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Q&A with Alex Brueckner ’11

Created: January 13, 2020
Last Updated: September 1, 2020

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What sparked your interest in traveling?

Studying abroad in Cologne, Germany, while at W&J definitely tipped the first domino. I remember when my mother picked me up from the airport, she said, “We’ll probably have to nail your feet to the ground to keep you in the States.” And not two weeks later, I broke the news that I was planning on applying for an English teaching job in Japan as a part of the JET Program after graduation.

What has been your favorite place you’ve traveled to?

That’s like asking a parent to choose their favorite child! I’ve left very few places without the desire to return someday. I’ve found that my favorites are the ones that challenge me and push me outside of my comfort zone.

Japan will always hold a special place in my heart, though, because I think of it as one of my homes. That first foray into post-graduation adult life is difficult in almost any case; learning to live on my own in an entirely foreign environment fostered a lot of confidence.

So what led to you hiking the Appalachian Trail? Did you just wake up one day and decide it was something you had to tackle, or had it been a longtime goal?

The Appalachian Trail (AT) had been on my radar for a few years as a “someday” goal. For all of the places I’ve been, I’ve barely explored the U.S. I knew the AT would give me an opportunity to discover the regional backyard that I’d basically ignored for the first thirty years of my life. 
In August 2018, I finished up two years of teaching English in South Korea and had no plan for what I wanted to do next. In the spring, I met with one of my former W&J professors and laid out all of the things I was considering. She said, “You aren’t talking about any of these other choices with the same exuberance that you are the Appalachian Trail. I think you just need someone to tell you it’s okay.”

I pulled everything together in three very hectic weeks and started my hike April 4 at Springer Mountain in northern Georgia. After 134 days and 2,192 miles, I finished at Mount Katahdin in Maine Aug. 15.

What were the biggest takeaways from your hike?

A lot of the things I’ve done in my life have given me the feeling of, “If I can do this, I can do anything.” All of them pale in comparison to the sense of achievement that finishing the Appalachian Trail gave me.

For as amazing and rewarding as my experience was, it didn’t change the fact that the Appalachian Trail is hard. If you hike the whole trail from Georgia to Maine, it’s the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest sixteen times. I loved the hike, but by the end I was more than ready to be done.

What’s next for you? 

In October, I joined the team at Audley Travel in Boston as a Japan Country Specialist, a role in which I’ll be building/planning custom itineraries to Japan for clients. I can’t wait to turn my professional interests back to Japan, especially because I’ll be facilitating the same kind of experiences that made me fall in love with the country for other people.

 

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