I’m Casey Chon, and I #hikeOctober to raise awareness of diversity and of the outdoors.
In third grade, I read a book called Halfway to the Sky. My nine-year-old self became obsessed with the Appalachian Trail and hiking. However, growing up in the suburbs of New York City, I was nowhere near the Appalachian Trail, and you can’t really go hardcore hiking in the suburbs. I played a lot of sports, but never went camping and did “real” outdoors-y things.
A decade later, so, two years ago, I was a sophomore at Hampshire College. Hampshire is nestled in the woods of Western Massachusetts, and has a fantastic outdoors program. One of the classes offered at the time through the outdoors program was “Thru-hiking.” Every semester, thirty students from all five colleges in the Pioneer Valley would show up on the first day of class in the hopes of landing one of eight coveted spots in the hiking class. The spring semester of my sophomore year, I was one of eight.
I had never been hiking before and I had no idea about anything. Gee, there are bears in the woods? YIKES.
Every Friday, my class would meet and we would go hiking and learn the skills needed to stay outdoors, like tying bear bags, pitching tents, and purifying water, amongst other things. My class went on two weekend-long trips, and our final exam was a week-long trip. We went to Cranberry Lake, in the Adirondacks of New York, and hiked a 50 mile loop. What an adventure. I have never been so thankful for an experience and for the fresh air.
I now volunteer as a social media coordinator for Hike for Mental Health. Sharing my love of hiking along with my passion for diversity in the mental health world has really come together through my work here, and I’ve never been more proud to be part of something so meaningful.
Through my experiences hiking, I’ve learned that taking care of yourself takes many different forms. For me, yes, sometimes self-care is ordering a pizza and watching Star Wars on repeat, but most of the time my self-care is actually crossing the street and hiking through the Holyoke Range, and being thankful for the trees, the water, the life, and the air. Carpe diem.
– Casey Chon, Korean-American senior at Hampshire College studying Arabic and world peace.
This article is part of our #hikeOctober campaign to shed light on the stigma of mental illness and to promote the benefits of hiking. 100% of the funds raised from this campaign will be dedicated to alleviating the suffering of mental illness and to wilderness trail conservancy. If you would like to learn more or add you voice to our I #hikeOctober… series, please contact us.