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Trading Stocks for the Trail: Part Three: Freedom Lessons

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." - Albert Einstein


In the final part of my Appalachian Trail journey, I'm sharing some ideas from my days on the trail and my nights in a tent. When I'm in nature, disconnected from technology's distractions, my thoughts find the freedom to wander and get pretty deep. I had lots of moments to appreciate the awe-inspiring views, the discussions with fellow hikers, but there were also quiet stretches where it was just me, my footsteps, and my thoughts. There were also a few hours in the middle of the night alone in a tent where I wanted my mind to shut off from telling me everything that could be outside my tent making that noise I just heard, but that is all part of the experience!

Let's dive into the wisdom I gleaned from the Appalachian Trail.

The weight we carry: Hiking and knowing you will be days away from civilization quickly teaches you the value of every single item in your pack. Not only do you think and feel every ounce you carry, you want ot make sure you have what you need. Having your entire world strapped to your back gives you a brand-new perspective: Alli repeated several times "isn't it so empowering to know you have everything you need to survive on your back." She is it is right it really was amazing, seeing what the human body is capable of was amazing. The weight of my pack also caused me to think about the burdens we bear- the physical weight of your pack,but also the mental weight of self-limiting beliefs, fears, and scarcity mindsets.

The metaphor of my pack and my physical body became strikingly clear as I climbed Albert Mountain, a 40-pound pack weighing on my shoulders. I made a vow to myself to continue to offload this extra weight - the physical and the mental. It's the journey that matters, not just the destination. Life just like the trail, is filled with steep uphill climbs, rewarding views, and downhill paths that feel like a dream. There will be slips and falls, there will be pouring rain followed by sunshine. It's all about finding balance and continually taking small but consistent steps towards improvement.

Unpacking Self-Limiting Beliefs: I found myself thinking about the mental baggage stowed away in my backpack as I was putting one foot in front of the other. Those doubts that sneak and whisper, "You're not strong enough," "You are too fat to be hiking," "You don't know how," "You're not smart enough." It's time to face these fears head-on, instead of fearing the judgment that vulnerability might bring. It's a reminder of the importance of my inner dialog. It's it's time to throw these thoughts in the trashcan (remember leave no trace) and change our internal dialog, stop comparing ourselves, and speaking more positively!

Maintain Focus, Look Up: When we feel defeated, it's natural to look down. Keeping your focus sharp and your head up is crucial on the trail not just looking for bears, snakes and cliffs, but also because there's so much beauty and opportunity that we miss if we don't lift our heads and keep moving forward. Stop looking down and start looking out towards you goals.

Your 'Why', Perspective: Everyone on the trail has their own 'why.' Initially I was fascinated by the motivations behind why someone would do this hike. I kept wanting to know why someone would dedicate 6 months of their life to this trail, but after a while I realized it's not important at all! Their decisions, their purpose, and their why is personal to them. It reminded me to staying focused on my 'why' not anyone else. One vital lesson from the trail was the value of perspective. Some hikers dashed by, likely with their sights set on conquering the trail as quickly as possible. But it's crucial not to compare our journeys. Everyone has their own goals, and comparison only serves to steal our joy.

Practicing Gratitude: Gratitude is a daily practice for me, but the trail offered a new angle on thankfulness. A sheetrock between myself and the outdoors is something I honestly took for granted. I developed a deep appreciation for the everyday luxuries we often overlook - walls, a bed, a hot shower, a tap to turn on for water. Gratitude isn't new to me, but this experience reminded me even more how appreciative I am for modern advances and the smallest comforts I was taking for granted.

Savor the Simplicity and Small Steps: A resonating reminder that not only do I prefer simple it's beautiful! The trail also offered light-hearted moments of joy and beauty. Small victories, like building a fire in a rainforest, the opportunity to jump in a creek of cold mountain water, knowing that dinner just involves boiling some water... This reaffirmed my believe in the power of simplicity, and the grace in small, consistent actions.

Take the Path Less Travelled: I know this is so cliché but it's also been so true in my life and my success. On this hike a small detour off the main trail led us to Betty's Creek, where we had the most AMAZING campsite next to the a creek. It was the most memorable night of the trip for me, a testament to the unique experiences that lie just off the beaten path. I used to think that being different was bad, but being different and going places where most people don't is where the fun in life is found

The Power of Silence: Lastly, the trail reminded me the worth of solitude. The quiet of the wilderness spoke to me louder than any city noise, reminding me of the importance of carving out time for peaceful introspection amid the hustle of life. I also enjoy cruises for the same reason that I can 'cut off' my connection to the outside world (and cruises have much nicer amenities), but truth is this same solitude is found in my backyard and I need to spend more time 'out there' where most people don't go.

The Appalachian Trail was as much a mental journey as it was a physical one, it really was the perfect metaphor for life, filled with its own challenges, joys, and opportunities for growth. As I continue to 'hike' along this path of life I'll carry these lessons with me, traveling lighter, following my own plan, and walking with a stronger purpose. I hope you will do the same!

Come back next week, as I discuss my next challenge: a three-day water fast that began the evening I left the trail. Will I make it through 72 hours without any calories? It was quite an adventure, and if you are thinking why would he do this the night he left the trail, it wasn't my idea... I tend to say yes to new experiences and if I have someone to share the experience with it makes it more fun!

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