Hiking thousands of miles and living outdoors for months isn’t always easy or fun. In fact, it’s uncomfortable most of the time. But that’s what makes moments of sheer joy like my experience on San Jacinto Mountain so profound. In my 31 years on this planet, I haven’t found anything else that makes me feel so alive.
There is nothing quite like a rattlesnake to snap you out of your head and into my body. On Sunday, April 1st, I had my first encounter with an enormous Western Diamondback while hiking out of Scissors Crossing on the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m grateful for this snake for reminding me to pay attention to my surroundings and get out of my head. Being in your body means being present. At any moment, you could be challenged to take swift and immediate action in order to stay alive.
Traveling long distance by foot gives you a new perspective on immigration. Moving around is what humans have done for most of our history on Earth. We migrate. And it’s not just us—all animals move around in search of better access to food, water and shelter. To restrict where humans and animals can go by erecting fences and walls denies this primal urge to move on in search of something better. What gives us the right to carve up the planet like this?
I’ve been dreaming about walking from Mexico to Canada for almost two years—and the time has finally arrived. But I’m not hiking 2,650 miles only for myself. Starting today and ending when I finish the PCT in 180 days, I am raising $10,000 for three inspiring nonprofits that are helping young women practice communication, creativity and bravery in the outdoors. When times are hard on the trail, thinking about the girls who will benefit from this hike will keep me going. If you feel as inspired by this cause as I do, I hope you will join my fundraising community!
Feeling your best doesn’t just mean “looking good.” It means, first and foremost, cherishing and nurturing the body that you’re in. It means, instead of holding yourself to some standard of external beauty, holding yourself to a certain standard of self-care. Is there something you can do this year that will get you out of your head and into the “soft animal of your body”—even just for a moment? If so, my friend, I urge you to do it. The world around you will be better for it.
Amelia Earhart’s passion for flying must have deeply scared her husband and family. She must have known this, yet she chose to dedicate her life to it anyway. Then, what must have been her loved ones’ worst fear came true when she mysteriously disappeared over the Pacific Ocean on a flight around the globe. Was it OK for her to do that to her family? Was that an acceptable risk for her to take? Was that selfish of her? And would these question even come up if we were talking about a male adventurer?
With four weeks now until I start the Pacific Crest Trail, I’m feeling extremely appreciative of everything I know I’m about to go without for six months. How would you savor “normal life” if you knew you were about to lose it? Who would you make time time for? What would you say that you have been afraid to say?
When choosing any path in life, what you are actually choosing is how you are willing to struggle. Without struggle, you couldn’t fully appreciate the beauty of every little victory you experience along the way. So here’s to ritualizing our reverence for the good things we are about to give up for the great things we are about to gain.
We try to protect our daughters from the world by discouraging them from getting themselves into risky situations, but avoiding fear only hurts girls more. We need to encourage our girls to take risks, so that they learn how to objectively assess their own limits and boundaries in the face of fear. Only they can teach themselves how to react in scary situations by walking right up to the cliff’s edge of fear and then practicing navigating there.
Feet are arguably the most important part of the body when it comes to hiking. Apparently, you will take 5 million steps over the course of a 2,000-mile through-hike. That’s no small feat! (Pun intended.) So here are a few things long distance hikers can do to prepare their feet for the journey ahead!