April 10, 2017 Prologue It is the eve of the greatest adventure of my life thus far, and writing about it is like shouting into a great abyss and expecting the returning voice to provide reassurance and praises of bravery. So, let me ask you… why do we decide to embark on these prodigious journeys? Because I’m afraid the opportunity will never again arise Because I’m too young to be confined to another classroom, office, lab, … Because people are always telling me of their life’s regrets Because (insert something about the soul and/or spirituality) Because I need something to be proud of Because I need to prove something to someone Because I need to prove something to myself Because I’m lacking inspiration Because I don’t know what I want Because there’s nothing I want more One or more of these may ring true, but how can we accurately pinpoint our motives when in most aspects of life, we have conditioned ourselves to hide them. Being honest with oneself is hard, and acting on those insights is harder. Plot twist! We shouldn’t need a reason to try new things, to pick up and go, to explore. In the past, I have been a type-A perfectionist. I was a great student athlete in high school, I worked hard to get into colleges, and I made financially appropriate decisions. It wasn’t until my junior year at Western that I realized I was severely lacking passion for what I was learning and how I was spending my time. I graduated with honors and a new perspective for the next chapter of my life. This is when Christine asked me to hike the Appalachian Trail. This idea grew into a small pile of gear staged in my basement. With research and planning (yes I read A Walk in the Woods and Wild) that pile began to grow and so did my excitement. For five months, I squirreled away supplies and every dollar I earned. I held strong through relentless conversations of my inability to appease societal norms. How could I possibly stray from the classic progression; college, grad school, respectable job? Continuing your education and obtaining experience in the work force are both responsible and more practical options, but they made me just a little nauseous. Some may suspect that I have wasted valuable time. I am thankful for my time spent in post-graduation purgatory. I had the opportunity to work as a land surveyor, a dog sitter, and a COO of Wild Edge Inc. I witnessed the intricacies and the hardship of running a successful small business and starting a new one. I was even able to visit with family. Preparing for this venture has been humbling. Humbling in the sense that it has sobered my prospective of want vs. need. I may want to buy new shoes, but I hypothesize; if they’re not practical for the trail then I don’t need them. Here’s the real kicker: if I don’t need them to survive in the wilderness for five months, then why would I have needed them at all? Most everyone is guilty of buying things the media convinces us we want and adding it to our ever-growing collection of stuff. I for one, love stuff! Hiking the Appalachian Trail is a chance for me to abandon the act of impulse spending and focus on what I have and what I truly need. A vital aspect of thru hiking is spending only what you have saved (not a lot, send snacks!). I consider myself extremely lucking that I can attempt such a grand adventure. I guess this trip is a celebration of good health and my ultimate test of will power. It is about reconnecting with my love of the outdoors and an attempt to live without the regrets of missed opportunity.
The only things standing between me and Springer Mountain are heavy-hearted goodbyes and a 26-hour bus ride! Cheers, Lydia I shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day; Psalm 91:5
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