Lessons from the Trail
She broke the world record by hiking the entire Appalachian Trail which runs from Georgia to Maine… in 46 days.
Pretty dang impressive!
The calls and requests for interviews came quickly for Jennifer Pharr Davis. What were her stats? How many calories per day did she eat per day? How many pairs of shoes did she go through? As she stood in front of our high school students recently sharing her remarkable and courageous journey she noted that ‘not one of the reporters asked her what she learned or how she felt, what obstacles did she endure and overcome’ while trekking through fourteen states. She admits she was pleased with this record however that was not what was most important.
She had made this hike before as a young recent college graduate looking for something greater then your typical 9-5 job. She found it on her first hike -which on average takes 5-6 months, hiking through the 14 states that make up the AT. With a wry sense of humor about her extreme exhaustion, foul smell and wanting to quit, she pressed on… one step at a time. Battling nature’s elements, meeting people from all walks of life(if you ever get to hear her speak, ask her about the stalker), seeing her inner strength shine through in a way she had never seen before and most importantly, discovering and learning to love and believe in herself.
Since her capture of the world record in 2011, someone else has gone on to beat her by only three hours. While she admits that stings just a bit, it’s ok because no one will ever be able to take away the incredible journey, lessons and love for the Appalachian Trail.
Her experience has in fact led her on a different path; one that she didn’t plan or anticipate. She has gone on to travel the world hiking many of the long trails on six different continents including hiking all 50 states with her now four year old daughter. And has since started sharing her passion and love for hiking and nature with others by founding the Blue Ridge Hiking Company and gave her first Ted Talk awhile back.
What I know for sure… there is a tremendous opportunity to connect with others through storytelling. When we truly take the time to listen, ask questions, show empathy and allow ourselves to be vulnerable with our stories, we often will see ourselves through their journey. This connection can happen anywhere- with students in the classroom, book clubs, chatting with an old veteran or coworkers working the midnight shift at the hospital.
While many of us are driven towards accomplishing our goals and dreams, perhaps the greatest moments and memories of our lives are when we trust the journey of the path unknown.