Yesterday I did an interview on the 700 Club. I’ll admit, that before this week I had never watched the 700 Club. Furthermore, because I live a stone’s throw from downtown Asheville and spend my summer’s on the trail, I’m not used to communities where everyone shares the same faith.

When I arrived at the show, it was weird to feel like a part of a bubble were the TV station, Regent College, and local hotel were all part of a Christian property and atmosphere. People would even bless me when I rode the elevator or walked down the hall - I am very blessed right now.

I think bubbles are good, for a time. Regardless of what faith you are or what you are most passionate about (politics, art, music, etc…), it is good to spend time with like minded individuals who can challenge you, encourage you, and understand your reasoning. The problem is, once inside of that bubble, it is often hard to leave.

Before I started the AT in 2005, I decided that I was going to avoid talking religion and politics at all cost. I was comfortable in what I believed (or so I thought), but I didn’t like confrontation and I didn’t want to offend anyone by sharing my beliefs. The problem is, the trail is really long, and you are going to run out of things to talk about with the other thru-hikers pretty quickly if you are not willing to be yourself. I very hesitantly started opening-up to other hikers about what I believed. Slowly, I started to learn than sharing my faith was more than stating a religious thought, it was simply revealing who I was. And I learned that the pot-luck of humanity on the trail was more than willing to love and accept me for who I was as long as I returned the favor.

I don’t believe in pushing religion, I believe in answering questions honestly - and if faith plays into that answer then we should be willing and able to speak about it. The modern trend is to view religion as something that is not politically correct. But in a land that is as free and diverse and beautiful as America, we should never be afraid to simply be who we are.

The trail provides us with a healthy, non-judgmental atmosphere where we can question, learn, and grow. I am so thankful for all the atheists, agnostics, mormans, christians, jews, hindus, and countless unclassified hippies that I have interacted with on the trail. They have taught me about their beliefs, helped me to embrace my own, and loved me - beyond a label - for the person I really am.