Imagine a pilgrimage…
where you trekked for month after month…
and each step took you somewhere you’d never been before…
Vicky Loras challenged her PLN to share a story, personal or professional but a decisive one. There are over 20 tales on her blog and Vicky’s challenge brings out details that we might not otherwise encounter in 140 characters or in an average blog post. MERCI Vicky !!!!
Without further ado, I’d like to share one of my favorite stories that (re)defined my path… it requires a 290-word introduction, and I promise you it’s worth reading on.
(and my challenge to you… which is your favorite photo ?)
As a teenager I was gaga over French.
My father had never been abroad (ok, Mexico 5 days) and my mother had only spent a few weeks in Europe, so it was a leap of faith on their part to ship me off to France when I was only 17. I spent 6 months in a wonderful host family in the BEAUTIFUL Southern Alps region.
I caught the bug BIG TIME.
The language bug.
The travel bug.
The adventure bug.
The try-something-new bug.
AND, also the MOUNTAIN bug.
After my senior year of high school I got a scholarship to study languages and sociology and continued to travel whenever I could. After college, though, I wasn’t settled on a single professional path and instead of choosing something I’d studied, I leapt sidewise and took a $7.25/hr job as a cook at a very fancy new FRENCH restaurant in Cincinnati, the town where I grew up.
The next three years were spent cooking, adventuring (Mexico for 9 months), and all the while I taught English, French and Italian, sometimes part-time, sometimes full-time. I finally honed in on teaching as my profession of choice and I applied for Teach for America in 2005. It’s an admirable program that pairs young passionate teachers with underpriveleged areas throughout the US, and it would’ve allowed me to teach and also do my MA in Education on the side.
I didn’t get in.
Before the T-for-A rejection, I was in Los Angeles and had been working 70-hour weeks cooking at night and teaching EFL in the mornings. I was young and enjoyed being busy, but after a few months of that kind of grind it started to get old. Plus, I wanted a “real longterm classroom environment” and had hoped to teach ESL to Latino immigrants (as I spoke Spanish).
When the rejection came, my gut said: ”head home and figure out the next step” so I did. I worked for the family business (violins), saved money for a few months, and kept seeking other teaching options for the fall.
I had had a dream for a number of years
and decided to take a leap of faith that summer.
That summer over 4 months I walked on average 25km a day, advancing slowly over the 3500km of The Appalachian Trail. It was the experience of a lifetime. THE ICING ON THE CAKE was… right before I started, I had secured a position teaching English at ShanDong University in China, so I was ‘free’ to walk and not worry about what was next.
The trail was varied, as was the weather…
Despite what you might imagine, it wasn’t solitary. After the first month, I’d met tons of folks “thru-hiking” and even one fella with whom I would walk the next 3 months. On the trail, everyone had “trail names”. I was Soeur Hawk and my hiking buddy was 007.
Oh, and there were more than just humans on that trail…
It was much more than ‘just’ walking.
I don’t know that any other experience in my life taught me more about
1) being present to my surroundings
2) seeing challenge in a positive manner
3) our connection with the Earth
5) enjoying the NOW of life without ‘distraction’
I could go on and on…
But really… it was fun !
There were fires… but not many. When ya hike all day, yer kinda happy to just eat a good meal and lay low in the evening.
And it was beautiful… and there were moments I’ll never forget…
All good things must come to an end, and the Appalachian trail ends at Mount Kathadin.
We dressed ‘uniquely‘ for the memorable event…
I’ve been lucky to have wandered and enjoyed many cultures, professions and friends in my life, but those four months were probably the most blissful I’ve ever experienced. It was simple living. Focusing on the now. In-joying life.
I swear I’ll do it again… when I can find the time !
AND, I’m more than happy to answer any questions you might have.
It’s great to reminisce and share so THANKS for reading.
Cheers, Brad (or Soeur Hawk)