There is a simple phrase that was the first of many lessons that I learned when attempting to hike the Appalachian Trail. It was perspective-changing, Game-Changing, and Life-Changing. It was a phrase that was universally known and practiced by any of the hikers that endured the trail for any length of time. And I would have to say that I have used this phrase with even more success than when my time on the trail has long been over. In my opinion, No truer words have ever been spoken. “ Enough build-up already, Get on with it, Jeff!!”
"HIKE YOUR OWN HIKE"
These 4 little words have provided me with the framework to not only succeed on the trail but more importantly how to find direction, growth, freedom, and happiness in life. This one phrase has given me the ability to understand who I am, and what I am supposed to be doing. It has allowed me to set my own standards for life, happiness, and success and stop following the crowd that seems to be headed in the wrong direction. It has provided relief from the pressure that society, the media, and even myself have forced upon me. Seems too simple? Allow me to explain:
You have to do you. If you are really going to walk 2200 miles in 5-6 months, you are going to have to do it your way. Even if you and I set out to Hike the AT together, I Can’t hike your hike and you can’t hike mine. One of us is going to be slower. One of us is going to want to hike further, one of us is going to want to stop in towns and stay longer, and so on and so forth (and what have you). If you are going to take on something as challenging as hiking the AT, or changing your career path, or changing your lifestyle to one of health and vitality, you are going to have to do it your way.
You need a support network to help you. A solo thru-hike is by no means a solo endeavor. We, humans, were not meant to be alone. Community is vital to our happiness and our survival. I merely have to point to how we structure our towns and cities to be close to one another to prove my point. When I hiked the trail, I had the support of my family, my friends, the other hikers on the trail, trail angels, and the people in the towns that are located close to the AT. It literally took a village and I could not have made it but a few days on my own. The same is true back here in the real world. You need your people in your corner.
You have to put in the work. You can have (and need) a solid support network. You can have your spouse mailing you supplies and letters from home. You can have friends calling and texting you for encouragement. You can have trail angels and townies watching over the whole way, but you and you alone have to put one foot in front of the other. You have to put in the work if you want the desired Result. The same holds true for your relationships, your career, your health, and your happiness. Anything worthwhile takes effort, energy, and time.
You have to continue to move forward. When you start the AT (going southbound) you start by hiking up Mt Katahdin in Maine. It’s 5 of the toughest miles on the trail in my opinion. Once you’ve made it to the top, you can now start your hike. That’s right, your first 5 grueling miles didn’t even count. From there you enter the 100 Mile Wilderness (literally no civilization for 100 miles). Then you hit the town of Monson, Maine. When I arrived in the one-stoplight town, I never wanted to leave. I hated everything about hiking and this journey. In fact, I felt this way for the first 30 days of my hike. I Moved slowly. I moved with anger and frustration. I moved in pain. I moved missing my home and my family. I moved while literally crying questioning what in the hell am I doing. But I moved. A little bit further, a little faster, and a little less resentful every day. Do I really need to tell you how this symbolizes our lives today in our world? You know it does. If we are not moving forward, we are being pushed backward. Nothing, I repeat, nothing stays the same.
There you have it folks, My take on Hiking Your Own Hike. Definitely, not the prettiest picture ever painted, but if you really break it down, there is a ton of truth in one tiny phrase. I’m grateful that I learned this phrase. I’m grateful for my entire trail experience. And I’m grateful that I get to share this phrase with anyone who will listen. Hike Your Own Hike, Just make sure you are hiking.