Hiker takes alternative path to successful education

Instead of heading straight to college, Anderson (top) trekked over 800 miles from Georgia to northern Virginia on the Appalachian Trail. Pictured below are the old-growth forests on the trail (left) and a view of Wizard Island (right). Brian Anderson/The Campus.

One look at 21–year–old Brian Anderson and you see the average college student.
Once he opens his mouth, however, you are entranced by the wisdom and charisma
From Hopkinton, Mass. Anderson graduated from  high school in 2008. Instead of being like the other graduates, who grabbed books and pencils and headed to a dormitory, Anderson grabbed a backpack and a plane ticket and headed west. Flying to the west coast, he reached Oregon Caves National Monument where he landed a job as a cave tour guide and environmental educator. 
He lived above the visitor’s center, made friends out of strangers, and learned to manage himself on his own for the first time.
That being enough for most kids, Anderson had yet to achieve another suppressed dream he’d struggled with all through high school. He wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail.
When he was much younger, Anderson passed through the Appalachian Trail and encountered a bearded hiker who had been traveling for months.
This man’s inspiring story became the fuel and secret desire of Anderson’s that ignited at the end of his senior year of high school. 
“I did not want to start my adult life without living my dreams,” says Anderson.  “College is always going to be there. Worst that happens is that you fail and you learn.  It’s really not that bad.”
Anderson’s parents were comfortable with his decision to have a “Gap Year” because they never had any doubt that Anderson would still attend college.
“We had confidence in Brian’s maturity, ability, and decision making,” says Sue Anderson, Brian’s mother.  “We were a little nervous, but he took Boy Scouts.”
The training from Boy Scouts of America pushed Anderson through environmental and internal challenges.
After December, Anderson returned home and acquired a job with a construction company. 
He worked for months until earning enough money for food, new gear and a train ride to southern Georgia.  Abandoning his cell phone, he set off on the Appalachian Trail. 
“[Hiking was like] doing what I wanted to do, every single day,” Anderson said.
He spent some days alone in reflection and other days with people, making friends of fellow adventurers.
For 28 miles Anderson hiked with a man from England, sharing stories. 
A separate night, however, proved to be Anderson’s night of reckoning. It had sleeted the entire day, leaving the trails nearly abandoned. 
Anderson was completely alone for the first time for an entire afternoon and night, and he was forced to be completely self dependent. 
By the time he reached northern Virginia, he had hiked 800 miles.
At that point however, Anderson had lost too much weight, and his forty pound pack would not tighten to his body.
One–third of the trail complete, Anderson returned home, dream fulfilled and ready for college.
Although falling short of completing the trail, Anderson believes that the value of his adventure still remains.
“It’s more of a failure for you to never try,” Anderson said.