About the AuthorAspin is a young writer, who grew up in Michigan. She enjoys hiking, camping, photography, and spending time outdoors with her boyfriend and dog. She has dreams of long distance hiking, with plans to complete a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2019. You can find her on Instagram (@brokeroaming), Facebook (facebook.com/brokeroaming), or her website (brokeroaming.com)

The other day I had a conversation with my boyfriend that got me thinking. He texted me in the middle of the work day and said that he needed to stop daydreaming because it was making him want things he couldn’t have and that made it feel pointless. I started to wonder how many people went through this. How many people sat in a life that they didn’t enjoy, daydreaming about something that wasn’t within reach at the moment, and ultimately give up on that dream? For me it that dream was the Appalachian Trail.

My first taste of the Appalachian Trail with a trip to the Smokey Mountains in August 2018

My First Solo Trip

In May 2017 I was itching to travel and at the time the relationship I was in wasn’t supportive of this. My fiancé at the time had little interest in camping or traveling with me. It was one of those things where I was repeatedly told that it would happen but no effort was put forth to follow through with the promises. So on memorial day weekend 2017 I decided, with very little notice, that I was going to take a trip to Yellowstone National Park. Part of the last minute decisions resulted in me going alone.

I planned to go for 4 nights and the thought of going alone was scary. I had never traveled for so long or so far by myself before. Nor had I ever camped alone. When I arrived at the campsite just outside of Yellowstone I pulled up to the campsite and realized just how alone I was on this trip. I had only set up the big four-person tent once before and that was days before I left.
Sitting by myself in that tent I realized just how unprepared I was, but even though I was alone and unprepared I felt that I was exactly where I needed to be. Even if I was scared. For the four days following I explored the park.
One hike that absolutely changed me was a hike down to Osprey Falls. To this day I can’t tell you how far the hike was or what exactly I had in my pack. What I do remember is feeling completely miserable. I was wearing the totally wrong shoes which caused a lot of pain in my feet and I did no research before going on the trail and ended up doing a mile and a half of switchbacks down a cliffside. I cursed myself the entire way down and before I had even reached the bottom I was dreading going back up.
That is when I reached the falls. They left me completely breathless. The falls were 150 feet tall and I could feel the mist hitting me from quite the distance. To this day I have never seen such a beautiful waterfall, and definitely never that close. I sat and watched it for a long time thinking about how hiking was the only way I could ever see something so wonderful.

Yellowstone Falls at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Taken on my first trip to Yellowstone National Park in 2017. 

The way back up was even more miserable than I expected, I cursed the entire way back up, and my feet were killing me the rest of the trip. Every night I would go back to my tent alone and do research on where I wanted to go the next day. It was hard to go back home, but I had taken the wrong sleeping pad and I was already dreaming of a soft bed.

Even though those days had been some of the hardest and most uncomfortable I had experienced in a long time, the trip home was hard. I didn’t really want to leave and I was already looking forward to going back.

Dreaming of a Thru-Hike

After I got back from that trip to Yellowstone I started obsessively researching everything about hiking and backpacking. Hiking and camping was something I was used to, having done it for years growing up, but backpacking was something completely new to me. The gear I had was pretty unsuitable for backpacking (I’m pretty sure that 4 person I took to Yellowstone weighed near 8 pounds) but I knew I wanted to see places you could only get to by foot.

Amidst my initial research on backpacking, I came across an article on all the reasons to hike the Appalachian Trail. At the time I had never heard of the trail, let alone had a dream to hike it completely, but it talked about being life-changing, beautiful, challenging, and amazing. The more I learned about the trail the more I wanted to hike it. After I read nearly every article I could find on the subject I turned to YouTube and started actually watching people hike the trail. All the people seemed like the type of people I wanted to be around, living a life of freedom and adventure.
It was among these videos that I really fell in love with the idea of thru-hiking. But at the time I just wasn’t ready. I was engaged and planning a wedding, finishing my bachelor’s degree and planning my master’s degree. A 6-month hike that would cost me six thousand dollars just wasn’t an option. So the dream just sat in the back of my mind.

My first mountain summit in Rocky Mountain National Park in spring of 2018

Deciding to Thru-Hike

In August 2017 my life completely turned around. I had called off my engagement and it made me started to question all the things I had planned for my future. The guy, the education path, the career path… None of it seemed right. I sat back and looked around at an apartment filled with items that didn’t mean much of anything to me. I needed a change.

Personally, when I become stressed and my life feels out of control I feel the need to run away. When I feel overwhelmed I just want to see mountains and adventure. I want to get lost and never look back. I looked at my life and started to wonder what would make more sense than the life I had previously planned. Then that desire to thru-hike popped up again. Thru-hiking, while maybe not a logical decision, felt right. So I decided that 2019 would be my year.

Following Dreams

A few months later I had made a commitment to myself to hike the trail, but I was too afraid to tell most people. I was in a new relationship with someone who understood the desire to run away and get lost. I told him about my desire to hike the AT, and while he has never had interest in thru-hiking himself he supported my need to go. His support in my hike gave me the courage to tell my family. Beginning of 2018 I told my parents what I wanted to do and to my amazement, they both encouraged the dream. They told me they were proud and they would help me with anything I needed.

Now February 2019 has come around and I am a month and a half away from my start date. My hostel bunk is booked, my flight is paid for and the plans are set for me to take my first steps on the AT. My start date is March 20, 2019 and my dreams are becoming a reality.

So when my boyfriend told me that there was no point in dreaming about something you couldn’t have, I couldn’t help but think about my dream to thru-hike. If I had given up my dream back in 2017 when I thought it would never happen I wouldn’t be where I am today ready to fulfill that dream.

I believe that all of our dreams have a place in our lives and in our hearts. If the dream is something that you just can’t give up or forget about, then maybe it is meant to be there anyway. Maybe it is there to inspire you or drive you. Maybe it is there for you to grasp and follow when your life turns on its head. Whatever it is, don’t let it go unless you are sure it is something that is either unhealthy or doesn’t make you happy.