The Appalachian Trail was calling my name.
I bought a pack, a new sleeping bag and a sleeping pad. I packed up some food and clothes, and laced up my hiking boots. I started the trail at Clingmans Dome, which has an elevation of over 6,600 feet.
For the next four days, I hiked down the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains.
I traveled with six strangers: two retired men about the age of 60, a younger German woman who had moved to the US a little over a year ago and a middle-aged man who worked as a vet.
I had been going on hiking trips for years, but I was a rookie when it came to backpacking. Luckily, there’s Google and Pinterest to help.
Even though this was my first backpacking experience, I felt pretty prepared. I didn’t realize though, that these four days would teach me way more than just trail etiquette:
1. F*ck make-up. Stop wearing so much of it.
2. Wake up with the sunrise. It’s too beautiful to miss.
3. The company of strangers is just as comforting as the company of the people closest to you.
4. Cell phones can be turned off and forgotten about.
5. Watch where you step.
6. What you need will always outweigh what you want.
7. Be thankful for all food that isn’t freeze-dried.
8. You can be completely happy with few material possessions.
9. Don’t waste your time taking a million pictures. The real view is always better.
10. Don’t stress about money. The amount you have doesn’t determine your success.
11. Life will always work itself out.
12. If you get lost, don’t eat random berries or mushrooms.
13. Never be afraid to try new things, even if they’re outside your comfort zone.
14. Don’t complain about the effort of having to take your daily shower.
15. There is nothing more important than clean drinking water.
16. Be comfortable being uncomfortable.
17. Don’t be afraid of the spiders and mice that will crawl on you while you’re sleeping.
18. Don’t wait until you’re retired to try and make up for lost time.
19. Taking a biodegrable, soap and washcloth bath is luxurious.
20. You never know what you have until it’s gone.
21. Don’t regret anything about your life.
22, Run your job, but never let your job run you.
23. Indoor plumbing exists for a very good reason.
24. It’s easier to breathe clean air.
25. Laugh at yourself when you fall down.
26. Have good balance in your life.
27. Do what you want to do, not what everyone else wants you to do.
28. The crap you think is so important? It isn’t.
29. Seek to be with people who are as adventurous as you are.
30. Always keep your eyes open for the unknown.
31. Good physical health allows you to travel.
32. There is peace in silence.
33. A good night’s sleep goes a long way.
34. Listen to people who are older than you. Their advice is usually right.
35. Owning designer gear doesn’t make you a better hiker or person.
36. Watch the world around you.
37. Expect the unexpected.
38. Protect the environment you live in.
39. Don’t wait for people who aren’t worth waiting for.
40. Keep your eyes forward. Only look back to see what you’ve accomplished.