Sunday, February 7, 2010

No Regrets!

Written by: Emily Ginger

I have lived in a city my entire life and I'm about to spend the next five months living in the woods. I have many thoughts and emotions about my approaching adventure.

I feel grateful for this opportunity to change the pace of the life I've led so far and hope to gain a new perspective on alternative ways to live one's life. I'm especially eager to push myself physically and I'm trying to prepare myself mentally. At the same time, I'm sad to be spending so much time away from friends and loved ones and holidays and sushi and city festivals....... Most notably, I feel nervous and scared for when reality kicks in. Right now, while sitting in my Chicago apartment surrounded by a familiar and comfortable environment, it is easy to envision my hike as an enjoyable, successful, and worthwhile experience. However, it is nearly impossible to imagine what it will actually feel like when I am out there on the trail and stripped of my everyday comforts. I’m scared because I don’t know what I’ll be thinking or how I will react when I’m in the thick of it: when the weather has been pouring rain for days, when there are bug bites all over my body, when there is dirt in and on everything, when all the muscles in my body are sore, and when my back hurts from sleeping on the ground and lugging a 40 lb. pack on my back all day. Will my body endure? Will I be able to tolerate insatiable hunger brought on by massive amounts of physical exertion? Will I fantasize about being at home in my comfy bed where it is warm and dry? Will I yearn for the conveniences I currently take for granted: toilets, showers, refrigerators, 24 hr grocery stores, and public transportation options? I don’t know if I will be able to conquer this feat while keeping my happiness, sanity, and wits about me. However, I feel very confident in my abilities and will-power so I won’t let a little ambiguity stop me from trying. I look forward to the feeling of triumph if I can beat the odds by finishing.

Over the past few months, there is one question I have been asking myself and consequently contemplating, Why do I think that I have the ability and a good chance of completing the entirety of the Appalachian Trail?

I believe I have several advantages and motivations propelling me towards my goal of completing this hike. For one thing, I have had a lifelong desire to live like Native Americans once did- entirely off the land. Since my early teen years I’ve dreamt of the thrills I would have been privy to if I were alive 200 years ago and alongside Lewis & Clark as they explored the unknown wilderness that lay west of the Mississippi River. Also, I dislike the media influence on society and would like to get a break from it! I’m not a fan of the materialistic society we are, and I hope that by being stripped of my “things” I will gain a better appreciation for those “things,” and take greater pleasure in the simple aspects of life. And I think there is something to be said for the fact that I am in my mid-twenties and I have been a strong athlete and competitor my whole life. Frankly, I DO NOT LIKE TO LOSE! But, the most compelling reason for me to do this is that I try not to have regrets for how I live my life. Considering we only have one life to live, I don’t see any room for regrets. In fact, when I was 17 years old I made a promise to myself that I would live my life to the fullest through taking on challenges, exposing myself to different cultures, by following my passions, exploring foreign environments, and truly taking advantage of my independence and youth while I have it. When I am looking back on my life as an older woman, I don’t want to regret not having “lived.” Therefore, as a favor to my 50-year-old self who might be bogged down by a house, a couple mortgages, a husband, kids, bills, etc, I will take advantage of my youth, health, strength, and independence while I can. I know I won't regret taking time out of my life to participate in something so full of potential.

Appalachian Trail, whether I’m ready or not… here I come!


  1. You seem to have the single most important attribute required to complete the AT -Desire. It will challenge you physically, but in the end its's really a mental game. Being able to keep a reign on your emotional self especially when you're cold, wet, dirty, tired and hungry is the key. It's not complicated at all, just paying attention to the little things as they arise, tends to take care of the big ones. Good luck. Have fun. Laugh everyday.

  2. One step at a time and you will make it. Just live in the present and all those discomforts will be unimportant. I'm about to turn 50 myself and always dreamed that I'd be hiking the AT this year. Well, I'm section hiking at least. Have a great hike.

  3. Covetree, I will look forward to following your adventures.

  4. Maybe we'll see you out there on the trail. We're starting in mid-March. Good luck and happy hiking!

  5. As your 53 year old mother who is bogged down with a house (small as it is), just one mortgage (presently), a husband (your dad, who I happen to like), kids (who come home in the summer with all of their STUFF), and plenty of college tuition bills (times 2), I'll be first to admit that I haven't LIVED! So, speaking for your 50 year old future self, I can say with confidence, "you're doing the absolute right thing by taking this hike!" I'm behind you all the waaaaayyyyyyyyyyy, (well, no, I won't literally be behind you). I couldn't hike that trail!!!!!

  6. Hi Emily,

    It's Bonnie, your mom's roommate from college. I'm sure you know that she and I hiked the part of the trail that goes through Shenandoah with a girl named Linda when we were 19. I hiked the area around Mt. Rogers in SW Virginia the year before that with a bunch of girls. Hiking the trail is kind of like experiencing childbirth: hard work and intermittent discomfort all forgotten and replaced by joy,trumped by the exhilarating beauty and treasured memories of people and places and pure pleasure at the interaction of your muscles and the rocky trail. Goodness, I envy you! I'm proud of you, too!
    By the way, my kids feel the same way you do about Native Americans, materialism, etc....I do too. Come back and do something to save the planet.

  7. Emily,
    You will love the trail life. It is a subculture only known to those who have experienced it. Best wishes, see you on the trail.