain their mobility is super rewarding, I have come to the difficult decision to quit my job in March to thru-hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail going NOBO. So how the hell did I get to the point where I’m willing to give up everything I have to go hike 2,190 miles for six months?
Well, after a traumatic experience when I was 17 (#metoo), I would go on to battle major depressive disorder for the next year. It wasn’t until I reached an all-time low that I decided I needed something to change. I started searching for hiking groups on meetup.com to get myself outside (because exercise is supposed to reduce stress, right?) and to begin socializing with more positive people since my current friend circle was bringing me down. I came across MetroTrails and a few other hiking groups and my new weekend-hiking tramily was exactly the supportive, quirky, fun-loving group of people I needed to get myself out of my funk.
Hiking big mountains also made me feel more in control of my body. Not only that, it made me actually like my body again. It began restoring my self-esteem and self-confidence that one man was seemingly able to take away from me.
We would put in 15-30 miles every weekend together for the next few years on numerous trail systems in the tri-state area; a lot of which were portions of the Appalachian Trail.
This is exactly the time when I learned about thru-hiking and I knew almost immediately that I was going to do it. I just didn’t know when. You see, being 20-24 years old, studying physical therapy, and trying to help raise your little niece (my sister was a single mother recovering from brain surgery at the time) left me with very little time or money to make that happen.
Once 2017 hit, I moved to South Jersey to live with my boyfriend. I finally had the job I worked so hard for and we had two of the cutest cat children in the world. Things were definitely looking up. But as my relationship was growing more and more serious, my mind began wandering. I started pushing him away and was yearning for a more minimalist lifestyle which, unfortunately, was the exact opposite of what he had wanted. This got me realizing that I needed to learn how to be 100% independent on my own. I wanted to travel and needed adventure. Although it broke my heart to end things, I knew I had to do what was best for me and, in all actuality, for him too.
So this past year I’ve been making it a major point to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I got my own apartment in South Jersey, where I had no family close by. I traveled alone to Colorado and solo hiked all over part of the state for a week.
I started planning my own backpacking trips with friends and family instead of relying on a hiking group to plan and navigate for me. I forced myself to depend on me and me only. All of these things allowed me to build up a greater newfound confidence in myself. That is when I finally knew that 2019 was my year to live up to my thru-hiking dreams. The Appalachian Trail is going to be tough, but it will be worth it. It’s going to allow me to grow into a stronger, more independent, accepting, and loving person. I know it will restore my trust and faith in others because trail people have proven to be the best people I know.
So there you have it. That’s why I am willing to give up everything I have for the trail. Because I’m a girl who has nothing to lose. Literally nothing. I sold everything I own to do this. My plan is to change my entire lifestyle. I would love to do travel physical therapy mixed with more thru-hikes. My one-year goal is to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (and possibly the Long Trail if my legs and wallet allow it), but my three-year goal is to be a Triple Crowner.
As you can see, I tend to set hefty goals for myself. However, I am one of the most determined and resilient people I know. I’m awesome at making shit work when shit hits the fan. So let’s see how all of this shit pans out. I hope I don’t see as much shit as I wrote in the last two sentences out on the trail. Let’s leave no trace, people.
I know I made myself super vulnerable in this post. However, my next blog will be more geared toward gear. See what I did there? I just wanted y’all to get a feel of who the heck I am and why I love the mountains so dang much. I’m also going to be hiking for RAINN to bring more awareness to the issues of sexual assault and to help other survivors in the process. If you’d like to support this cause, please donate here. 100% of proceeds will be donated!
Alright, guys. See y’all next time.
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