In 2019 I hiked the Continental Divide Trail, from Mexico to Canada, to raise money for The Listening Place.

I walked close to 3000 miles across some of America’s most rugged terrain, and lived out of my backpack for five and a half months or so.

Why?

Well, in 2018, I hiked the 2190.8 mile Appalachian Trail. I could ramble on indefinitely about the weird and wonderful ways that this impacted my life, but the main takeaway was this: before hiking, the idea of living in my present state felt unbearable. After, I finally believed beyond any doubt that I was enough. I realised that this was what I had been lacking, and what I needed to be able to survive. And it was the people I met along the way that got me there.

Like most thru-hikers, I’d hike alone and camp with others at night. You’re physically exhausted and still wearing the clothes you put on after your last shower, which was probably a week ago. There’s no energy left to be anything but your most authentic self, and there’s no signal, so you can’t hide behind your devices. Without distractions, people start to truly listen to each other, and be listened to in return. I learnt to feel comfortable sharing thoughts and feelings that I’d once been too ashamed to admit to myself. The more I opened up to others, the more open I was able to be to myself. Slowly but surely, I’ve been able to leave behind the isolation that came with feeling. And I’m all the better for it.

I think this is the reason The Listening Place resonated so strongly with me. Not everyone can (or wants to!) live in the woods for 6 months to figure things out. But everyone does deserve to have a place where they can be heard, feel safe, and open up about their feelings.

I am privileged. I had the ability to earn enough money to be able to travel to America and support myself through my journey. I’m physically strong enough to be able to put one foot in front of the other for close to three thousand miles.

After everything I had gained from my first hike, using my second to fundraise felt like the perfect next step. It gave me a tangible way to reaffirm my newfound belief in myself – in the past my self-worth had been close to zero; now, my confidence was such that I believed I was capable of making a real difference in the world. It was empowering – whether I raised £1 or £1000, I was still contributing. Just me, and my feet, could help The Listening Place save lives.