Have a great rest of your life

To date I have written and scrapped no less than 4 drafts of this post to sum up the last year of my life. My first year as a thru hiker.  To me, and many others, it is an honor and a privilege to be a thru hiker.  I have joined the ranks of so many people I truly admire.  This post has been as hard to create as it is to give a response to “How was your hike?”  Attempting to sum up 5 of the most incredible months of my life with 2 sentences is nigh impossible.

I wish I could say this has been a year full of butterflies and bunnies but alas it has not. There was a time after coming home from the AT I was depressed. There was a time when I felt stuck and helpless. There was a time I was flat broke and unhappy. At one point I had $5 to my name. I have the screen shot to prove it because there are times when I can feel the significance of a situation.  I had to borrow money to put gas in my car just to drive to work.  I called my mentor to get advice on a lunch meeting I was on my way to.  I didn’t have enough money to pay for lunch for 3 people.  But I knew that it would pay off and I would be just fine.  I knew I would build a successful business doing what I loved.  I just needed to tough it out.  So I did.

In the last year I have started my own consulting business. I would not have been able to do that without two incredible mentors, Aron and Joe. In fact, it’s currently 5 am and I woke up in Winston Salem NC.  I am consulting for a commercial diving operation for a 5-week power plant shut down. If you asked me 2 years ago I would have never imagined being here doing this. When I left the airport on arrival I was excited but not a bit nervous. I knew that it would work out. The AT has given me that gift. Knowing that the trail and life always go on.  Even when times get tough the signs will lead me to where I need to be.

One of the biggest things I gained hiking was my renewed faith in humanity. I had a time in my life that I was angry and full of angst. I am in such a better place in life since my hike. I cannot allow that kind of feeling or negative talk into my life anymore. I have become selfish in that I will distance myself from people with that mindset or attitude.  We only get one chance at this life and we must fill it with love and happiness. There are things we can control and things we cannot. I can control how I feel about my life but I cannot control how others feel about theirs. I just can’t bring myself allow their feelings to bring me any feeling but happiness.  I have become the kind of person that wants what is best for everyone. I want people to be successful. In fact I want you to be happy and successful.  I was your typical “it is what it is” employee and person. I’ve grown beyond being able to accept things I felt I couldn’t change. I am the change. Leading by example and pushing myself and encouraging others to push themselves.

I used to joke about how I was living the dream. When people would ask how I was doing I would reply with that horrid saying. Knowing that I was stuck in a bad dream. I had the cruise control on my life. Living for a pay check and day dreaming of weekends. I’m so proud of the AT class of ‘16 thru hikers, LAShers, day hikers, trail angels included. Now when people ask me how I am doing honestly tell them that I am living the dream, my dream, and that if they aren’t living their dream, that it’s their fault. You’d be surprised how many people take that simple addition to heart or tell me I’m right. It was my fault I was in an unhappy place in life. That I was letting things hold me back in life.

I cannot tell you how many smiles I have put on faces in the last year. It has been a lot, but not enough. Last year I walked to Damascus Virginia and attended Trail Days, the biggest hiker festival in the country. I returned this year with Vargo Titanium. They helped me with a ton of gear for my hike last year and it was the least that I could do to repay them. I spent the weekend surrounded by the greatest community I have ever seen, the Appalachian Trail Community. Past, present and future hikers. I got to see people I hadn’t seen since my hike. I also got to see people I only know through social media and even folks from this website I had never met.  Everyone got hugs.

During Trail Days I stopped at the local coffee shop for breakfast. After eating what amounts to gallons of sausage biscuits and gravy from Georgia to Maine it is hard for me to pass up. I sat down at the counter beside a rough looking unkempt hillbilly. I use that term with the utmost respect. I had never seen him before but I greeted him. We exchanged subtle nods but not much else. After I finished my meal I told him to have a great day, feeling as if I had spread a little bit of cheer before noon. Without lifting his eyes from the newspaper, he replied “have a great rest of your life.” I have repeated that story dozens of times since. I will tell that story for the rest of my great life.

In the last year I accomplished so many things that make me happy about and that I am proud of.  I completed the 140 mile Horse Shoe Trail, one of my goals for 2017.  I’ve also hiked hundreds of miles on other PA trails.  I spent the 4th of July weekend with some of my long time friends from home doing trail magic.  We fed nearly 85 thru hiking hopefuls on their journey.  We were joined by the group of 4 thru hikers I hiked with last year.  We text each other every day.  We are like brothers.  Or maybe the stereotypical old ladies in the beauty parlor gawking.  I also hiked the Allegheny Front Trail with Chad from NorthxNorth(and Vargo).  We had a great time at Trail Days and had to get out hiking.  I have been working full time for myself since May. I use the term full time very loosely. Full enough for my liking is more accurate. Most importantly, and thanks to her, I was able to reconnect with Elyse.  The girl of my dreams but we had been apart and unhappy for too long.  We made it to SC for the eclipse and stopped at Grayson Highlands on the way down.  I also made it back to Maine to see the White Mountains and Acadia, both on my bucket list for 2017.  While we were there we got engaged!  Our story is incredible and we are both incredibly fortunate to have one another.  Needless to say the past year has been absolutely incredible for me.  I hope yours has been incredible for you.

During my hike I listen to the audio book “Choose Yourself” by James Altucher, I cannot recommend reading this enough. It is life changing to say the least.  Please choose yourself.  On a recommendation from Elyse I listen to “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon on Audible.  This helped me to find the people adding the most and the least value to my life.  Seating on my bus is reserved for those that bring positivity and love to my life and theirs.  In March I sat down and completed an exercise in finding what is most important in my life.  So that I might better accomplish those things.  Warren Buffet uses the 25/5 Rule.  Listing 25 things you love then circling the top 5 most loved things and focusing on those and those alone.  If something doesn’t make the cut, avoid it at all costs.  Upon completing the exercise, I decided to focus on my relationship with Elyse, grow my business and become a Hiking Triple Crowner.  These were all part of my top 5.  Owning my dream car, an original ’66-’77 Ford Bronco, was not.  I then sold my most prized possession, my beautiful ’72 Bronco.  It was a distraction from my true goals in life.  Find your focus.

I will close with this; it is what it is because you let it be. I became unwilling to accept the things I could change and started changing the things I could not accept. I couldn’t accept hating my miserable life anymore.  I couldn’t accept hating going to work every day.  I couldn’t accept pushing paper.  I couldn’t accept being true to anyone but myself.  So, I took a chance on myself.  In turn I finally started living and loving more. If you are not living your dream, that is on you. If there is one bit of advice to give it is: take a chance on yourself. You are worth it. Please go and have a great rest of your life.

If you could do anything, what would it be?  What excuses are you using to avoid doing that?  Most importantly who is holding you back?

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Comments 2

  • Heather : Oct 21st

    Dylan I love this post!! Hope to see you and Elyse soon! -Heather

    • Dylan Tonkin : Oct 22nd

      Thanks Heather! So glad we got to celebrate our engagement with you and Kid first!


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