The main purpose of my undertaking in attempting what only 790 people accomplished last year has always been in search of clarity…open-minded and eager for the trail to teach me anything and steer the lessons in any direction. The cloudy years leading up to my pilgrimage needed a large dose of sunshine to burn off the fog and provide clarity, the ability to see things clearly. Upon learning the story behind my trail name, people often ask me if I have found clarity on my journey. Every single day, a resounding yes. Everyday living out of only the contents of a backpack, physically exerting oneself and pushing harder mentally than ever before, exercising mind over matter every step, spending every hour of every day for six months nomadically residing in the forest of the humbling Appalachian Mountains, breathing deliciously clean mountain air, drinking from pure mountain springs, and associating with others who all have purposes of their own…every moment is significant and brings bits of clarity if you simply take the time to notice and reflect on them. Here they are…a few of my bits of “Clarity” on the Appalachian Trail:
- Very quickly I understood pure happiness and felt a sense of home on the trail. This was a place I could be me, in whatever mood I found myself, never did I have to cover up how I was really feeling. I was accepted for exactly who I am without judgement by other wanderers on trail. With only 35 pounds of belongings, having very few luxuries, I felt happier than ever before. Finally internalizing the true difference between wants and needs is happiness. Often people buy “stuff” to give them a brief, passing feeling of something resembling happiness, however, it is the realization of just how small we are, and how insignificant lots of stuff is, and the joy of experiencing the moment within oneself that brings happiness.
- Postponing living until retirement is a flawed way of thinking. Yes, planning and saving are of high importance, but there’s a fine line between working to live and living to work. Remedy? Find a way to make money doing something that makes me feel alive! Ideas are in the works… 😉
- Nature, in all its glory and in all its fury, is peace defined. The music in its silence and in its dancing creeks…The rhythm of nature pelting tiny ice crystals as if it’s playing darts and one’s tent is the bullseye. Or the notes of wind so loud it leaves no room to hear anything else. Nature’s ever-changing moods bring stillness of mind and sharpness of thought. Stress is suspended and days of the week forgotten. Peace defined.
- People are still kind. For a few years, my faith in caring, benevolent souls was shaken. The piece of clarity most valuable to me, the lesson drilled into my head in each and every repeated instance, was that people are good. Random acts of kindness do still exist out there! It was refreshing to experience so many people, strangers and not, who readily stepped in to help bring a little comfort to a weary, bedraggled thru-hiker, for no other purpose than to make someone’s day.
- It is not possible to move forward if continuously gazing in the rearview mirror. A painful crash is inevitable if one looks back for too long. It is also possible to look too far ahead and lose sight of right now. As I set out on my journey on June 5, my brother’s final words to me were, “One step at a time, Ally. Just take it one step at a time.” This exact moment, this current step, are all we have and really the only things that ever truly matter and can impact your life.
- It’s not always about getting there fast. Experiences and moments more easily become lasting memories when savored. Quality over quantity.
- A sunrise or sunset it always worth it. “It”, here, is defined as absolutely anything.
- I may not be able to move mountains out of my way, no matter how badly I might want to. But I have learned that I can absolutely move myself across them. Don’t fight the mountains, work through them. Learn their lessons.
- When we really exercise mind over matter, humans are capable of much more than we realize.
There are myriad other moments of revelation that happen in six months walking over thousands of miles of mountains. Did I find what I was looking for? Yes, but I may need another trail or two to find all of it. 😉 I’m not done yet…