“Good for you. I wish I could do something like that.” This is one of the most common reactions people have when they first hear about my plans to thru-hike the AT. Almost always there’s an undertone of regret, of not realizing their own dreams. And that somehow this just suddenly happened to me. It’s like they’re really saying, “I’m glad you have the courage, finances, ability to do what you really want to do. I passed that up years ago, or it’s just not possible for me.”
Here’s the thing: It is possible.
I’m coming to realize dreams don’t just fall into your lap. Or if they do, very rarely. When people say, “Good for you,” what I want to say back is, “This didn’t just happen. I worked really hard for this.”
Two years ago, I started laying the groundwork to realize my dream this year, 2017. I started with a pretty simple, yet challenging goal: Save enough money to not only purchase new gear and sustain myself during the trip, but also come back with roughly a year’s salary in the bank to fall back on when I return. Until I had the money to do this, I would not hike the AT, and in two years, I would re-evaluate my position to see if it was feasible to tackle the hike in 2017. I spent quite a few weekends in 2015-2016 filming weddings, or second shooting at weddings. Sure, I’d rather be doing a lot of other things, but I knew I needed to do this to put away as much money as possible.
With a lot of hard work, I set myself up to where, when the timing seemed right, I was able to jump on the opportunity. Had I not been proactive, I would still be sitting at home, wishing I could live out my dreams.
After hitting that first benchmark and determining I could realistically hike in 2017, I had a decision to make. Take the risk, quit my job, change my life, or push it back another year or two when life seemed more accommodating.
News flash: life might not accommodate your dreams.
You have to make the space yourself. Take the risk, cut out what’s holding you back, work for it.
The last year has been one of intense preparation. Acquiring new gear, taking shakedown hikes to test out new gear, returning gear I don’t like and repeating 1-3 over and over again, figuring out how to eat (mostly) vegan and optimize nutrition on the trail, planning resupply points, setting up my tent in thunderstorms, trying on 3 dozen pairs of shoes, seeing a physical therapist to build up muscle in my weak knees….. I think you get the point.
Sure, I’ve had to make sacrifices along the way. But is it really sacrificing? I think it’s more of an adjustment. It may seem hard at first, but it is totally possible.
I was talking with my friend Chaz about this recently. He used an analogy that I think summarizes it pretty well. He said it’s like surfing. You can’t just sit on the beach waiting for the perfect wave, and when you see it from the shore then head to the water. You’ll be too late, or not even notice it. You have to be ready. You have to fight hard to break through the pounding surf and set yourself up for success. And when you have set yourself up to be in position for the perfect wave, it’s the thrill of your life.
So whatever your dreams may be, starting a business, travelling the world, learning an instrument, spending more time with family, it is totally possible. The realization of that dream may be many years down the road, but lay out the ground work today to live out your dreams.
Be the person who can say, “Good for you. I’m so glad I did.”
This has been a long time coming, but here we are just a few short weeks until I ascend Springer Mountain and tackle the 2,189.8 miles of the Appalachian Trail head on. I can’t believe it’s so close!
I'd love to hear from you! What are your dreams and what's your approach to reaching them?
I am a filmmaker. I am an adventurer. I believe in children. My friends are obsessed with my beard. I am obsessed with beer. I want to embrace and fully live this life I’m blessed with. I want to be known as someone who loves deeply.
On May 16, 2017 I set out on my dream, the adventure of a lifetime: a 2,189.8 mile trek of the Appalachian Trail. I want to push people to live their dreams and pursue their passions.