The Hike of a Lifetime

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

-John Muir

One of the top things on my bucket list is to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT). The AT is 2,200 miles and stretches from Georgia all the way to Maine. The trail was completed in 1937 and is maintained by hundreds of volunteer clubs. Each year, over 2 million people hike the trail at least 0ne day and over 2,400 complete a thru-hike of the 2,200 miles. A thru-hike is extremely difficult-those who attempt this endeavor take an average of 6 months to complete the expanse and 75% will fail in their pursuit. If you can’t get 6 months off from work then there is the option of section hiking the AT-this officially counts as completing the entire trail and can be completed over a lifetime. My goal is to section hike the trail over a 3 year period. I think one-month stretches twice a year during the best times for hiking would make the trip much more enjoyable. My ultimate goal is to hike the AT along with the Continental Divide Trail (3,100) which runs through the Rockies and the Pacific Crest Trail (2,600 miles) which runs through the west coast.

So the question is why would anyone want to hike over 8,000 miles of wilderness? What is the point? It is a hard question to answer because in a sense it requires one to describe an instinctual urge. I feel better in the woods. I feel more happiness in the woods. I feel alive in the woods. The woods bring me into nature in the most intense way because they encompass every sense: the sight of trees, the songs of birds, the smell of fresh air, the texture of trail beneath my feet. In addition to the surrounding nature, the act of hiking is the most relaxing and pleasant activity. Hiking is the foundation of mankind’s physical prowess. We walked across continents and spread throughout the entire world with our ability to hike. When I’m hiking in the woods my mind is in a proverbial hot tub of relaxation. Moving through the woods tangibly connects me to the earth and to the ancestral urge to explore. Contrast all these feelings with the unnatural state of everyday life: driving in a climate controlled vehicle, staring into a computer screen, shopping at Walmart, watching TV commercials, etc.

I think most of you who are reading this agree with me about the awesomeness of hiking. However, I still haven’t justified why I want to hike 2,200+ miles while carrying a backpack and sleeping in a tent. Backpacking is a humbling experience because you can only carry so much stuff and what stuff you do pack becomes quite heavy overtime. It is the antithesis of our consumer culture where we accumulate tons of stuff but never really feel the environmental impact of our consumption. This antithesis attracts me to backpacking and my minimalist lifestyle delights in carrying only the most essential. So what is the point of hiking all those miles? The point for me is to push myself and see what I am capable of. God has blessed me with great health and I want to utilize those blessings to the fullest. This logic runs parallel to my proclivities for reading and writing-I don’t want my talents to be wasted so I regularly do both of them. We all have goals but unfortunately many of them are misaligned. I want to get a promotion. I want a new car. I want an extra 20,000 a year in salary. I want a remodeled kitchen. I want bigger biceps. Humans need goals and we like to conquer those goals. That is why I want to hike all these miles. It is a challenge that brings me closest to my naturally aligned physical and mental state. What do you think? Would you like to join me?

A Bra a Day Keeps the Minimalist Away

My wife and I have a lot of crap! I see myself as a semi-minimalist but I still feel overwhelmed by all of our stuff. The amount of underwear between the both of us makes it look like were stockpiling for a zombie apocalypse. Go up to our attic and there is junk that is just stupid to have: assignments from old classes, a cheap plastic tape dispenser that is broken, a Hanson CD, and five ear buds that don’t fit my infant sized ear holes. Why the heck do we keep this stuff? Well I think it is because we think one day we will use it. And there lies the reason why most people struggle with an excess of everything! This point and many other minimalist thoughts were mulled over in my most recent reading Do LessA minimalist guide to a simplified, organized, and happy life by Rachel Jonat. When we buy something we keep it because it cost us money and we believe that we will use it in the future. Unfortunately, we end up pushing said object into an unorganized space to be later forgotten and never used at all. For example, I got a hair up my but to make homemade ice cream. Well I made homemade ice cream one time and then the ice cream maker got shoved in my garage, where my Dad used it to store his golf balls. Another example, I bought some super tight jeans that made me look like a hipster even though my legs are naturally the size of a sequoia. Well I gained 5 pounds and those pants go up to my mid calves now. Did I donate the pants? No… they are still in my closet reminding me of my odd pear-shaped figure.

Living a minimalist lifestyle means getting rid of the stuff you don’t use and only keeping things that you actually need on a regular basis. By reducing the need for “things” in your life you gain more time to do the “things” that matter to you most. If you have a smaller house, a smaller car, less clothes, less electronics, less fancy food, and less internal desires…you need less money. If you need less money then you don’t have to work as much. If you don’t have to work as much then you gain more time. If you gain more time then you can focus on what truly interests you. I love this quote by Socrates, “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” In addition to obvious material excess, we need to simplify our social circles. Be willing to let go of friendships that are not a positive force in your life. Stop spreading yourself thin between a ton of superficial relationships and focus on a few deep relationships. Along these lines, find the hobbies that you truly love to do and not hobbies that you think you should do because you see others doing them (think Pinterest). So my challenge to you is to go through your stuff and donate the things that you don’t use regularly. Down size. Spend less. Have more free time. As a motivator, write in the comments your top three hobbies that you would love to spend more time on.

By simplifying my life and spending less money I will have more time to…

  1. Read (History, Philosophy, Psychology)
  2. Write (For my blog and my book ideas)
  3. Exercise (Walk outside and Weight lift)

Let’s end this post with a great quote.

“Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; love more, and all good things will be yours.”

-Swedish proverb