Have I lost my mind?

Why would I ever want to put myself through the challenge of the Appalachian Trail? Give up my nice cozy bed and warm meals for months on a trail?

 20171009_174108I have always dreamed of doing something like hiking the Appalachian Trail and I finally realized that there is no “perfect” time to take the plunge. The summer after graduation provides a time for me to do it, so I plan to take advantage of that flexibility. I am under no illusion that I’ll love every mile or that I won’t question why I decided to do it. Despite those moments, overall, it will give me a chance to disconnect from society. I won’t be tied to my phone or hectic schedules, no sitting in traffic, listening to what this or that celebrity is doing. 

Hiking the AT is a unique opportunity to challenge my mental and physical strength and endurance. Never before have I needed to rely only on my own two feet to travel 2,190 miles with only the supplies I can carry in my pack. I also cannot imagine the peace of mind that comes from immersing yourself in nature. 

Huangshan (Yellow Mountains)

I may go days without seeing another person, or maybe I will hike for a week with new friends. The relationships built with other hikers will be formed on a shared experience that no one who has not hiked for weeks on end could imagine. It’s a challenge, but one I am looking forward to facing head on.



Am I worried about my own mental health on the trail?

I actually didn’t think about that until I decided to write this blog post… 

I’m not too worried about it. The state of my mental health fluctuates fairly dramatically at times normally, and I expect that it will continue to do that while I am hiking the AT.

However, I think a big difference will be what I am doing. Even if I wake up with no motivation and all I want to do is stay in bed, I can’t. I have to wake up and walk. It’s not optional; I have to plan out my food, water, and my rest days in advance. By knowing that I need to get up and that it isn’t a “choice”, it will be easier because I won’t be able to lay in bed thinking ‘do I actually want to get up?’ I’ve always done better when I have a busy schedule.

I think it will also be nice to be removed from technology and the general stresses of everyday life. I’ll be able to refocus myself and figure out what my life goals are. I’m sure in all the time I’ll have in my own head, I’ll have at least a little bit of introspection.

All By Myse-eelf

Should I be worried about hiking on my own?

Maybe, but honestly, I’m not too worried about it. I’ve had a chance to think it through- a lot. Especially because my mom continuously brings it up; she is worried enough for the both of us, not that I can blame her. Like many things in life, going off on the AT could be dangerous.

I’ll probably be talking to myself a lot…

But I’m more worried about the potential of getting miserably lonely. Although I enjoy being on my own, having a few moments to yourself is nothing like being on your own for days on end. Maybe even weeks, for the most part, I have no idea how often I’ll be with other people.

Maybe I’ll find my zen

I hope I can use the opportunity to reflect on my life. To just be in my thoughts for days, weeks, months. Focusing on putting one foot in front of another. My life only consisting of what I can carry and what my body is capable of doing.

When else can you get that simplicity? When else can you remove yourself from all of the distractions around you?

What do I hope to accomplish with a cause?

I know that one person alone can’t remove the stigma from mental health, but I can help increase conversions. By sharing my own struggle, maybe I can help give someone else the courage to speak up about their own experiences.

I would like to give hope to others that struggle with mental illness.

Depression and anxiety have a large impact on my life and everyday decisions in ways that I can’t even explain and that you won’t understand unless you’ve experienced it. It can be hard to see past your mental illness and difficult to plan something huge for the future. But I’ve always wanted to do an adventure like hiking the AT and I won’t let my mental health stop me.

By sharing my story, maybe I’ll convince someone else that they too can go after their goals or adventure because you don’t have to do it alone.

Where am I?

I know where I am; I’m not stranded in the desert or anything. But I don’t know where I am in life. I’m sitting here at my desk in my dorm room wondering what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m in the second semester of my senior year. I just got back from studying abroad, and I planned on taking extra classes I’m interested in but sitting in those courses just doesn’t feel right. I feel like I’m no longer in that place of my life. I find myself questioning my place.

Should I be preparing for life after graduation? I’m hiking the AT after graduation.

Should I be spending most of my time preparing for the hike? I plan on doing practice hikes, testing my gear, and acquiring what I still need. But what then?

Should I be doing an internship just for the sake of doing an internship? I know that I need to be preparing for the world of job hunting post graduation and post AT hike, but what does that look like now? Should I be reaching out to companies already?

I am in a place of transition and I think that is scarier than preparing for a 4-7 month hike and scarier than the potential of a jobless future.

Back from my (unplanned) hiatus

As the wifi in my dorm got increasingly worse, the pressure of finals loomed nearer, and my motivation began to wain, my blog went on an unplanned hiatus. I sometimes have difficulty maintaining my motivation to write on my blog but now that I am stateside again, it is a little bit easier to start writing again!

Although my blogging was on hiatus, I made sure to walk several (10 on average) miles a day while I was in China and to take the steps instead of the escalator (mostly) when I had the chance.

