NOBODY Can Hike the Trail for You
The heavy drops of rain shook the walls of my tent and formed little puddles beside my sleeping pad. I don’t know if the sound of the rain woke my sore body or if it was the deer tripping on the guylines of my tent. Regardless, I was awake. The sun had still not kissed the sky but I was ready to start walking. As I packed up my soaking wet tent in the dark, I reminded myself—nobody can hike the trail for you.
I climbed a series of mountains and with each step my legs made me aware of their presence. The bottoms of my feet covered in sores from the trench foot and my toenails peeling off. As my body broke down I told myself—nobody can hike the trail for you. I pressed on and traversed through the beautiful fields and lifted my body up and over boulders. Digging my trekking poles into the earth, I felt stronger and stronger. For I finally realized that everything I needed was within myself. The strength to carry on each day had to come from within.
What’s magical about thru-hiking is the mental space you gain in the absence of distractions. The clarity of your thoughts and feelings are amplified by the fresh air and solitude. The concept seems simple and obvious—nobody can hike the trail for you. But it’s in that simple statement that the magnitude of responsibility comes. You are responsible for yourself, your safety, direction, and advancement down the trail. Nobody is going to stand there and tell you to keep hiking each day. Especially on the hard days; that is when you must muster up the courage to prevail.
I chose to accept the responsibility. It took me a while to come to the understanding that I am fully equipped to achieve the lofty goals I set before myself. The external factors (weather, terrain, pain, etc.) are just catalysts that give the journey a little spice. As I hiked the AT I repeated this mantra—nobody can hike the trail for you. It reminded me that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity can only be accomplished with the persistence and strength that I’ve cultivated from within.
I leave for my next trail in less than two weeks (Te Araroa trail, New Zealand). Sometimes the hardest thing is making the choice to do something that scares the living crap out of you. The thing people fear the most is the unknown. Instead of looking at it as fear, I look at it is as beauty in not knowing what each day has to offer out on the trail. The excitement in the unknown keeps me hiking and wanting more. Once I have removed the impact of the external factors I can concentrate on the strength I have from within. Because remember—nobody can hike the trail for you. Be your own hero and do something for yourself. Make the choice to keep walking.
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