If one person can completely change the course of your life twice with only ten words and one question, my human catalyst is Emily. The same relatively-a-stranger-friend/coworker Emily who recounted magical tales of dog-sledding adventures, packed with dancing northern lights, snow-drenched trees and the frozen taiga of Arctic Finland, back when I was taking in more water than air in the routine blandness of the Everyday, desperately seeking a new perspective on life. The same Emily who asked one simple question, a question that not only inspired me to quit my job back in March 2014, but planted a small Finnish seed in my mind, which blossomed into the bigger Idea of just Go, and figure the rest out when I get There.
Seven months ago, Emily mentioned she was looking for someone to join her on a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, but hadn’t found anyone who could give up five months of their life to do it. When I read her message, I was deep into my love affair with Scotland, jetting off with my new Scottish friends for a long weekend in Ibiza, and the mere thought of re-entering the Real World made me want to jump out of the plane I hadn’t even boarded. But the thought of spending six months walking across fourteen states, up and down mountains (and up and down and up and down), tossed me a parachute.
And I’ve been enjoying the free fall ever since, hyper aware that Time will pull the cord on April 20, when I begin my long journey to Katahdin, and with it, my slow descent back to the Real World begins, a world that has appeared so, so tiny, for so, so long. It’s almost insane how casually selecting a random date seemingly a million months in the future can actually turn into something ginormous, like quitting your job and purchasing a one way ticket to the Arctic Circle, or bouncing around Europe for ten months, or taking a 2,189.2 mile walk in the woods.
And now the idea of hiking the trail has become my lovey (what my two-year-old roommate calls her blanky); I can’t quite cuddle with it, but if I start to feel sad or lonely or pointless, a quick glance in the direction of my Gear Corner (you know, where I store all my gear) sends waves of relief through my body, as I take comfort in the fact the trail is waiting for me.
And who better to walk hand-in-hand (not literally, ew so sweaty) across the finish line of the, Is This Real Life?!? chapter in my book than Emily, the girl who not only showed me to the starting line, but reminded me Real Life doesn’t have to be bland and monotonous. That real life can be this awesome, should be this awesome, and with a little bit of dreams and a lot of determination, I actually can control that level of awesomeness. That I have a whole book, nay, a whole series of books filled with chapters of unreal, very real life adventures left to write.
Plus, she spent the better part of last year in Arctic Finland and Russia and who knows where else becoming a legit wilderness guide, so I’m counting on her to scare off all the bears and show me the most efficient method of pooping in the woods.
So a HUGE shout-out to the coolest girl on the planet, Miss Emily. Super excited to see you, so super soon.