I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. When I was in college at the University of Southern California, I decided that I had two life goals—to live an adventurous life, and to throw a wrench in the cogs of society. (And to document both.)
Since graduating almost ten years ago, I have explored and experimented, seeking alternative lifestyles that have introduced new challenges, realizations and deep meaning to my life. I spent time as a singer on cruise ships; a farm volunteer through WWOOF Australia (check out my blog “WWOOFing Down Under” from 2009); and a member of several eco-villages and intentional communities, including the 100-person income-sharing commune Twin Oaks Community and the 80-acre permaculture demonstration center Occidental Arts & Ecology Center—all the while practicing online Communications skills such as social media marketing, website development and content creation that have allowed me to harness the power of storytelling for social good.
For much of the past decade, I have also been searching for “free love,” or freedom from fear and possessiveness in romantic relationships. After experiencing a commune subculture—where the radical sharing of homes, land and physical possessions allows for new levels of interpersonal relating—I realized that our capitalistic society keeps us in competition and fear of each other.
In light of this realization, I have attempted to bring more love into the world at the personal scale by practicing polyamory (deeply loving more than one person) and by supporting my partners to pursue happiness and love however it felt right for them. But by 2015, I was emotionally exhausted from trying to practice “free love” in a society that is not yet supportive of it.
That same year, I picked up Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Reading about a woman who learned to let go of interdependency, love herself bravely and heal from the challenges of her past by embarking on a solo thru-hike was incredibly inspiring to me. When I finished the book, I felt a seed of longing lodge itself in my gut. But I blew off long distance hiking as something “too big” (and “too scary,” “too complicated,” “too escapist,” etc.) for me to be able to achieve.
Yet that seed of longing grew and grew until, in January of 2016, it was “too big” to ignore! As soon as I recognized out loud that a thru-hike was what I was meant to do next in my life, a feeling of calm tranquility and determination immediately settled over me. I knew I needed a pilgrimage. I needed time away from my complex love relationships and a society with which I wasn’t aligned in order to become realigned within myself.
So, over the course of three frantic months, I broke the news to my partners, family and friends; wrapped up my job as Communications Director for the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center; obsessively researched and purchased gear; created and launched a successful crowdfunding campaign that invited my community to be a part of my pilgrimage; moved out of the beautiful rental house I shared with four friends; and even shaved my head. I left behind everything familiar and comfortable to search for purpose on the Appalachian Trail.
During my solo “flip-flop” through-hike of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, I experienced excruciating foot pain, mind-blowing sunsets, freezing hail that pelted my skin until it was raw, and powerful conversations with fellow hikers who also felt that they didn’t quite fit into mainstream society. I learned not to compare myself to others who were hiking faster or slower than me, and to be gentle but steady in my self-discipline. I learned how to reason with fear in a way that those of us who are born female aren’t typically invited or socialized to. I learned to sleep alone in the middle of the forest without getting scared and how to keep my cool during wild animal encounters. I learned to trust and listen to my instincts in a way that I didn’t know was possible. I learned to let go when things didn’t go my way and to accept whatever the trail had in store for me. I learned to accept what my body looks like and to understand that how my body feels is what really matters.
Long-distance hiking is one of the last semblances of the great Hero’s Journeys, rites of passage and pilgrimages that have defined humans’ lives for thousands of years. We are not meant to be sedentary, trapped behind computers and inside of offices and cars day in and day out. We are a migratory species. We are meant to be part of our ecosystems and the wider human experience in ways that have been all but lost.
In my experience, long periods of time spent moving through nature—both alone and surrounded by a tribe of people also experiencing the same forward momentum—is one of the most healing activities that modern people, especially women, can do to reconnect to themselves and to the planet. That’s why I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018 to fundraise for women-run organizations that are empowering girls to feel comfortable and confident in nature and in themselves.
Pacific Crest Trail for Girl Empowerment
From March through October of 2018, I hiked the PCT and raised over $10,000 for 3 nonprofits that educate and inspire young women in nature. 100% of what we raised was distributed equally amongst these amazing, women-run organizations: GirlVentures, Gaia Girls Passages and The Girls Empowerment Workshop.