In June of 2016, I will be stepping foot at the base of Mt. Katahdin in Maine, beginning my 2,185 mile thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. Over the course of roughly 6 months, my two feet will take me over mountains, through fields, across rivers, into towns, under canopies of trees and starry skies as I follow the white blazes from Maine to Georgia. My goal is to raise $10,000 by the time I reach Springer Mountain, the southernmost point of the trail in Georgia, next fall.
In 2013 I spent 7 weeks hiking a section of the AT from Mt. Katahdin to Gorham, NH with a group of 9 through Alford Lake Camp, my summer home for the past 6 years. Those 330 miles taught me to let go of the chaos of our everyday lives and live in the moment, appreciating the little things. I fell in love with the trail that summer. I loved carrying everything I could possibly need for the next week (somewhat) comfortably on my back. I loved feeling so deeply connected to the world around me, and the group I travelled with. I loved the reward of the mountain tops, and the sense of accomplishment at the end of a long day. I loved hiking 8 miles before my friends at home had even gotten out of bed.
The mountains taught me a whole lot that summer, and although my pack got lighter as the trip went on, I took home much more than I started with. The mountains, which can only be seen in totality from a distance, taught me to have perspective. They taught me to be resilient and exposed my true strength, but also taught me to stay humble. I learned to live simply and appreciate the present moment, living wholeheartedly in the now. When the rain didn't stop for 4 days I learned to forget about the uncontrollables, because nothing I did was going to make my socks dry any quicker. When I returned home at the end of August I carried these lessons with me, seeking out ways to incorporate the same simplicity, beauty, awareness, and peace into everyday.
Without a doubt, that summer was the most influential experience of my life. Prior to my trip I had struggled with an ongoing eating disorder and depression caused by my mothers death, and I was left feeling like a completely new person afterwards. More myself than ever, my mindset shifted and I began living positively, focusing on the things that were within my control. More than just an appreciation for nature, I learned self love, and my mind and body were working in perfect unison. I'm so excited to return to the AT to continue learning and growing, this time with a different goal in mind.
I decided to take a gap year at the end of last winter, after a sexual assault left me with PTSD, and extreme depression. The experience changed me, I had never felt so violated, so uncomfortable in my own skin. The pain that comes with this trauma is something no one should have to experience in their lifetime, and unfortunately it is way too common of an occurrence. My confidence, self love, and self-possession were quickly stripped from me, and my body no longer felt like it belonged to me. Panic attacks caused me to miss a great deal of school, and depression left me feeling cold and defeated in a dark and isolated world. After 4 months of silence I spoke up about my assault and received a tremendous amount of love and support from a wonderful network of counselors, teachers, therapists, friends, and family. I began trauma therapy as well as dialectical behavior therapy, where I learned ways to manage my triggers and regain control of my mind and body. Over time, I was able to successfully process the experience and established healthy and productive ways to slowly rebuild myself from scratch, and make myself whole again. I have surrounded myself with positive energy, made time for what makes me the happiest, and appreciated the little things life has to offer in order to revive the happiness, self love, and confidence I once had. I have gained strength and resilience, and today I am gracious and accepting of who I've become.
Through HIKE for Mental Health, I hope to make a difference in the world while doing what makes me the happiest. Not only will I be raising money for the Brain and Behavior Foundation, but spreading awareness of mental health as well. My two thousand mile journey represents a breaking of barriers as I work to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness. I am hiking for those who have lost their fights to mental illness, and for those who continue to fight. I am hiking to have absolute control over my body, and reclaim it as my own. I am hiking because I fell in love with the trail and the person it has made me. I am hiking because I am stronger than stigma.
If you would like to help me reach my goal to raise awareness, eliminate the stigma, and lessen the suffering of those affected by mental illness, please donate! Thank you! To find out more about my journey and to follow along, you can visit mayawanders.com
|James Macdonald||11/02/2016||$200.00||Maya, you are an inspiration, a joy and a treasure. Congratulations on the compleation of you hike, may your adventures continue throughout your life.||Lucy Westerfield||09/23/2016||$25.00||Wow, My! You leave me in such awe some your grace, passion, determination, and pure light! You have made it so far and I am sending you such strength and love for the final push! Love you lots!||Emma Emma||09/20/2016||$30.15||Emma Emma||09/20/2016||$30.15||Frank & Emily Hunnewell||09/20/2016||$300.00||Congrats on an amazing journey! Hope we'll see you soon!||Liv Troiano||09/19/2016||$25.00||You're almost there Maya. At a loss for words at how proud I am. Go kill these last 500 miles!||Mariann Macdonald||09/18/2016||$75.00||I love you Maya, Stay strong.||Colleen Macdonald||07/23/2016||$25.00||<3||Lucy Westerfield||05/13/2016||$20.00||Because you amaze and inspire me and make me want to fight harder and find more beauty in the world. Good luck ya noodle!||Olivia Troiano||05/01/2016||$50.00||Maya, my love, I am honestly at a loss for words. I cannot imagine a summer without you in it anymore because of your uncanny ability for making them unforgettable. I am so excited for your hard, long, winding, bumpy, smelly, bug-bitten, journey ahead. Maya, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS! Love you and happy trails||Abby Troiano||03/25/2016||$250.00||Maya-looking forward to following your progress on the hike. This is a huge undertaking and I'm impressed by your spirit and commitment. Have fun, stay strong and remember, one step at a time. XXOO Abby and Jeff (and Liv)||Colleen Macdonald||03/21/2016||$100.00||thinking of you||Mariann Macdonald||12/28/2015||$100.00||Stone/Teplow Families Charitable Fund||10/15/2015||$5,000.00||Eliza Hunnewell||09/19/2015||$20.00||You have completely inspired me to be open about my depression and anxiety. You are amazing and I hope my little contribution helps! <3333 ilyilyily||Colleen Macdonald||09/18/2015||$100.00||You are a brilliant light, Maya! I admire and appreciate you.|