The Next Phase
Five years ago this May, I traveled west for the first time in my adult life, on a journey to Zion and Great Sand Dunes National Parks. It was my first big trip, my first true adventure, it planted a seed. I still remember hiking up Angel's Landing and staring off into the valley below, I think every time I've found my way back there the meaning of that view has changed. Since that first time in the deserts of Utah I've spent half of a decade exploring North America, growing my love of the outdoors and trying to answer the question, "What's next?". My cushy reality is that not much has really changed for me since I graduate college two years ago. I live in the same house, drive the same car, spend my time doing pretty much the same stuff I've been doing for years and in 7 months when I get done walking, all of that could change. I'll be technically homeless, my life will be scattered and my perception of what it means to me will probably be altered forever.
My response to not yet knowing my answer to what's next, I've decided, is going to be to leap wholeheartedly and unequivocally into this next phase of my life. I've spent the better part of these five years planning for the next thing. I've planned for the next trip, the next financial hurdle, the next step I needed to take to go and hike the Pacific Crest Trail and have a 99.9% chance of success, the next whatever it was. I planned and planned and planned and it left me with a great set of skills and a great understanding of the world but it also left me with the problem that I always feel like I need to have a plan.
I'm not talking a rough idea of a plan, I'm talking down to the gnats ass planning. The type of planning where you know exactly how many steps it is from Point A to Point B before you even walk them. That type of planning can't happen while I'm on the PCT, it will be this wild adventure, full of unknowns and I desperately am trying to accept that before my world gets rocked by a lack of control in anything other than moving my feet and going North.
On that first big trip out west, we had planned to hike Zion's West Rim and summit Mt. Herard above The Great Sand Dunes, none of that happened. We couldn't get permits, the snow was still too deep and we had no idea what we were doing, we came up with a plan weeks before and just ran with it. That trip in 2016 was and is still one of my favorite trips because nothing went according to plan and we still had a wonderful time. I don't know if its because my expectations were lower back then, or I was more accepting of adjustments to plans, or what, but that's where I want to get back to during my 5 months on the trail. My goal is to accept the rhythm of this journey I'm about to set off upon. My goal is to grow myself by trying to shed some of my less positive traits. My goal is to get lost and decide what my passion really is because at the end of the day that will drive me in everything else.
At the end of the trail, part of me thinks I'll turn around and go back south along the AT so the journey never ends. Another part of me thinks I'll find a place along the way that's just too good to leave and find my way back there. There's a teeny tiny part of me that thinks I might get sick of being outside for awhile, and I'll hang my pack up and settle back down to a desk in Cincinnati for a bit. Another part of my mind has its sights set on the idea of a slice of land somewhere in the woods of the Pacific Northwest with a couple of hand built cabins where friends and family can come and go as they please and what I do can change by the day. These are just a few of my dreams and guesses at what life in 12 months looks like and honestly, I'd be excited to stumble into almost any of them.
The question I hope to answer along the PCT in the next several months is "What do I actually want next?"
As of this morning I put my two weeks notice in at my job, I’ve determined its not part of what’s next for me and that first step was terrifying but exhilarating. In 73 days I’ll set foot on the PCT, in ~223 days I hope to cross the Canadian Boarder at the end of my hike, after that I hope to be happy and find the place, the job or the purpose I’m looking for.
“The unexamined life is not worth living”
The Hopeless Wanderer