(A Follow-Up on 13 Reasons…) Find Your Katahdin
After posting my last blog, “13 reasons to take time off of college to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail“, I was overwhelmed by the response I got from my friends and followers of this website. Many people who I don’t regularly speak to reached out to me to tell me how inspiring my writing was. This means a lot to me and I truly appreciate it. Although I encourage others to hike the trail in my blog, I would be lying if I said the AT is for everyone. It’s not. In no way am I saying that the AT will solve all of your problems. It won’t. There’s a reason why such a low percentage of attempted thru-hikes are successful. The trail is difficult and my thru-hike was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. Thankfully, for my sake, everything worked out and I was succesful.
When re-reading my last blog, I realized that I left out some of the most important messages I was trying to convey. I didn’t find fulfillment on the trail specifically from taking time off of school, or the act of hiking, or experiencing nature, or growing a beard. I found fulfillment and purpose from chasing a goal, a goal that was much greater than anything I could comprehend.
Part of what makes an AT thru-hike so unique is that the hiker lives a life centered around one single seemingly impossible goal for months on end. For 4 months, Mt. Katahdin, the northern terminus of the trail, was constantly on my mind. It’s not that I wanted to finish hiking as fast as possible, but there was something about Katahdin, the singular goal, that drove me northbound every single day.
Each passing day, I checked how many miles I had left to finish. I remember celebrating distance milestones 50 miles in, then 100, then 500, then 1000, etc. As I got further along the trail, Katahdin seemed more possible and attainable. Eventually, I achieved that goal and although I will deny it in person, completing a thru-hike was a significant accomplishment in my life.
After I climbed Katahdin in September, I remember sitting in the Baxter State park parking lot wondering what the hell I was going to do with my life. On this site, Carlie Gentry’s article, 4 step checklist to recovering from post Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Depression, emphasizes the need to find a new “Katahdin” after your hike. Setting goals is important and I have since set new goals that give me a reason to wake up in the morning and live as abundantly as possible. For former thru-hikers, I would highly recommend reading Carlie’s article. For people who haven’t hiked the trail, I have different advice…
Find your Katahdin!
It doesn’t have to be an AT thru-hike. Like I said before, the AT isn’t for everyone. Your Katahdin can be anything: a college degree, a dream job, enough money for a boat, a different long distance trail, Taylor Swift’s hand in marriage.. ANYTHING. Set your goal and go for it with everything you have.
When I started the trail, I knew that the odds were against me finishing. Even one of my closest friends, a former thru-hiker who introduced me to the trail, told me that he thought I wouldn’t make it past Virginia. Instead of shying away from failure, I embraced it. I would have rather tried and failed than not have tried at all. I hope that you, reading this blog, don’t shy away from your goals in fear of failure. You will fail in life: it is inevitable. Don’t let failure hold you back from living your dream.
You don’t actually have to hike the AT to “live.” If I had to define it, I would say that living fully is all about developing purpose, having dreams, setting goals, embracing failure, and striving for satisfaction. After my hike, I have struggled to see a point in living life without a greater purpose than simply going through the motions of what society expects of me. In my life, hiking the AT gave me purpose and a reason to break the status quo by doing something that actually made me happy.
I hope that this post, the other posts on this blog, and Zach’s book (READ IT), inspire you to follow your dreams, set goals, live with purpose, and embrace the inevitability of failure. Sitting on your computer reading this post and feeling inspired isn’t going to get you anywhere. To accomplish anything, you will need to get out and take action. Go find your Katahdin.
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