Top 10 Things I’ve Learned from the Trail
Prior to embarking on my 2018 Appalachian Trail journey, I had never thru-hiked a long trail and never camped overnight. Even though I’m three months into my trip up the AT, I’m still a novice when it comes to most things hiking and camping. However, the Trail teaches you more than just how to survive in the woods or traverse icy trails. The Trail is a teacher that provides many invaluable life lessons. It opens your eyes to things you may not have seen before, both in nature and in yourself. These are the top ten lessons the trail has taught me:
- Have Faith in the Human Spirit Along the trail, I have encountered some of the kindest, most self-sacrificing people I have ever met. The Appalachian Trail offers a sense of community through a shared experience, and through this community, people are always extending a helping hand or doling out advice. I attended the Appalachian Trail KickOff (ATKO) and met some wonderful individuals and organizations. Events like this, and Trail Days, are a great way to connect with others.
- Less is Sometimes More The best things in life aren’t things, and the trail has taught me a renewed sense of how little “stuff” we actually need in our lives. When hiking the trail, you take only what you need—everything else is just added weight. Practicing minimalism on the trail has seeped into other areas of my life, causing me to see the clutter around me.
- Appreciate the Little Things During my hike, I’ve realized how much beauty there is around us. Sometimes nature’s grandeur is overwhelmingly stunning. It’s breathtaking to sit on a mountaintop alone and watch the sun set over distant ridges. But nature can show its splendor on smaller scales, too, such as the beauty of a single snowflake resting on a leaf or droplets of dew shimmering on branches. The view along the trail in Georgia has been awe-inspiring.
- When You Fall Down, Get Back Up Again I suck at ice. If you’ve watched my videos, you’ve probably seen me slip and fall not once, not twice, but a lot. I’m clumsy and I’m sure I’ll continue to fall many more times. I also haven’t gotten up early enough, resulting in numerous night hikes. Sometimes things, both on the trail and in life, just don’t go your way, and you must pick yourself up and keep going. And if you want a good laugh (and to see me fall on my butt) just watch Winter Storm Grayson on the AT or my Unicoi Gap hike.
- Be Prepared The Boy Scouts’ motto “be prepared” rings true on the Appalachian Trail. I discovered how important preparation is early on. The Appalachian Trail can get be cold, foggy and rainy during winter. Being prepared isn’t just for the trail, but it’s also a good maxim to practice in every aspect of life.
- Don’t give up The Appalachian Trail is about 2,190 miles long, and some of those miles are steep and difficult. When I’m facing a seemingly infinite uphill climb or sleeping in a rodent-infested shelter in 15-degree weather there are moments I think about giving up. The Appalachian Trail has taught me tenacity and to keep going even when it’s difficult. It’s been worth it. The amazing views of the mountains, the people I’ve met along the way and the feeling of accomplishment as I make it through the difficult parts is priceless.
- Be mindful Hiking the Appalachian Trail, or any trail for that matter, is a memorable experience. It can be easy to focus on what’s on the ground in front of you, but it’s important to stop, look up and just absorb your surroundings. At the end of the day, you’re going to remember the gorgeous vistas and stunning views than the number of miles.
- Don’t take things too seriously If you’ve seen my videos, you’ve probably noticed I have a self-deprecating sense of humor. I’ve found you can’t take things, or yourself, too seriously—especially on the trail. As I navigate the trail, I’ve enjoyed sharing some lighthearted moments and finding things to laugh about (for example, falling on my butt. Many times.). I also try to find humor in other situations—even when it comes to discussing safety and prevention with bear attacks!
- Find balance While it would be nice to be a full-time hiker, like many people, I have a job that requires my attention. It can be difficult to focus on the trail while also staying on top of work. Finding this balance isn’t easy, but I’ve discovered it’s possible. Juggling my different lives, both on and off the trail, is a valuable skill I’ve picked up on this journey.
- Hike your own hike Your experience on the trail is yours and no one else’s. It doesn’t matter how fast someone else has done it or how many miles you put in each day—it’s your hike. Every hiker is unique and different and may have different goals. By having this mindset, it’s helped me truly appreciate the experience and enjoy one mile at a time without any outside pressures.