Now I am back and ready to begin archiving my adventure and the process I go through!

Preparation? What preparation?

Hiking the Great Wall totally counts as preparation

A lot, actually.  Unless you’re an experienced thru-hiker (which I’m not), you probably can’t just decide to hike the AT tomorrow and be ready. If you can, congrats! There is a lot more that goes into it than I thought. I’m really glad I gave myself about a year to prepare.

Even just getting the gear I need is a long process. I’ve had to do so much research into different brands and which products have the most success on the trail and will last. 

Food, well food is a huge issue, especially due to my allergies. I’ll probably give food its own post – it deserves it.

Then, I need to know the trail so I don’t die. I need maps, information on poisonous plants and which mushrooms I can safely eat in case I get hungry, etc. The AT is very different depending on what section you are on and which state you are in.


Ok, I didn’t hike the whole thing

This is all just the research aspect of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. Some of the most important preparation though will happen as I do practice hikes whether for a day or a few nights. I’ll let you know how that goes when I get there…



Why the cause?

Mental health is near and dear to my heart because I have dealt with it for the majority of my life.

While I don’t necessarily enjoy bringing up my depression and anxiety in conversation (who would?), I do think it is important to talk about it, which is why I’m hiking to raise awareness for mental illness regardless of age. 

According to Mental Health America, 1 in 5 Americans has a mental health conditionThe National Institute of Mental Health just states that tens of millions of people are affected by mental health disorders in the United States every year. Of course, all of these numbers are just estimations because so many cases go untreated.

struggle_of_mental_health_763688475Regardless of the exact number, it is too high to be keeping quiet about it. The sooner we can remove the stigma of mental health problems and can treat mental illnesses as seriously as physical illnesses, the sooner more people will be willing to get treatment.

Organizations like iFred, No Stigmas, and ADAA work to help those with mental illnesses get help and reduce the negativity that surrounds them. Check them out!

                               adaa          ifred          nostigmas.png

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough Pt 2.

Even after a few days, I was still learning from my experience at the Yellow Mountains.

20171006_104412.jpgMy back did adjust to the backpack while I was hiking, but the next few days my shoulders were killing me! I’m not sure I could have put my bag on and walked another full day. Of course, I was not using a real hiking pack that partially supports the weight on the hips, only a school backpack that rests all the weight on the shoulders.

Thankfully, my thighs didn’t hurt at all the next day or the next week, neither did my calves. However, my knees hurt for a few days after the hike. I’ll need to work on that.

Doing long hikes with a heavy pack will be the best way to get used to the feeling and to break in my equipment. Hopefully, it will also help my knees become adjusted to the stress of the extra weight, and if not, then I’ll at least be able to describe to a doctor what and where the pain is 🙂

Mainly, hiking Huangshan was beneficial because it made me aware of different things I need to work on, especially after monitoring how I felt for the next few days after hiking.

It’s not a walk in the park

Although I am excited to hike the AT, there are things that I am concerned about. I think it is important to acknowledge the fears and concerns so I can be as mentally prepared as possible.

20171006_161057What will I do about a job once I finish? I might not have a job lined up for when I’m done hiking, which is scary. Another issue is whether I’ll be in good enough shape for the trail or not. I know I’ll get in better hiking shape as I go and will need to take care of my feet, especially in the beginning. An injury to my foot could bring a premature end to my trip.

There is also the possibility that I will be miserable hiking 2,200 miles mainly alone. Weather is unpredictable; it could be raining for two weeks straight with nothing dry that entire time. It might wear on me, but it’s all part of the experience, and hopefully, I’ll endure.

Ultimately, while I may not enjoy every moment of the trail, it’s a journey that I am not going to back down from, and I’ll take it one step at a time!

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough?

20171006_124442.jpgHuangshan (Yellow Mountains) is pretty high and might be high enough to keep me from getting to you. It’s a huge mountain range and I’m only human!

On my first all-day about 10-hour hike with a backpack, I went through a series of emotions. From excitement to questioning my life decisions.

Before the hike, I thought my biggest problem would be my back from carrying a backpack (although much lighter than for the AT). I was already planning out the blog post on how I need to walk around carrying a backpack with bricks in it to prepare my back. And then lo and behold I get used to it! After about 2 hours or so, I didn’t even feel the strain of the pack because my body adjusted. So there went that blog post idea.

And after that, it was pain-free! 20171006_122620

Yea right. All of the paths are stairs. My knee joints were ready to give up on me.

I might have to consider a knee brace.  I’ll probably visit a few doctors before I hike the Appalachian Trail such as my ankle surgeon and maybe a knee specialist (my sister has one of those,  I’ll see hers). Call me crazy, but I’d like to minimize any damage done to my body on this adventure!