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5 New Years Resolutions to Keep this Year (Zoë's AT Hike Part 1)

This post was originally written for The Trek before my 2016 Appalachian Trail thru-hike. I proposed a series of New Years Resolutions for myself as I undertook the adventure of a lifetime.

Zoë Symon       Trip Report       12/24/2019

Zoë Symon

Trip Report


Originally written for The Trek. See the original post here

Let me first state that I’m not really a fan of New Years resolutions. They’re funny things. Because we’ve bought a new calendar that’s one digit higher, we seem to think that somehow we will be able to convince ourselves to do the things that will make us “better” that we haven’t quite gotten around to doing yet, like going to the gym, dieting, or saving more money.

Even though I don’t like New Years resolutions on principle, I still believe in the goal to continually better oneself, even if it’s in small ways, and New Years does always feel like a good time to look back and reflect on the ways that I have led my life for the past year. With those things in mind, a few years ago, I decided to dedicate my New Years resolutions to smaller, more niche things. Things that were interesting enough or lighthearted enough that I might actually do them. For instance, in 2014 my resolution was to write down my dreams as often as I could. Many times I didn’t remember them, but often I did, and now I have a small book of weird, unintelligible, colorful, scary, delightful and absurd dreams.

In 2016, I’m having an issue: what do I dedicate myself to “doing better” this year, when I’m already going on the biggest adventure of my life? I’ve thought about it for a while, and this is what I’ve come up with:

1. Don’t lose touch.

This is intentionally vague. For me, it means a couple of things. It may mean something different to you.

First and foremost, don’t lose touch with yourself. There’s a whole wide world out there, and I’m about to go hike through an amazingly beautiful section of it. I don’t want to forget where I’ve come from, the things I want out of my life, and the bits and pieces of my “real life” that are important to me. Yes, the trail will give me the mental space to question many of those things, but in order to truly grow, I must not lose sight of myself. Reinventing myself doesn’t mean I get to forget the steps it took me to get to where I am.

Second, don’t lose touch with the people you care about and who care about you. Keep in mind, I say this as a true introvert who’s about to go spend 6 months in the woods by myself. Relationships are important, and I value the ones that I have. I’m not dropping off the face of the Earth for 6 months, I’m having a deeply personal and revelatory experience that can only be enriched by sharing it (to an extent) with the people who are important to me. There’s even studies to remind us that relationships are important for our physical and mental health.

2. Be open to learning new things.

This is an important one. The Appalachian Trail is a learning space. No matter how long you spend on it, whether it’s a day, a weekend, a section, or a full thru-hike, it has the ability to teach you and change you for the better. Be open to it. You will learn new things about yourself, your mental and physical endurance levels, nature, humanity, hikers, and so much more. I’m looking forward to absorbing all the knowledge I can, and taking all the lessons to heart.

This can also extend to new people. There’s an amazingly wonderful group of people in the hiking community. Be open to meeting them. I know I will be! (If you see me, please say hello.)

3. Diffuse your fear.

I am afraid of many things. That’s okay. In fact, it’s probably healthy. However, that doesn’t mean that I’ll let that fear control me. We all have different coping mechanisms for our fears. I tend to research mine extensively so I can be prepared, while simultaneously knowing I will never be fully prepared, and that’s okay. What’s important is not to let your fears disarm you. Acknowledge them, and move on.

Some things I’m afraid of on the AT: ticks and Lyme disease, hypothermia, getting injured, hitchhiking, lightning storms.

4. Remember your reasons.

Everyone has a different set of reasons for hiking the Appalachian Trail. If you remember why you went out there in the first place, you’re more likely to succeed, whatever your definition of success is. This is a big part of the “hike your own hike” philosophy. Only you truly know why you want to be out on the Appalachian Trail.

If you’re on this site, chances are you’ve probably already read Zach’s book. On the off chance that you haven’t, this is me telling you to do so! He talks more extensively about the mental challenges of hiking the Appalachian Trail, and has some good strategies and techniques for remembering your reasons for hiking.

5. Write every day.

One of the “luxury items” I’m bringing with me is a journal, pen, and pencil (I promise, they’ll all be as lightweight as I can find). This is an epic adventure to undertake, and I want to be able to remember day 73 as well as I remember both summits. For me this means writing something down every day, even if it’s just “I’m cold, I’m tired, and I’m going to sleep.”

I’m practicing this one before I even get on the trail, and have found that it’s something that can even be applicable to “normal” life. The more I write, the more expressive and creative I become. It’s also been nice to be able to look back and see where I’ve come from.

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Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is one of the oldest National Scenic Trails in the US. Its path takes you from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

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Pennsylvania, Appalachian Trail
Photo by Zoë Symon

Pennsylvania, Appalachian Trail
Photo by Zoë Symon

Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is one of the oldest National Scenic Trails in the US. Its path takes you from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

2200 mi (3540 km)

$59.99 full guide

Learn more

Get our trail guide for this area!

About the Author

A woman wearing glasses sits in front of a bamboo grove.

Zoë Symon

Zoë grew up in North Carolina and first heard of the Appalachian Trail during her time in college. In 2016, she took a leave of absence from her job and thru-hiked the trail. This adventure fostered her love for the outdoors and for hiking. Currently, she explores the public lands of Oregon. In 2017 she joined the team at Atlas Guides as Creative Director. She spends her days improving experiences for all our users.