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Last year my husband and I were at a friend’s wedding out of the country. I was lying on the beach, listening to the waves and the birds, drinking a pina colada and out of nowhere a thought passed through me “you need to hike the Appalachian trail.”  At first I was like “woah you have had one to many many pina coladas” (two but I am a lightweight). Really how ludicrous was that thought? I mean, I had never even hiked before! Oh, and I have responsibilities. I owned a business, were/are going through fertility challenges, and I can’t just leave my husband. So many other thoughts came racing through my head. “I am being irrational” I told myself, and tried to quiet the thought.  Unable to shake the thought, I brought it up at dinner – merely as conversation piece (and it’s also fun to shock my husband!). I told him what I was considering.  I told my friends that night as well.  I’m not sure what they thought, but I am sure “crazy” was a word they were thinking.  I am sure it seemed outlandish, risky and even careless. Maybe it is.
That night I lay in bed with the phrase “The greatest risk is to risk nothing at all” floating through my head.  Am I just spending my days waiting…waiting for the right moment? Waiting for everything to be perfect? “No way! I don’t want to have life pass me by” I told myself.  “I want to die with memories not regrets.”

From that night forward, I could not escape the thought of the Appalachian trail (AT)….and that was that.  My mind was made up: I was going to attempt a thru hike of the AT.

I hate even saying the word “attempt” because I think stating it that way is starting off with failure being an option. The truth is, even if I don’t finish, I will have succeeded because I tried!

When we returned to the States, I spent hours researching gear, trying it out, returning it, and even making my own. I watched every YouTube video and learned many new words, materials and abbreviations. Things such as rainfly, cuben fiber/dyneema, NOBO/SOBO, trail angels, trail legs, ramen bomb, bounce box, LNT (yes I know proper practice)…the list goes on and on.  Now, less than two months before I start, I feel like I have my gear dialed in….but the truth is, I won’t know until I get out there.
With all the gear prep, I need to get fit.  I have been focusing on getting mentally fit first.  Not to say that training the body is not important – in fact, it could lessen the possibility of injury, but I need to strengthen my mind first.  I need to go through and rehearse mentally how this will feel and how I will react when put in various situations. I am someone who can do hard things, but I get easily annoyed with the little things…you know – getting gas, groceries, cleaning…  None of those things are hard, but I allow myself to be bothered by them.
Knowing this, I can see myself wanting to quit – especially when dealing with all the little mundane things that will be on constant repeat on the trail. For example, when I am setting up my shelter in a snowstorm, blowing up my pad (my bed) for the upteempth time, I can see myself saying  “what are you doing?! Just go home to your husband and comfy bed!” Nevertheless, I have been meditating and visualizing the good, bad, and the ugly. I’ve visualized finishing, and what it would….I mean WILL feel like. I came up with a daily affirmation.
I’ve gone through the times that I “winged it.”  The most notable time was when I winged a marathon and hurt so bad that I wanted to quit, yet repeated over and over “it’s just one foot in front of the other.”  It was my mind that carried my body to the finish.
I am going to have to pull strength from the years when I didn’t feel like I could bear another day (I’m sure I will feel this on the trail at times); a time I usually keep private but one that changed me for good, and for the better. I spent years in a relationship that was physically and mentally abusive.  I had a broken spirit and a hurt body. I learned through that time that I am not weak but I am strong. I was strong because I stayed, then strong because I left; it was a big risk leaving that relationship. At the time, I didn’t know where I would live or how things would work out. But I took that risk and never looked back.
Sometimes in life, I think we makes decisions based on what’s comfortable – and that can result in choosing unhappiness over uncertainty.  I’ve done that before and it’s no way to live. Now, I seem to always choose the latter.…I want to step forward into growth rather than back into safety. The decision to hike the AT with little to no backpacking experience draws on my history of winging it…taking risks, and being tough.  We are all constantly making decisions; deciding to do nothing is just as much as a decision to do something.
Building strength and taking risks are exercises that build mental muscle.  Life doesn’t get easier, we get stronger. The more muscle our mind builds, the easier the weight is to lift.  What is it in your life you want to do but have put on hold because you don’t think you’re quite ready or it seems to risky?  I hope my story and perspective will help you take the next step in trying something new. Done is better than perfect.