By Brandon Thrash

As the time comes closer that I begin this odd and unfamiliar adventure, I find myself already becoming more reflective of my life and it's relationship to the world around it. I already find myself to be a more polite and patient person than three weeks ago. More loving and caring. Why is that? Has my return to the South already resurrected a little bit of southern hospitality that had previously remained dormant? Have I always been this way yet only recently had time to reflect on my personal growth over the past two and half years? For a number of reasons, I initially reject these rationalizations and focus on one key fragment of my life that has been the most defining over my time in San Francisco. Responsibility.

About three weeks ago, I went on a hiking trip with a quirky and random group of individuals. One of these individuals, John, lives his life in a way that would make most people uncomfortable. Blindly optimistic and dizzyingly spontaneous, John's life gives most people a kind of "life vertigo." Balancing on the fringe, but never quite tumbling off the edge.

It was John who first pointed out to me that I had an exorbitant number of keys on my key ring. I fumbled to explain away my reasons for having so many keys, and as I did so, I began to realize each key was tied to a responsibility in my life. Work keys. House keys. Car keys. All representing a responsibility to others or objects in my life.

As it stands, three weeks to the day later, I have exactly one key left (my parent's house key). When I leave for the trail, it will be my only key. My only remaining tie to the responsibilities of my life off the trail. Only responsibility to my family.

As I shed all responsibility to others and objects in my life, and I begin to further emphasize only responsibility to myself and my own happiness, I find that I am more patient, kind, and caring than ever before.

It takes a certain level of selfishness doing what Justin and I are doing. It would be a false rationalization to claim anything else. Over the next six months, we are responsible to only ourselves and each other. I think this is an important thing to note, realize, and accept as we head off together for six months of reflection and dialogue.

The question I ask myself and will challenge Justin with, is how do I retain the happiness, care, and patience that became so prominent recently when my life once again becomes loaded with keys?