We’ve all got an escapist streak. The other side of the fence, the unrealized dream, the much needed break from routine. These thoughts pervade our daydreams, our conversations or the pages of our journal. There is a thrill in the potential to start something new and change our lives in ways that align with more fulfilling desires.
For some these dreams are never realized. Despite feeling the tugs and pulls to try something new, most people continue to live their lives as they are. It is easier and safer to continue what is familiar.
But people do break away. They are in the minority but they have made it happen and decided to live more intentionally. They live off the grid, or convert a van for traveling, or change careers. There are numerous spaces, journeys and experiences that we create to escape and find the lifestyles that feel more true.
For the spring of 2018, The Ones Who Walk will follow the stories of those who are making it happen, one step at a time on the Appalachian Trail.
The project began as a story contest proposal. I submitted the idea to an online publication's contest [Narratively]. My proposal was a finalist. Since then, I've not been able to stop thinking about the project and an Appalachian Trail thru-hike.
The Ones Who Walk is a story-collecting project that aims to explore the forces in our lives that bring us to major breakaway journeys. These journeys take us from our normal lives, interrupt our routine, risk our careers, provide respite from stress, or manifest a dream we've found the time to pursue.
As I hike, I will be recording on an H1 Zoom handheld recorder conversations with hikers. When I pass through towns, I will be taking time to download recordings, write a bit and share words + sound clips with you through the blog and Instagram. I hope to explore some of these questions with fellow hikers, and inevitably, with myself.
The project transcends the AT. The trail is a conduit for the questions explored in this project, a project I hope to continue into other journey spaces (vanlife, or off-grid homes, or other nontraditional life styles). While the stories gathered are from hikers, the questions explored in the project speak to a human experience beyond the trail: what forces operate in our lives that lead us to such journeys and how are we changed during the experience?
I have yet to find pieces written with an intentional third eye cast on the role of the AT in the greater context of our human existence. WHY do we feel the need to escape, leave, to risk? What does it means that people continually feel the desire to break away--and what happens when we choose to walk?