For over 30 years, I spent the majority of my life indoors.
Camping? Hiking? Sleeping on the ground? Getting dirty? Filtering water? Dealing with bears and blisters? Pooping in the woods? Absolutely not. No way.
But in August 2016, against all odds, I completed a 460-mile solo hike.
Here’s the truth: it was awful.
I cried almost every single day during that hike—the pain, loneliness, and ego beating were unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was just so hard. And I was so, so soft. Soft and new to the wilderness and absolutely terrified.
That hike was excruciating, and the first thing I said to myself when I finished was, “Never again. Never, ever, ever again.”
But here’s the thing about hard things: they change us. As miserable as I was throughout that first long hike, I also felt alive and awake in a way that I have come to crave.
And so “never again” soon became “well, maaaaybe one more time,” and in late September 2017 I thru-hiked the 800-mile Arizona Trail.
In 2018, I hiked another 1,600 miles of the PCT. And so on.
Inside the pages of this website you’ll find my honest stories about being a beginner in the wilderness. I also share resources for other beginners, my current gear list, breakdowns of the financial side of my adventures, and more.
A Note About Privilege
There’s a popular narrative in the long-distance hiking community (and in the outdoor adventure space in general) that tells us that only the most hardcore treks are worthwhile.
When I first started hiking there were all these conditions I thought I had to meet in order to be a “real” hiker. I had to hike huge mileage days. I had to complete an entire trail in order for it to “count.” Real hikers are complete dirtbags, right? Shoving 5+ people into motel rooms in town, only eating ramen and Pop-Tarts, constantly running out of food, losing weight, getting drunk at trail magic caches filled with cheap beer, bragging about how infrequently they shower.
And sure, some hikers truly do love this approach, and if that makes you happy as a hiker, that’s great! But if I’ve learned one thing from hiking 2,800+ miles over the past three years it’s that this style of hiking isn’t for everyone—it certainly isn’t for me.
I don’t want to hike more than 20 miles per day if I can help it. Showering feels amazing. I was so proud of eating enough that I didn’t lose weight on the PCT in 2018. I’m sober, and totally uninterested in the drunken scene that’s often steeped into trail culture. When I get to town, if my budget allows, I really do need my own bed. Sharing beds means that I don’t sleep, and I have enough trouble sleeping in the backcountry as it is. Hiking an entire long trail is incredible, but if that’s not what you have the time or money or ability or desire to do? Who cares. I can go out for a few days and it still counts. In fact, no one is even counting. (Why do I think people are counting?!?) I can hike parts of a trail, or hike shorter trails, or hike routes that aren’t trails at all. And at any point along the way, I can stop. I can quit if quitting is the kindest thing to do for myself.
And that’s just me. My story is just one story, and even more important than my own personal hiking preferences is the fact that the dominant narrative of outdoor culture is elitist and marginalizing to folks who enjoy nature in countless different ways.
Going on long hikes for weeks or months at a time is just one small way to enjoy the outdoors, and doing so often requires a staggering amount of luck and privilege. Yes, it takes grit and hard work to pursue a challenging goal such a long-distance hike, but grit and hard work aren’t the whole story.
Our social-media-filtered world that’s obsessed with sharing sexy-seeming adventure photos with a caption of “anything is possible!” and “just follow your bliss!” acts as if the circumstances and intersections of one’s privilege don’t matter. They do matter, and there is an enormous amount of privilege in being able to even attempt a long-distance hiking trip.
Yes, I experience the vulnerability and oppression of being both a woman and a person who is open about her mental illness, but I am also white, cis, straight, educated, financially stable, able-bodied, thin, and conventionally attractive. Combined together, these identities mean that I am seen as non-threatening, and that people on trail and in towns will usually go out of their way to help me—I can often hitch a ride in under five minutes, campground workers lend me towels when it’s against policy to do so, etc.
As for work, money, and time: I am self-employed, which gives me the freedom to take multi-week stretches almost entirely off work. For my first three long hikes, I was part of a two-income marriage in which my partner earned significantly more than me, and which provided better than average health insurance for us. If I got sick or hurt on trail I knew that we would not end up in debt over it. That partner and I have since uncoupled, but I still benefit from having savings that I can choose to use toward these types of adventures as desired.
I am also child-free, which means greater disposable income, and over the past few years I have been able to invest in new, high-quality, lightweight gear that decreases my pack weight and makes this hard thing, this personal goal of pushing myself to hike thousands of miles, significantly more comfortable and realistic.
Because that’s the thing: these hikes are personal goals of mine, selfish goals. I do these hikes because I want to do them, because I want to see what’s possible, what’s out there, what I’m capable of. And yet the obstacles and limitations are mostly internal—they are my own fears and self-doubts—and the struggles I face are ones that I am choosing for myself.
As my friend Lauren says, “it’s a privilege to be able to choose your suffering,” and I am certainly choosing this.
So many lovely people (friends, family, members of my podcast and Instagram communities) have asked how they might be able to support me on my hikes. This is such a kind question! Here are a few things you can do:
- Leave me an encouraging comment on Instagram as I hike (it may seem like such a small thing, but I can’t tell you how much it means to me when I’m having a hard day on trail)
- Join my Patreon community (this is the wonderful group of people who financially support my podcast and my writing, which is what makes all of my work possible)
- Learn from (and pay/support!) the work of other outdoor adventurers, particularly the members of the Diversify Outdoors coalition who share the goal of promoting diversity in outdoor spaces where people of color, LGBTQIA, and other diverse identities have historically been underrepresented. These bloggers, athletes, activists and entrepreneurs are passionate about promoting equity and access to the outdoors for all, which includes being body positive and celebrating people of all skill levels and abilities. I particularly love Unlikely Hikers (founded by Jenny Bruso), Fat Girls Hiking (founded by Summer Michaud-Skog), and Native Women’s Wilderness (founded by Jaylyn Gough).
More about me
I want to live in a world where people tell the truth about their lives.
That’s why I created Real Talk Radio, the podcast that’s filled with honest conversations about the wonderful mess of being human. Hosting this show helps to remind me that I am not alone, and that we are all doing the best we can with our beautifully fucked up lives.
In May of 2011 I quit drinking and started the painful/incredible process of waking up to myself and the world, and that one decision—to get sober—is the bedrock on which everything good in my life has since been built.
I have spent the past four years living in Bend, Oregon, and in May of 2019 I will transition into full-van life, moving into my used Ford Transit Connect, which I built out over the span of a few months with lots and lots of help from talented friends.
I hold a Bachelors degree in Food Studies from New York University, and along my winding career path I have worked as the manager of a cookie shop, the director of a children’s summer camp, the head of business operations for a boutique web design firm, and most recently as a goal-setting coach for folks who want to close the gap between what they say they want and what they actually do.
It’s been a wild adventure, and throughout it all I’ve been a writer who is obsessed with sharing stories about real life in real time. Writing is my one constant, the one thing that brings me home to myself.
And now I’m a hiker too, even though the unlikely nature of my long-distance treks cannot be overstated. I grew up in Manhattan and London, where the most outdoorsy thing my parents ever did was eat dinner on a patio. They are utterly mystified at why/how/why a person would ever voluntarily sleep in the woods, especially when that person is me, their only daughter.
Maybe if I keep hiking I’ll be able to find an answer to that question.
Or maybe there is no answer and the only thing I’ll end up with is really muscular calves.
And honestly, I’m fine either way.
Happy trails, friends!