I’ve asked a lot of hikers why they chose to hike the Appalachian Trail over the past few years. Nearly every answer was different, but a few common themes emerged: “I want to do something extraordinary before building a family and career;” or “I’ve wanted to hike the AT for decades, and now I finally have the chance to do it;” and “My life is so screwed up, I’m going to hide in the woods until things sort themselves out.”
After following the journeys of several of these hikers, I learned there wasn’t a secret answer that would get me all the way to Mt. Katahdin. The twenty-somethings eager to Carpe Diem were just as likely as the recently retired bucket-listers to go the distance. What separated the almost-made-it’s from the less than 10% that reach the finish line in Maine wasn’t the answer they gave, but their commitment to it.
I’m going to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. I’m taking this journey because I believe that I will build a better version of myself along the way. (It’s also going to be a lot of fun.)
There, I said it. It’s official. Now all we have to do is get our hiking shoes dirty.
There is also an interesting tradition among long-distance hikers. Many hikers leave their daily lives behind. This means giving up the laptops and appointments and rush-hour traffic, but for most, it also means giving up their names. I’ll probably have a chance to share a bit about Trail Names in a future post (once I’ve been given a Trail Name), but I’m mentioning the idea of leaving my old life behind now because I really like the idea of starting fresh on this hike.
What better way to start fresh than to get rid of some unwanted weight? It’s going to take me several weeks to lose the belly, and there was no way I was going to leave my Kindle or iPad behind. Besides, I needed to make a symbolic gesture. Something that reminded me (and others) that I was committed to this journey.
I’m still taking a lot with me (not including the 36 lbs of “essential” gear in my pack). Monica and Dad will be with me of course (in spirit and in text). And you will be with me. It means more than I can
say type that you are here with me now. Thank you.
After I decided what my symbolic gesture would be and shared it with Monica, I knew that she loved me for more than my dashing good-looks.