I often get asked, “Why??”
That is rather difficult to answer, because it is not one simple justification. Some reasons might be valid, others seem nonsensical, and some I just can’t put into words.
1. Nature beckons me.
The outdoors makes my soul joyous. It continues to awe-inspire me with vistas and valleys, flora and fauna, and everything in between. It is in nature I am sure God exists. Whenever I doubt this thru-hike, nature inspires me to continue to pursue it.
2. A difficult challenge.
I’ve ran marathons, balanced a busy college life, gone skydiving, and spent two summers working all day and night for ASP. Yeah, these have been hard at times spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically, but I always knew I could do it. But all of that pales in comparison.
I’m ready for one of the biggest challenges I can think of– physically hiking from Georgia to Maine. (And spiritually, mentally, and emotionally keeping sane for five months enveloped in just the woods and my own thoughts.)
3. An escape to a slower pace of life.
The past three years of my life has been go-go-go. My days consist of an always growing checklist and my schedule pulls me in a million different directions. The problem is I like this lifestyle. I’ve been doing it so long I get uncomfortable when I have too much free time. I’m not looking to escape this lifestyle, but rather force myself to slow down. On the trail I have one goal each day: hike.
4. A bucket list item ever since I was a kid.
This deserves a story. See my next blog post for more!
5. New lifestyle and community.
If you chat with any past thru-hiker, they will most likely talk about their trail family, or share a bit about other hikers they met along the way. The vibrant and present community sets the AT apart from many other long distance trails. I keenly await meeting all of these phenomenal, eccentric people and be part of the family.
6. The want to know more.
When I am on a mountain vista, I am enchanted but not content with what I see. What is on the other side of that pass? Is there a woodland friend between those trees? Are there streams and wildflowers hidden under the towering, full trees in my view? Is there another majestic view up ahead? I want to know!
7. Seemed better than study abroad.
This isn’t belittling study abroad; however, I wholeheartedly chose this over study abroad. I plan to expose myself to cultures and places around the world over my lifetime, so I didn’t see the need to force international travel and the cost of tuition on myself within 4 years at college. In addition, hiking is a MUCH cheaper than studying abroad.
8. Postpone the career world.
As excited I am to start working (if you know me you know this is probably true), I know working isn’t the only thing in life. Once I start, I won’t get 6 months off to go hike. Also, this is a great resume builder, right?
9. Selfishly, do something just for me.
I remember getting hooked on serving others in third grade at the food pantry. Serving has been an integral and very, very important part of my life ever since. Serving fills me up spiritually and emotionally. Almost every decision or accomplishment of mine has had someone else in mind. I ran my first marathon for World Vision, and then my second and third in part because of my friends. Serving others has ruled my life.
For once, I’ve decided to selfishly commit to a tremendous amount of “me-time”. Although hiking 2,190 miles only directly benefits me, I have no doubt there will be an abundance of opportunities to satisfy my compassionate heart.
10. Stubborn (and naive).
I’ve been backpacking for two nights total. And that was after I committed to this hike. But, if you know me at all, you know I’m stubborn enough to last 2,190 miles. (I hope.)
This is just a summary of my reasons to start the trail. I am confident some will remain, and certain the list will adapt and build as I hike.