So why go hiking for 5 months? Why put a pause on the normal trajectory of my life, in order to chase a dream? Why do it now, of all times? Why leave the comfort of home, family, and friends for a bunch of strangers and strange places? I ask myself questions like these because the answers fuel my motivation to take that first step, and the 5,000,000 more after that. Not to label anyone, but in general, it appears most AT thru-hikers fall into one of 3 categories:
- College graduates looking for adventure before joining the workforce
- Retirees looking for excitement once done with the workforce
- People running away from something – bad job, bad family, bad life
Caution to my more practical readers, here’s where things take on that patented HelloNeiman! flare for the dramatic …
But, I do not fit into any of those labels. I represent what feels like a small minority of people who hike because it is a dream they simply want to prioritize as soon as the time is right. I’ve dreamt of it half my life, and I believe that is too much time spent wishing and not enough time spent doing. I always regretted not being in Category 1 and taking a job too quickly out of college … but I am fortunate I don’t have to wait until Category 2. And just to be clear, it’s not Category 3 either. It’s just good timing – I do not have any children, no extreme financial obligations, nor permanent occupational consequences to taking 5 months off … and I have a partner willing to support me.
So it’s a dream? Big deal, we all have dreams. Well, I tend to be a bit emotional in life (understatement of the century), so a dream is a very big deal to me. To me, dreams are not just floating ideas passing through the night – they are goals for purpose in life. An idea is just a consideration, a temporary thought. But a goal is a milestone that we drive ourselves towards, in order to achieve value in its accomplishment. Fulfilling this dream, to me, is achieving one of the greatest goals I’ve held myself to.
I am hiking the AT because I believe the measurement of life is counted by the number of times one says, “this is a difficult challenge, but I have the fortitude to overcome it”. To push ourselves past what we perceive to be capable of, and use it to raise the bar of what we can accomplish next, is to truly live a fulfilling and rewarding life.
To me, hiking the AT is the greatest physical, emotional, and psychological challenge in front of my life thus far. So fulfilling it will be the best development of who I am and what I can accomplish with the next challenges life brings. Then I’ll have children…