Would You Give Up Everything… For a Hike?
In a few short months, I’m leaving behind a life that I love.
I’m leaving behind a thriving career, amazing friends, and the best community I’ve ever had.
I’m leaving a job that I adore, a happy home, climbing partners and best friends.
I’m leaving behind more beloved people and places than I can count as I embark on the Pacific Crest Trail.
This isn’t the first time I’ll be letting go of what I love in pursuit of something bigger than me.
I have lived not just one life, but many- and I have left every single one of them to find myself a little more.
When I was 16, I left home to spend my junior year as an exchange student in Germany. I lived with a host family, explored the European countryside, and desperately tried to pass physics exams in German.
At 19, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career I’d been working in professionally since middle school. I quickly signed with an agent and a manager, and found myself performing in the best productions of my life.
Eventually, fate brought me to Gjusta Bakery, a celebrated restaurant in West LA. My life spun 180 degrees and I left my lifelong acting career for my true calling- cooking and baking. My pastry shifts began before dawn and I stayed into the evenings to apprentice with the head chef. I spent free time at the beach, biking to the Farmer’s Market, and hiking in the dusty mountains. I lived my own little California dream.
When I was 21, I left that dream for a pastry position at Flora Bar, an upscale Manhattan restaurant run by a Michelin Star chef and frequented by the NYC elite. It was another dream come true… for a minute and a half.
Out of nowhere, the pandemic hit, Flora Bar closed, and I left New York for more space. I took a summer cooking job in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. Every waking minute was spent kayaking on glacial lakes, hiking in pine forests, and night swimming under countless stars.
As the short Minnesota summer ended, I moved to Nashville for a fresh start. I got my footing in the world of private cheffing, cooking for NFL players and country music stars. I made lifelong friends working in two different restaurants. I spent countless weekends climbing world-class rock and backpacking in the mountains. Tennessee was home.
Throughout all of these lives, I’ve “found myself” at least a dozen times. I’ve had more quarter life crises than I can remember. I’ve left every life behind in search of more.
Despite every change I’ve made, there has been one place where I have found my true self in every single life:
Outside. Among the trees, on top of mountains, in the silence of snowy fields and desert landscapes.
I’ve felt this way ever since I was a child, canoeing the glacial lakes of northern Minnesota for the first time and falling asleep each night to the singing of the loons.
I’ve felt this way ever since my best friend Klaudia introduced me to backpacking in high school and told me about the Pacific Crest Trail, as we stargazed in the Iowa countryside;
ever since my first drive through the yellow aspens of Colorado, my first hike through the orange rock of Utah and my first winter season in the snowy northern pines;
ever since I stood on a mountain with Klaudia on the Tahoe Rim Trail, as I gazed at a stunning view of the Desolation Wilderness and began to cry.
In that single moment of complete awe, seeing the snow-capped mountains we’d reach in a few days, I found myself once again.
I found myself, and I felt a conviction stronger than ever before: I belong here. Outside. I belong on the PCT.
You might not know me personally, or understand my life. You might not understand why I’d want to leave everything behind to walk 2,650 miles.
But if you know the love of being outside, the love of wind through the trees, fresh mountain air and cold alpine water, you know me.
If you know the love of waking up in a cold tent, of camp coffee and fields of wildflowers in full bloom, you know me.
If you know the love of quiet moments in the woods and awe-inspiring moments in the mountains that take your breath away, you know me.
If you love these things, if you belong in these places, you know me already- and I know you.
We belong here. In every single life.
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