Exactly one year ago I took my first steps on a 7,700 mile adventure. It took me into debt, pushed my body past preimposed limits and showed me some of the most amazing people and places in our country. In reflecting on the trip here are 7 things I learned along the way.
1. It doesn’t take much to be happy. Food, water and shelter were my life. They were all I worried about. With no other noise or distractions I was happier than I have ever been.
2. The people with the least often give the most. Walking through some of the poorer areas of our country I was caught off guard by how kind people were. I was invited in to houses and embraced by families as one of their own, despite my appearance and smell. While there were kind people everywhere, the compassion in areas desimated by poverty is where I was blown away by generosity and compassion.
3. Nature changes you. I left the bustling metropolis of Denver to walk in the woods and it didn’t take long for my mind to shift and appreciate all the little things around me. I noticed unique wildlife, landscapes and geological formations in a way I never would have on a day hike.
4. Our country is diverse both in natural landscape and culture. Despite this diversity, deep down most people are so similar. They are inclined to be nice and helpful and they are all proud of their culture.
5. It’s hard to create a routine, but once you do it is difficult to break. Without creating routines and habits I would not have been able to hike over 30 miles per day. The first two weeks were incredibly trying and painful but once I developed a routine and hiked my body into shape the days flew by and I embraced every aspect of hiking.
6. Don’t deny the impact you can make. I have developed friendships with people after meeting for only a few hours. I have received emails from people I have never met about being an inspiration. All I did was hike and in my mind all these people helped and inspired me more than I ever could. Don’t lose sight of how easy it is to help someone and make a difference. The results can be life changing.
7. After a life changing event it’s difficult to look forward again. After completing the trail, the transition back to reality was extremely difficult. I was depressed and saddened by some of the world events. It was a completely different lifestyle I had to integrate myself into. It was something I could not embrace until I began looking at the present and ahead towards what was in front of me instead of dwelling on the incredible hike that just completed.