Expectations of Hope
“I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
“When you come back, just know what you’re going to do with your life.”
”I bet when you’re out there you figure it all out.”
It is hard not to have expectations of the Appalachian Trail . I spent months researching and preparing. Friends and family offered up words and hopes for answers and visions and conclusions. Setting out on a semi-solitary journey is nothing new for humanity. Humans have been talking walks, coming of age adventures and ritualistic quests for thousands of years.
We’re familiar with tales of boys coming back men; narrative characters drawing all the right conclusions and discovering their inner selves to return as better, more valiant beings.
I had and have, no grand expectations for this hike. Despite that fact, the trail is grand, and there are lessons I have learned. Delving inward is often where I spend my time while walking alone. Reaching out, learning and knowing more from others is what I do when I hike with conversation. Patience and a present mind are larger parts of my personality after four and a half months of this hike.
But those were not expected. Those changes and aspects of the journey are not why I decided to walk from Georgia to Maine. I only decided to walk, in a particular setting. The rest is merely what has occurred.
My friend and trail family member, Prime, does a lot of thinking on the trail. He’s always liked walking, no matter where, because it allows him time to think. He frequently has a well-formed opinion of antying you ask. So I asked him about expectations, what he started with before Springer Mtn, GA.
He seems to have come out onto the trail with an open mind. A lack of epectations, while that can sound negative, is very much a positive aspect on the trail. Expecting specific outcomes, in this case answers, only creates room for disappointment. Hope, though, is a more productive outlet for our desire to create expectations. Hope gives no guarantees, but it does put your mind and heart in a place to receive whatever happens.
The trail itself is separate from the culture and thru-hiking structure that we’ve created. The trail is neutral. Our journeys and the process of walking from one end to the other is arbitrary. The trail exists only for our own existence, for a handful of months. Walkman said something along those lines to me one afternoon while hiking: the trail is merely a setting.
Prime mentioned this during our talk as well. Check it out.
Our inspirations for taking on challenges, stepping away from life, or starting anew often stem from questions, traumatic experiences, or a quiet restlessness that builds over years of routine. But, our choices and new starts, while inspired as an outlet for our internal feelings, do not hold everything we seek.
The trail, or the vacation, the new city or unexpected challenge does not provide the answer. Taking the leap and the risk to pursue a challenge and a dream can only hold the guarantee of change and the hope of what we can only know on the other side of the journey.