Today I spent some time reading old trail journals from two separate attempts at thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail with a close companion. It’s interesting that each time there was a great expectation of adventure and hopeful thoughts expressed about being “at one” with the process, whatever might happen along the way. I confess the realities of long-distance hiking had a hard time striking a cord of appeal for me when injuries interrupted our progress, inclimate weather made the going less than ideal, or family matters touched a “need to care” conscience and modified our plans to attend to family matters off-trail. Even so, I don’t regret attempting what many have successfully completed; and I admit there’s still a desire to finally “do it” and complete a comparable pilgrimage, risking that those plans might be interrupted, as well, due to unforseen circumstances.
“Hiking your own hike”, like “walking the walk”, is often easier said than done. We tend to compare our paces, assess our progress according to a predetermined plan, sometimes not allowing for the many variables that truelly make our journeys unique. We can have the recommended and best kind of equipment to facilitate our adventures, but when it comes down to it we are still at the mercy of elements and timing beyond our control. What we retain is the choice to prioritize and decide for ourselves what, in the moment, becomes the essential element defining what we want our lives to be about. Whatever our sense of responsibilities, whomever is a priority in our lives at a given time, however weather patterns “roll in”, whether or not planned supplies and resources are available when needed, and choices of companions along the way all effect how we proceed. This is also true in daily life, but being outside of our comfort zones in new terrain often presents challenges we can’t always predict.
My biggest obstacle was worrying about where “home” would be next. Until I understood: “Home is where the heart is” and that it could be any place where you felt protected, accepted with all your imperfections, and anywhere a meeting of minds and working through differences could be experienced without fear that important relationships would be lost— I was a wanderer with a lust for adventure, fearful of leaving behind something I might not regain, if I left it to try something new. But this is true of any new undertaking in life, whether a new project, a geographical relocation, or a purposeful effort to rebuild relationships on firmer foundations equipped with a greater understanding of ourselves and others as our tools of repair.
The question to me remains: How to balance felt obligations with personal “callings” or dreams.
Each must choose to whom accountability will be given. Each must decide what that balance looks like as we “walk the walk” that starts with one step to be followed by another, essentially defining who we are as we invest our time, attention, and resources according to conscience and priorities. Whether closer to homes made with hands, or out in nature where the hand of a magnificent Creator presents wonderlands for us to explore and learn from, we go where we are called, accompanying those whom we value, into futures we may not always understand, but will treasure forever.