Meet the woman planning a 20,000-mile trek from Argentina to Alaska

From Eat, Pray, Love to Wild – the New York Times Best Seller made even more famous by Reese Witherspoon’s amazing portrayal of the protagonist in its recent film version – we LOVE a good travel story. And even more, we love a good travel story that involves introspection, life reflections, and a challenge that pushes the traveler outside of her comfort zone.

Bethany Hughes, 29, is the latest woman to inspire us to think outside our at-home boxes and seek adventure in the great outdoors, as she is planning to embark on a 20,000-mile journey this upcoming December. The trip will take her from the southern tip of South America (Ushuaia, Argentina) to the northernmost city in North America (Barrow, Alaska).

Oh, and she’s doing it entirely via non-motorized means, which will take an estimated FIVE years.

Though this is Hughes’ longest and most arduous hiking undertaking to date (and would make her the first known woman to travel the length of the Americas in this fashion), she’s no stranger to long treks on foot. Five years ago, she hiked the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, from Mexico to Canada. And the need for discovering the world in this way is in Hughes’ blood – she credits her parents’ time as Nazarene missionaries in Central and South America for inspiring her.

When she was a child, she’d hide in the backseat of her dad’s car when he went on hiking trips until he was too far from home to turn around when he realized Hughes was in the car with him. But aside from any personal goals Hughes has for herself on this trip, more than anything, she really wants to give back to others. She will be stopping in villages along the way to discover how their people live and figure out how she can help contribute to encouraging opportunities for women, promote education, and lend herself to other societal needs.

“I really want to inspire others to pursue their own audacious goals,” she told CBS Los Angeles. “Our world is only as big as the information that we allow to come into it, so I believe being able to share what’s going on to the opposite side of the world, and that they’re not so different than us, we’re going to make it a lot further.”

Hughes, who studied at Oxford and has spent the past several years saving for the trip (which will cost her about $12,000 a year), understands there is a lot of risk involved. She has taken wilderness-survival classes to prepare and expects things to come up that she can’t possibly anticipate. But she knows that is part of the journey, and that high reward sometimes comes with higher risk. She will also have a travel companion for the South America portion of the journey: Lauren Reed, whom Hughes met during her Pacific Coast Trail adventure.

“Things will happen as they happen, and if there’s something dangerous, my hope is we’ll figure it out,” Reed told CBS Los Angeles.

Depending on the weather, Hughes will travel by foot, bicycle, canoe, and perhaps even dog sled at some point. She’ll carry all her supplies on her person, restocking as needed in villages she passes through along the way. She also has technology on her side, having planned her route using Google Earth and making use of DeLorme’s GPS system to both stay on track and permit a group of U.S.-based volunteers to monitor her progress.

“I think the world is ready for a message like this,” Hughes said of her upcoming adventure. “That little girls should pursue their own dreams.”

We couldn’t have said it better, and can’t wait to follow along with stories of Hughes’ journey that we hope pop up online in the next five years.

(Image via Shutterstock)