Hiking for Something Bigger

It’s said that the “why” of a long-distance hike is the most important and everyone has their own. Holding onto your why sometimes can be the only thing that gets you through a tough day. I certainly have mine, but we’ll dive into that later. Since I started planning my hike, one theme has been emerging consistently – making the hike bigger than me. What does that mean? Hiking for something. I want to use my hike on the Pacific Crest Trail to raise money and awareness for two organizations that mean so much to me – Hiking My Feelings and The Trevor Project.  

To understand why I chose these organizations, I think it’s important to understand what they do and the impact they make. So, let’s dive in! 

Healing happens one trail at a time.

Photo Credit: Hiking My Feelings

Hiking My Feelings began on a mountaintop east of San Diego, CA in 2018 – a mantra, battle cry, and most importantly a replacement to the eating and drinking that had once been go-to methods for handling the reverberating emotions of lived trauma. Since that day, Hiking My Feelings has been on a mission to improve community health by creating opportunities for people to experience the healing power of nature.

Americans spend 95% of their day indoors, and returning to the wilderness allows us to reconnect with ourselves and the planet. When we give ourselves the opportunity to reflect and find inspiration in what we’ve experienced on our Trail of Life, we can get intentional about how we spend the rest of our time on this planet in these bodies – integrating the lessons learned into our personal lives and communities. 

Feeling Seen in a World Without Windows 

I was listening to a podcast in late 2018 that was an interview with Sydney Williams, the founder of Hiking My Feelings. She was talking about her story and how Hiking My Feelings came to be. She discussed her struggles with eating disorders, sexual assault, loss of loved ones, and so much more and how she has overcome so much (you can listen to that podcast here). In hearing her talk about her story, it was the first time I had heard a story similar to mine reflected back to me. For the first time in my life, I felt seen. I remember sitting in my car listening to the podcast, sobbing.  

Immediately, I found Hiking My Feelings on Instagram and composed a message simply to say thank you. I never expected to get a response, but I did. Fast forward a bit, Sydney released a book (Hiking My Feelings: Stepping into the Healing Power of Nature) about her story and how she healed her trauma, and how to start the process for yourself.  

With a toolkit in hand, I started to work through the things I carried around in my “traumapack.” The process of sorting through my own trauma was and still is the hardest yet most fulfilling thing I have ever done for myself. For the first time in my life, I am comfortable in my own skin and have acceptance for love for myself. I honestly don’t think I would have gotten this far without Hiking My Feelings. Now, I have a community of people who see and accept me for all that I am and all that I’m not. For that, I am eternally grateful. 

You can learn more about Hiking My Feelings here!

Creating a Better World for LGBTQ+ Youth 

Photo Credit: The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) young people. The organization works to save young lives by providing support through free and confidential suicide prevention and crisis intervention programs on platforms where young people spend their time: a 24/7 phone lifeline, chat, text, and soon-to-come integrations with social media platforms. The organization also runs TrevorSpace, the world’s largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQ youth, and operates innovative education, research, and advocacy programs. 

Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers. LGBTQ youth from highly rejecting families are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than youth from accepting families. Up to 50 percent of all trans people have made a suicide attempt – many before the age of 25. The Trevor Project estimates that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 in the U.S. seriously consider suicide each year and could benefit from its services. 

A majority of youth choose to contact The Trevor Project rather than other suicide prevention providers because the organization is LGBTQ affirming or a trusted provider of crisis services. Ninety percent of young people who reach out to Trevor experience de-escalation from suicidal thoughts. LGBTQ youth who report having at least one accepting adult were 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year. The Trevor Project aims to always be there for LGBTQ youth in crisis with a clear message: they should be proud of who they are and that they are not alone. 

Carrying the Invisible Shame 

I always knew I was different, but couldn’t figure out how. It wouldn’t be until I was in college that I would be able to articulate it – I am gay. I had always heard the term when I was younger but didn’t really understand that it was something you could be. No one in my family ever talked about it and I didn’t know any gay people (at least I didn’t think I did).

Always feeling on the outside of everything was incredibly isolating – to a point where I was convinced that the world would be better without me in it. At the age of 12, I found myself in the kitchen with a knife in my hand ready to slit my wrists. I can still feel the blade pressed into my skin. At that moment, the thought of my mother finding me held me in this life and I carried that shame silently for the next 15 years.  

Releasing the Burden

I always believed that those feelings I had were not common and I alone had to deal (or not deal) with them. Once I finally opened up about my experience, I soon learned that I wasn’t alone and I didn’t have to continue to carry that shame by myself. At the time, I had no idea organizations like The Trevor Project existed. I sometimes wonder how my life could have been different if I had. I know what it’s like to feel like death is easier – but I also know that those thoughts and feelings are terrifying, isolating, and hopeless. If my story can provide even the smallest light in the darkness, it makes everything I went through worth it. 

The crushing weight of shame is heavier than any pack I could ever carry. That weight can be even heavier for those in the LGBTQ+ community simply because being queer is not universally accepted. Once I began to realize that I wasn’t alone in my experience and experiences like mine weren’t uncommon, I exhaled for the first time. Connecting to a community helped me realized that shame wasn’t a burden I had to carry all on my own.  

You can learn more about The Trevor Project here!

I’m hooked! Now what? 

I’ve set the goal of raising $2653 ($1 per mile) for each organization. 100% of the donations go to the organizations to continue the amazing work they do!

How to donate:

  • Donate to Hiking My Feelings here
  • Donate to The Trevor Project here

Monetary donations aren’t the only way to support Hiking My Feelings and The Trevor Project. There are so many ways to support them if you can’t financially:  

  • Follow Hiking My Feelings on social media and check out all the cool resources  
  • Follow The Trevor Project on social media and talk about the work they do and the impact each of them have 
  • Share my hike and my story and direct people to my fundraisers 
  • Share the work these organizations do on your social media  

Thank you for allowing me to talk about organizations that have made such an impact on my life! It’s people like you that help organizations like Hiking My Feelings and The Trevor Project to continue their work to make real and positive change in our world. After all, if we have the courage to love ourselves and spread that love, the ripple effect will be unstoppable! 

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