The second step to make it real

As of 14th November 2019, it is official: I have an official permit with a starting date to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail next year!

This is the second step to make it really happen, after having my sabbatical granted earlier this year. Steps three and four are to come soon – get a B2 visa for the USA and book a flight.

Despite all the hours – make that days – I already spent with planning, it still feels surreal that, in little more than five months, I will be standing next to the Mexican border, with my home for the following five months strapped tightly to my backpack.

People ask me if I’m scared once they learn of my plans. Of course I am. The best kind of scared, though, like when I stood in front of a climbing wall for the first time, watched the thin rope disappear above me and took a last deep breath before wrapping my fingers around the first hold. The kind of scared I felt as a child when the stabilizers came off my bike for the first time and I knew I was likely going to fall, but the temptation of really riding a bike and racing down the road was just too tempting to care.

People sometimes ask why I would try such a hike, and I often ask myself the same question. It is a massive undertaking, it costs quite a bit of money and so much time. I will be away from family and friends and probably feel the impact on my career. I have pondered my motives in depth and still can’t give a concise answer.

One thing I have realized, though, and that ties back into that experience of riding a bike for the first time, is that I feel that I am sometimes too far removed from that childlike, exhilarating joy for my own good. Hiking is simple enough, in a way, to bring that youthful exuberance back out, to live in the moment and just enjoy. Of course it is going to hurt. There will be blisters, there will be sores, there will be aching knees and burning calves, there will be cold and rain and dirt, but just like that very first bicycle ride, it will be worth it. Hiking such a long trail isn’t really that simple, of course. There will be planning too, careful judging of conditions like the searing heat in the desert and treacherous snow in the mountains, there will be thunderstorms to avoid and raging creeks to cross safely.

Hiking, so far, has given me the impression that the child in me and the world-wise adult aren’t mutually exclusive, something we often forget in our busy lives. The hope to rid both parts of myself of the luggage of every day life and to bring them into balance is one big motivation for this undertaking. Just one out of many.

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