To Hell With Plans: Why I Won’t Be Packing Any On This AT Thru-Hike
I have what some would consider an extreme “Type A” personality. Prior to my attempted thru hike of the Appalachian Trail last year I had planned EVERYTHING. My mail drops were neatly organized down to the very date that I would be going through town, I had a cute little binder that I left behind for my husband with my approximate itinerary and mail drop instructions, and I had even highlighted exactly where I would stay each night in my trail guide.
Panic set in when I embarked on my journey and realized that my plans were the biggest waste of time in the world. I wanted control, but the A.T. had other ideas for my journey.
In addition to planning, I realized that the “yummy” meals I had prepared and dehydrated ahead of time were unappetizing and a waste of my money. I held on to as much of my plans and disgusting premade meals as I could, but what I found was that it was only taking away from the freedom and adventure of my hike. I was hiking too fast more often than not, and I has barely eating on the trail and overeating in town. The result was a serious lack of energy from not getting the proper nutrition, and ultimately a leg injury that inevitable forced me from the trail.
My big plan to thru hike the Appalachian Trail in 2014 failed after only a little over a month of hiking. The problem with plans is that if you put too much power into them, you end up devastated when they do not work out the way you had anticipated. So, that being said, I was devastated. For quite a few months after returning home I was depressed and angry with myself for not having made better plans.
In March of this year I discovered that less than a week after starting my journey on the Appalachian Trail my husband had an affair. The man that I planned to spend my life with, planned to have children with, and planned to someday start an organic farm with, had thrown it all away for a politician/feminist from Fiji who he met on his returning flight from Georgia where he had just left me. Plans never work out the way you want.
It has been a bit of an adventure over the past couple of months trying to reconnect with myself and trying to plan for MY future. Today I was in the local Goodwill looking at books when I stumbled across a series of trail guides for Arizona. As I opened one I discovered hoards of papers stuffed inside with very precise plans for specific trails. Almost simultaneously I laughed and cried at the thought of making hiking plans. I purchased the books and found myself even more upset when I returned home to read the plans that the woman had written.
As if I were reading a diary, I quickly learned that this person had not just made plans, but instead had recorded her goals, dreams, and aspirations. Is this where I had gone wrong? Did I somehow lose track of my adventure in the process of planning?
As I sit here today with less than two months remaining before I leave to hike the Appalachian Trail southbound, I am thankful for the discovery of letting go. It may have taken complete devastation, depression, and finding the anonymous notes today to figure that out, but I now know that life is an adventure that must be taken one moment at a time. No longer do I care what happens in 10 minutes or in 10 years, instead I only care about what I plan to do with my present moments. I may not have any specific plans for my hike this summer and fall, but I do know that I have goals, dreams, and aspirations. I know that that is more powerful than any plan I could ever make.
The Appalachian Trail will do whatever it wants with me, just as life does. I only need to be open to the freedom and the adventure of it all.
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