Sharing Thru-Hiking’s Power with a Nonhiking Audience

Sometimes it takes a long time to make meaning from dramatic events in our lives. I got off the trail fifteen months ago with a broken foot, not knowing if I would get back on. It turns out I didn’t. Instead, I spent ten months in my parents’ basement searching for the purpose I hoped the trail would provide. The trail had provided it, I just had to translate it, and it took a little while.

One of my main goals in thru-hiking was to find my way to a life with greater space for creativity, even (especially) if it meant “making do” with less. Although my comfy life wasn’t as fulfilling as I wanted it to be, it was comfy, and that felt safe, felt terrifying to let go of. Getting on the trail was a dramatic way to let it go.

Now, more than a year after my hike, as a freelancer, I live on less than I did before my hike, but I don’t feel the difference.  (Compared to life in the woods, any space with flat surfaces and back rests feels like luxury!) What is different is my sense of meaning and purpose—with the time I’m not making all that money that put me in regular pedicures, I’m writing. It’s so obvious from this perspective, but it was so unclear before I gave all that up.

All of which is to say that my thru-hike attempt wasn’t ever about backpacking per se. For me, the endeavor was a journey I needed to take in order to find the reward of my real, authentic self.

A few weeks ago, I came across a call for pitches for, a women’s magazine. The editor sought stories of women who had taken some sort of leap after age 40, so I emailed her, and she assigned me to write the story below. I hope you enjoy reading it!

I Quit My Job at 43 to Hike the Appalachian Trail

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