Hiker Encourages Students to Pursue Their Dreams

Dan Rogers Book2
(Left) Daniel Rogers signs copies of his book following his Tuesday visit to VHCC and (right) atop Mount Katahdin in Maine after completing a through walk of the Appalachian Trail in 1999.

Live your dreams.

Daniel Rogers shared those words of wisdom with Virginia Highlands Community College students on Tuesday, explaining that it is the most important thing he learned during more than 11,000 miles of backpacking across America.

“The cost of chasing your dreams is very high – it’s failure,” he said. “The reward is even higher. It’s life as opposed to mere existence.”

An Ohio native, Rogers began hiking while a young Boy Scout but got serious about the sport in 1999 when he took a six-month sabbatical from his job at Colgate Palmolive to hike the Appalachian Trail. Two years later, he resigned altogether and began a 3,400-mle journey across America that took him through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. The walk took him just over a year to complete.

While walking Rogers experienced a level of freedom that most of us never realize in our daily lives, He had no boss, no alarm clock, and no where he had to be. This freedom allowed him to make a physical, mental and spiritual journey that has forever changed his perspective on life.

He took time to celebrate small accomplishments, he said, explaining that he “put down his backpack and danced with joy” when he had completed the first six miles of his cross-country walk. He learned to appreciate breathtaking views, the wonders of Mother Nature and the simple companionship of others he met along the trail. He experienced frozen hiking boots, thunderstorms, and rare moonbows only visible in a few places under special conditions. And, he said, he found time to think about the truly important things in life.

To explain, he shared a backpacking equation that helped him along the way.

“H is inversely proportional to PW and PW is directly proportional to F,” he said. “H is happiness and PW is pack weight. F stands for fear.”

Hikers are happier when their packs are lighter, and the analogy also works in real life. All people carry a backpack with them, he said, packed with anger, bitterness, childishness, jealousy and other emotions that bog them down. When they get rid of these things, their pack gets lighter and their happiness level goes up.

Similarly, fear causes hikers to load their packs down. If they are afraid of getting hungry or cold, they pack lots of food and clothing. Experience, however, allows them to accurately gauge their needs and travel lighter. In real life, employers recognize the value of experience and look for workers who are no longer afraid to accomplish great things.

In addition to his walk across American and along the Appalachian Trail, Rogers has completed 800 miles of the Pacific Coast Trail and numerous shorter hikes. He currently works as assistant scout executive for the Daniel Boone Council of Boy Scouts of America in Asheville, where he lives with his wife and 5-year-old daughter. He has published a book about his cross-country hike entitled “America One Step at a Time.”