Two Hatted Hikers

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Dear Reader,

Weeks ago I found myself wandering through the toasty Arizona desert. As I made my down a trail known for wildflowers, I bumped into two women.

The pair traveled together, stopping in sync to kneel down and photograph flowering cacti; their lips fell into crescent moons as they took in the landscape; and they were both outfitted in matching sun hats, covered entirely in national park pins.

As I walked away from the two women, I felt my lips part ways as a grin spread over my own face. I couldn’t help but think: “I hope I’m just like those two, when I’m in my late 60’s.”

I mean come on, they were total badasses, wandering the world together, hitting up the national parks and doing so with such joy and passion. In 40 years, I wanted to be just like them.

But then I realized, I already was. At 24, I had landed upon my dream of galavanting through nature. I didn’t have to wait. I had already arrived.

And as I walked, I thought about the lives the two women likely lived when they were my age.

The taller of the two women, had a gold band on her ring finger, and the other spoke about her granddaughter’s latest mile time.

These women had families, and partners. Perhaps still living, and perhaps not. But either way, the hats they bore 40 years ago were different, home to less National Park pins, their packs were filled with diapers instead of hiking poles, and their homes were almost certainly made of wood and plaster, rather than tent poles and desert dirt. These badass women, had filled their lives with families and partners. And now, in their 60’s they were living the dreams that lived inside them all these years.

I imagine as they wander, and add pins to their hats, they regret nothing. I imagine they love the lives they chose for themselves all those years ago. And this adventure is just a delightful bonus.

As I pondered these women and their own unique paths, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

I felt gratitude for my ability to choose my own path.

A choice many do not have the opportunity or support to make.

I felt gratitude, because my dreams aren’t so conventional. My dreams fall in the opposite order of these two women. Babies and a partner do not come first.

To me, wandering this wild world comes first, far beyond settling down with a partner and some babies on my hip. If a family and partner come later, then great. I am open.

But I can’t wait my whole life to know the feeling of waking up to the desert sun, of mountain air whipping my hair dry as I drive down winding roads, of sweaty hikes and views that send tears down my cheeks, or the magic that ignites in my body when I truly listen to myself. These are the moments that make me whole, that bring me to life, and without them, I’d exist in a perpetually half full state. Always wanting. Always longing.

Perhaps these women felt the same as I did, always gazing out the window or over their shoulder, ready to run into the wilderness. But I get the sense that their lives have been full of love, from partners and babies and grandchildren too. I get the sense, that they have lived full lives and these adventures are simply the icing on the cake.

But you never know, and for this reason, I am so unbelievably grateful that I exist in a world, where my wild choice to wander away from convention and into nature has been honored by my family and community. Because this hasn’t always been an option, and for so many it still feels unreachable.

So while our paths are very different, the bridge that brings us together is built upon my deepest belief: we must all return to our roots, get dirty, roll in the mud, cover ourselves in grass and mountain air, this is where we come back to life. Some of us return sooner than others, but we all return to the mother of all mothers eventually.

It was beautiful to witness these two hatted hikers return and I hope they felt joy watching my return as well. May we support one another as wanderers and as women, to return in our own way and our time, knowing all the while that we have a team rooting us on.

To each of you, wherever you are in your journey, I wish you such immense peace and Joy! May you exist in life where your priories exist, may you follow your calls and know that your path is unique. I honor you and your individual winding road! Thank you, for honoring me and mine in such deeply beautiful and supportive ways!

With love,

Annalise