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  • Writer's pictureVariant Magazine

Ohio University Student Finds Herself After Traveling Over 10,000 Miles

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

By Emily Squance, Blogger

Last fall with Ohio University online, many students weren’t able to come back to campus and unfortunately, Madison Munsell was one of those students. Instead of taking online classes at home in Cleveland, Ohio, she decided to do something that she had always wanted to do; take a spontaneous trip by herself and drive through 13 states, over 10,000 miles, while hiking in four national parks.

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Munsell has always thrived outside surrounded by nature, but she’s never embarked on a journey like this one. She defied all of her family and friends’ expectations and did what she wanted to do the most: truly live.

“It was kind of off-brand. No one was shocked, everyone thought it made sense for me to do this but they didn’t think I would do exactly what I did. My family didn’t expect me to go to the lengths that I did, the hikes that I did and even the miles that I did,” Munsell says.

Munsell emphasized that, even with the thousands of miles that separated her from her family and friends, she never felt alone. Her first stop was Glacier National Park where she camped for a week. That was supposed to be the end of her road trip, but little did she know that one-stop would change the course of her life as she knew it. She fell in love with the mountain town and her true inner self.

“It was the place I found peace for the first time in a really long time. I think that’s why it ended up being the most special place I visited because that’s where I found myself. I’ve never found myself until I went out there,” Munsell says.

Munsell felt she was just going through the motions of life but she was never doing anything of substance. The traditional route of life doesn’t fit everyone. Munsell feels like her trip to Glacier opened a door for her to find her passion for nature and traveling.

“I found my true passion, what I want to do with the rest of my life and what I want my future to look like: not necessarily having a career, getting a degree or being stuck behind a desk,” Munsell says.

After Glacier National Park, Munsell didn’t want her adventure to end. She wanted to continue to experience the beauty of the open road and endless possibilities. Munsell traveled to Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park and ended her trip in Acadia National Park.

It’s easy to view life from the perspective of the small town that you grew up in. Munsell discovered that getting out of Ohio and experiencing the world firsthand can shift everything. It’s hard to truly know what that life is like unless you see it for yourself. Through Munsell’s travels, she discovered more about nature, animals, and even people than she ever could’ve imagined while making memories that will last a lifetime.

“When I was hiking the Highline Trail, I got charged by a big-horned ram. I jumped down the side of the trail and just ran. My adrenaline was so high that I continued to hike seven more miles,” she says.

Munsell also kept a journal to document her trip. She continues to look back at her entries to bring herself a sense of peace and fulfillment. One of her entries truly encompasses the raw emotions and feelings she felt on her trip:

“Right now I’m sitting on a rock at the beginning of the Highline Trail, the most popular in the park. Today I feel so good, I don’t feel numb anymore. I don’t feel like I’m just going through the motions anymore. I feel like I’m finally living my life,” Munsell wrote.

She continued to write to her future self as a reminder of what life truly has to offer. She encouraged herself to continue to persevere through life by remembering the moments that changed her forever.

“The sun is shining and I have never felt better in my entire life. Never give up and never stop chasing your dreams. Adventure is calling your name, and don’t block it out; just go for it. I never thought I’d be able to do something like this especially by myself. When you are sad, read this, you will make it. You’ll figure it out and life will go on. This is the moment and feeling I’ve been searching for my entire life. Today I feel like life is finally worth living, don’t let this go,” Munsell wrote.

Munsell continues to use her experience to guide her toward her future. She hopes to buy a plot of land one day to have her own farm with cows and chickens while living a minimalist lifestyle.

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