Ah, the proverbial “now what?”. It’s a question I knew I would have to face eventually post hike – it just ended up being earlier than I expected. This is not the first time I’ve mulled over what’s next, but it feels like the first time in a while where I actually seem to have no idea what I’m doing.
So, why am I writing this post in the first place? I’ve found that seasons of transition are a process, and I thought it would make sense to share a bit of that process – ultimately, it feels right to sort of wrap up my PCT posts in this way.
The number one question I get when I run into people right now is “What’s next?” It brings me back to when I was 21, at a friend’s wedding, and someone’s parent who I hadn’t seen in years asked me “So, what’s your five year plan?”. ~Insert awkward, nervous laughter and a polite response I pulled out of my…pocket…~ Five year plan? I didn’t even have a five month plan. Five YEARS? I’ll be THIRTY in five years from now. I’ll be happy if I can get a rough outline of the next five weeks from now. That’s not to say I don’t have goals or broad stroke plans or things I hope to accomplish… but, I’m learning life is really a lot more fluid than people make it out to be.
The reality of life is that you can try to plan all you want, but there will still be things out of your control or out of your scope. You can’t plan for foot pain that ultimately takes you off trail; for the moments that pop up, both good and bad, that shape you. You can’t plan for a change in heart or direction or passion. So many things, you just really can’t plan for, and because I didn’t plan for my adventure to wrap up so soon, I planned to have more time to think through what might come next.
And, with that in mind, I have to give myself transition time. Even though my hike was cut short, I still spent nearly two months out on trail. That’s two months of living a very specific lifestyle, one that is pretty singularly focused. It takes time and patience to get back to non-hiking routines and rhythms.
As for now, I am back in my hometown. It’s more of a transitioning space, a temporary place, (AKA I do not plan on staying here), while I begin the job search. I’m looking for jobs that might spark something for me, and considering what specifically I want to pursue for this next season. The past few years have been filled with a lot of full time experiences in the outdoors – 6 or so total months at Beyond Malibu in Canada, and then almost two months on the PCT, so it’s kind of hard to let go of being outside as my occupation. That being said, I’m not sure where exactly this next adventure/job will be, and I’m not sure what exactly it will be, but I look forward to it (and if anyone has any good leads on graphic design jobs, or something similar, let me know!).
Others things happening now: in my quest to enjoy a good ol’ Pacific Northwest summer, I made my (rather ambitious) return to long distance day hiking that resulted in 24 miles by the time I was back home. It’s one of those things – I enjoyed the company, the views, the exercise, the challenge. I did not enjoy how much of a fail it was for my feet and my knee. Ultimately, though, it reaffirmed my decision to leave the trail. If this was me after a single day, after time off, with only a daypack, I don’t want to think about how much worse my body would have continued to feel hiking day after day.
How I Want to Live My Life
While there’s so many things I’m taking away from my experience on the PCT, this might be the top one: I don’t want my life to be a series of “maybe laters” or “I’ll do that whens”. Did this whole adventure end up as I thought? No. But I started. I was brave enough to begin. Brave enough to go out there in the first place, when a past me might never have even tried. I would never have known my feet would hurt like they did if I didn’t go out and attempt it. It’s too easy to go our whole lives just wondering what that big adventure might be like, instead of stepping out and doing it. I know that sounds like one of those cheesy inspirational posters, but it’s the truth.
We should do the things we say we want to do. Pursue the things we want to pursue. The timing will never be perfect, the people to go with may never be around at the right time, the weather will never line up as you want it, some random family friend or distant relative will always have something obnoxious to say about how you’re choosing to live your life. Go anyway.
To finish off, for now, my blogging about the Pacific Crest Trail, here’s a quick recap of all the things I miss (and don’t miss) about life on trail.
- My cozy little tent, where I get to sleep in a new place each night.
- The beauty and the challenge, where I can take pride at the end of each day in knowing I walked here – pushed my body – accomplished something very tangible.
- The newness each day brings.
- How being a hiker seems to push social barriers away. I can rock up to a tent site, set up, know that I will likely never see the dudes already camped there again unless our pace lines up exactly, and yet still spend an evening eating dinner with them, and talking about whatever random thoughts buzz into our heads (so, thoughts on food, pain, and funny stories, mostly). Hikers are really just like a bunch of pre-schoolers asking each other “want to be my friend?” and it’s not weird. Maybe you end up friends, maybe you don’t, but there’s no social rules or steps telling you it has to be more complicated than that. Ya feel?
- And so, so much more!
I’m all for transparency, though, and social media doesn’t always demonstrate the absolute crap that the trail can be. Sorry, it’s the truth.
I Don’t Miss
- Feeling like I’ve defied the laws of age and time, and am actually 207 years old, hobbling around anytime I get up from sitting down.
- Being hungry all the freaking time; I ate meal replacement bars as snacks.
- Deliriously staying up all night in my tent, PRAYING that nothing breaks or collapses as the wind attacks my campsite
- Digging a hole to poop in. Pooping in the woods is a funny thing. You can’t beat some of the views you get, and it’s nice that – keeping LNT principles in mind – you can pretty much go wherever you want to go. HOWEVER, the actual digging of the hole to go in is obnoxious. The ground is too hard, their are too many rocks, suddenly you really gotta go, and it’s just not enjoyable hunting for a patch of ground. If you ever see someone running on a trail, no backpack on, pockets stuffed with TP and a trowel, clear the way. They are on a time sensitive mission for soft ground.
I’m so thankful for this experience on the Pacific Crest Trail (and hope to continue with sections of it in the years to come), and so thankful for everyone that has rooted for me along the way. Ending early has been harder than imagined, but I would still choose starting the hike, over just wondering what it might be like, any day. Thank you, thank you, thank you for following the journey.
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