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Chasing the Wildest Dreams

Katie_Sherrill_webBy: Katie Sherrill
Alpha, DePauw University

“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.” – Cheryl Strayed

I recently read the book Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, where a true real, strong woman hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone in the late ‘90s. For those of you who don’t know, the Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. Strayed embarked on her journey with little hiking experience and still completed the trail—a feat many seasoned hikers can’t even do. Finding inspiration from Strayed, my Alpha Chi sister and former roommate, Allison Orjala, decided to embark on a journey of her own.

I remember when Allison first began telling me of the dream she had to drive up the west coast to Washington and then east to Minneapolis on her summer break from teaching in Alamogordo, New Mexico. She would stop along the way through 11 national parks and even more state parks, camping when she could, hiking along some of the most intense trails with the most beautiful scenery in the United States. Despite having never traveled in that section of the country, she was passionate, excited, a bit nervous, but overall ready to take on the adventure. She actually has a track record for embracing her free spirit – one year during our campus winter term she backpacked through Puerto Rico with a friend for three weeks – so I knew this would be another amazing trip for her to add to the memories.

Just like Strayed, Allison is brave and she is strong. Through months of planning – and countless conversations about what backpack to buy and which parks to visit — she embarked on this trip without looking back.

Throughout her journey I followed her through whatever social media outlets she posted on, eager to see the incredible place she went next. Her adventures were fascinating and might as well have been a book of their own. She slept among the Joshua trees in the Mojave Desert, got an impromptu tattoo in San Francisco and drove through the mountains at Glacier National Park, embracing each landmark and experience for whatever it could teach her.

I couldn’t help but feel an overflow of admiration for Allison for being her own version of Strayed in achieving this dream. Having dreams is one thing, but achieving them is scary and daunting, and it takes a lot of strength. I never once doubted Allison would embrace the trip with all that is has to offer.

I’m so grateful to Alpha Chi Omega for putting this inspiring, daring and full-hearted real, strong woman in my life. Her journey has done nothing but encourage me to take on some dreams of my own. And the best part? I know for Allison this is just the beginning. This particular dream was just one of many, and I can’t wait to watch her continue to follow her dreams.

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