I lost my 'why' in Hampton, TN. I was sitting in Kinkora hostel, watching Brandon play Jenga with Prophet, Cowgirl, and Moonpie. I was full from a pizza buffet and had a bag of jelly beans in my hand. I was showered. My clothes were in the laundry. Hell, I'd even painted my toenails with some nail polish Emily found. Everything was in order . . . but I couldn't answer the ultimate question: Why am I thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail?
In real life, the inability to answer the 'why' question is a red flag. Why am I in school? Why am I working here? Why am I dating this man? The day you can't answer these questions is the day you start to re-evaluate your life. Does the same hold true on the AT?
There were a lot of reasons I wanted to thru-hike the AT before coming out here. I wanted to sit on top of mountains and watch the sunset. I wanted to exercise and get my body in shape. I wanted to visit small, Southern towns and talk with the locals. I wanted to spend time with Brandon and Emily. I wanted to meet people on the trail that I would otherwise never meet and exchange stories. I wanted to see the stars. I wanted to try something new.
Now, here I am, sitting in Damascus, VA, about 450 miles into the trail, and I feel like I've accomplished everything I set out to do.
But we still have 4 months left.
And I can no longer answer the 'why' question.
Is this a red flag?
There are approximately 50 miles between Hampton, TN and Damascus, VA and for 50 miles I debated whether it was time for me to leave the trail. When I got to Damascus I was ready to tell Emily and Brandon that I was done.
And then I remembered something Cowgirl (a young woman from Wyoming) told me in the interview I did with her for the documentary. She told me that she'd been hiking for a month and still didn't know why she was out here . . . but that she was looking forward to answering that question throughout the rest of her journey.
Okay, so I've lost my 'why' factor. And that made the last 50 miles feel like 5000. But this isn't a job or a boyfriend. This is a trek that is 5 months long and spans 14 states. The 'why' factor will change over time. Moreover, I can't expect to be skipping up and down mountains every day, happy and care free. It's unrealistic. Instead I need to put the last month of my life in the memory drawer and look forward to opening the next chapter of this journey.
So that's what I'll do. Virginia, here I come.