In 2006, at the age of 25, I quit my job and spent the next 5 months and 7 days thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Running from Georgia to Maine the Appalachian Trail is a 2,175 mile continuous foot-path that snakes it way up the eastern seaboard… and it was going to push my physical and emotional stamina to levels I had never before experienced.
Just days into my hike, I, like many of my new thru-hiker friends, began to dream about standing a-top Mt. Katahdin in northern Maine, my arms thrust above my head in victorious celebration of completing my journey. Over the next several weeks I woke up, I ate, I walked up hill, I ate, I walked down hill, I ate, I unpacked my bag, I repacked my bag, I ate and I constantly thought about the joy I would feel when I reached the top of Mt. Katahdin. There was only one problem; I was so enamored with how happy I would be to complete the trail that I was neglecting how unhappy I was at that moment.
All around me amazing things were happening and I had to retrain my brain to notice them, or risk quitting the trail due to my unhappiness. So I did. Pretty soon the simplest pleasures were no longer just glossed over, they were revealed. Simple pleasures from everyday life became one of my greatest sources of happiness. Eating a cheese burger, taking a shower, drinking a beer, sleeping on a bed… all taken for granted by modern society became moments to celebrate. For 5 months I celebrated the little things, I lived in the moment and realized what it was like to be really truly happy.
On August 22, 2006, I started my climb to the top of Mt. Katahdin. After 5 months my destination was about to become a reality and I would finally be able to hold my arms high above my head and celebrate my victory. As I reached the summit tears began to flow and the reality that my journey was over soon began to sink in. I didn’t want the journey to be over; I wanted to continue to live in the moment, to get excited at the thought of eating a cheese burger and to relish how amazing a hot shower feels. That night as I was falling asleep it hit me; I could still enjoy all those things, the Appalachian Trail is my metaphor, my metaphor for life.
I believe that life is about the journey, not the destination. I believe in big juicy cheese burgers after a long days hike. I believe that life is not meant to be glossed over, it is meant to be lived on a daily basis. I believe that the destination is the least important part of any journey. But mostly I believe in a nice hot shower.