Faces of the Appalachian Trail, 2014: Neha Khurana
Trail Name: Sprout
Home State: Virginia
Hike Timeline: April 1 – September 14, 2014
Why did you decide to hike?
I decided to hike because I wanted to live life deliberately and authentically. I wanted to truly immerse myself in nature without the dull and distracting everyday existence, and return to a lifestyle of simple values. I knew that thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail was the change I needed to stay living.
What was the most challenging part of the journey?
The most challenging part of my journey was undoubtedly the mental aspect. The terrain is tough from time to time, but it is only temporary and the discomfort passes. However, walking in solitude and fully immersing myself in nature forced me to reconnect with myself and the person I want to be.
What was the most memorable part of the journey?
The most memorable part of my thru-hike was the people that I met. I have made some of the strongest and most meaningful friendships along the AT. There is a wonderful sense of camaraderie on the trail and the hikers and trail angels are so kind and genuine.
How did you feel after the hike was over?
It all ended rather suddenly – and it felt pretty disappointing. The morning after I summitted Katahdin I was on a bus home to Washington, D.C. It was great to see my family and friends and truly awesome to have a shower (I took many), food in the fridge and a bed. What I once took for granted were now luxuries. I was exhausted when I returned home and spent a few days recovering from the journey. However, when I was finally settled in, I found myself feeling an emptiness and longing to be back on the trail. “Normal” life paled in comparison and all I wanted was to be back hiking 20 miles a day with 30 pounds on my back. Adjusting to the trail is easy; adjusting back home is not. But I have realized that all good things must come to an end and this new phase of my life is a chance for growth and new opportunities. I still try to hike a few times a week though to keep myself sane.
What did you gain from the experience?
I cannot fully express the values and lessons I have gained from my thru-hike experience. I have gained an unshakeable confidence and learned how to be flexible. The trail taught me to have faith that things will unfold as they should and that everything has a reason. The trail challenged me, but it showed me that I am strong enough to handle anything.
What are your goals for the future?
I plan on doing some non-profit work in Peru for three months and then I am considering another hike (PCT?) in the spring. I will be moving out to Durango, Colorado to attend school in the fall and pursue Adventure Education.
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