by Becky

Lately, water coolers across America have been buzzing with activity about the Powerball.

If I won the Powerball —

“I’d pay off all my bills and buy houses @ the world”

“I’d buy a yacht and sail to paradise”

“I’d hire a chef, a chauffeur, and a personal trainer”

“I’d donate some to charity”

In case you haven’t heard, the Powerball Jackpot reached $758.7 million on August 23rd.

The second highest amount in Powerball history. Should the winner from Massachusetts choose to take a lump sum, she will cash out at $480 million, leaving her with $336 million after taxes! I can’t even begin to imagine.

Did I buy Powerball tickets? Yes, three. Do I think I’m going to win? No. Do I know that buying lottery tickets is a waste of money? Duh… Here’s the thing: the $6.00 I spent on Powerball tickets has provided me hours of hope and daydreaming about what I’d do with the money, I’ve laughed and schemed with friends and co-workers about plans for their winnings. The odds of winning that jackpot were like being struck by lightning twice, but the odds of me succeeding at my buck list of completing a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail are 1 in 4. Hiking the AT is a hell of a lot easier than winning a lottery ticket, so I’d say I have a pretty decent shot.

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the AT is a marked hiking trail in the Eastern United States spanning 14 states between Georgia and Maine and travels through vastly different natural environments. The trail is 2,140 miles long and takes approx. 6 months to complete. It is the longest hiking-only trail in the world. I know what you’re already thinking. This girl is absolutely CrAzY – and that I am.

When I look back at my childhood there is so much I could talk about and so many memories, but when I stop to think about what I treasure the most from that time were the endless camping trips with my parents, grandparents, and cousins. They stripped us down to the pure necessities and embarked into the wilderness that allowed my sisters and me to see things through a different set of eyes – it was a much-needed breath of fresh air. Each weekend my dad would load our bikes, fill the cooler and hitch up the camper; while mom made sure we packed clean underwear, our toothbrushes and the other comforts of home. We’d drive for what seemed like hours back then, only to discover that today I live less than 5 miles from one of the State Parks that we called home for much of my childhood. I think this is where my love for the outdoors began. Nature is my therapy.

I know what it feels like to fall asleep under the stars to a chorus of crickets. My hair has smelled like a campfire for 3 days straight and I’ve watched my grandparents cook our meals over the fire and do the dishes in a plastic tub by hand.There was something so primally satisfying about escaping from our reliance on infrastructure that it turned the most tedious chore into an adventure. Suddenly finding things to keep us kids occupied in the campground or the woods was the thing to do. Nature has a powerful effect on the human spirit.

At dusk building a fire, which definitely counts as something to do, becomes infinitely more challenging, and therefore more rewarding. Money can’t buy those things. We get so distracted by the normal routine of society that I look forward to giving myself the chance to see the magic found in ordinary little things. Being outdoors teaches me to slow things down and truly see the beauty that surrounds me.

There is no “right time” to go hike for 6 months. We all have those gross things called responsibilities and obligations that most often turn into excuses that hold us back. There are only opportunities. When I recognize my opportunity, I will no doubt grab it. For now, I research and educate myself devouring as much information as I can become an expert on everything AT related.    

I hunger for the beauty of the trail, the camaraderie of fellow hikers like me. I can’t wait to see how far I can push myself and how the tranquility of the trail will change my life. I can’t wait to stand on top of Mt. Katahdin in Maine and feel the pride in myself for facing my fears, casting away a lifetime of self-doubt, to embrace all my successes and to find genuine happiness with the commitment to put my dreams first.

Buying a Powerball ticket gives us permission to dream. For days we can think about everything we’d do, all the good things we could provide our loved ones. That little piece of paper helps us initiate conversations with strangers and puts us on a level playing field. For one night, we’re all in it together. Hiking the Appalachian Trail will do the same thing for me, but for a much longer period of time. I know the odds are stacked against me at my age, but when I wake up next week to find that my numbers were not pulled again and I am not a millionaire, I won’t be sad mostly because I will experience something far better in my life. Then I will hit the Jackpot!

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