Goodbye Amsterdam, Howdy Montana

How the tech industry enabled my 2nd thru hike

“Once in a lifetime experience” – what a lie.

I’ve heard that one, time, and time again pre, during, and after my PCT thru hike. Every time I’d smile and nod ignoring the tight feeling in my chest. Once in a lifetime? No. I knew I wanted to do more thru hikes than the PCT before I had walked a single mile. But by the time I reached the Northern Terminus in mid-October 2023, I was exhausted, and the thought of leaving for another thru hike in just a few months? Unrealistic. I was pretty broke and tired of constantly being on the move.

It was time to return to Europe and find a job.

Zoom meetings in national parks

I was still backpacking around the west coast after the PCT. Hence my job hunt included interviews via Zoom in national parks while using the wifi at visitor centers. Often I woke up at 5 am or earlier for meetings in European time zone. All of this felt unprofessional but the trail had given me a new confidence. And so I just blurred out my background on the meeting and confidently answered the screening questions.

After walking 2,650 miles I felt like I needed a new challenge and decided to change my career into tech sales. But when I finally received an offer after multiple rounds of interviews, the company gave me just a 5-month contract with the justification I needed to “prove” myself. They will only hire from December 4th to May 4th and then reevaluate. 

Staring at the screen with a lump in my throat. I’m disappointed. May 4th.

Suddenly, I smiled and whispered to myself “May the force be with you”. Something my dad used to say, my dad who got me into this hiking craze in the first place. I received the job offer on a Friday afternoon while I was carrying groceries back to the Calabasas motel where I was staying. It’s November by now but still hot. A salty tear streams down my face.

The universe has left me a message. May 4th. CDT. I am doing it.

Heartbreak in Amsterdam

“I’m going on another one”

4 months later. I was sitting in a dimly lit bar in Amsterdam on a sturdy wooden table opposite my best friend. Twisting the tiny 0.3-litre beer glass uncomfortably between my fingers. Staring at the floor, staring at the faded paintings on the wall, staring at the bald spot of the bartender. My eyes wandered everywhere, just to avoid looking at her.
“I’m going on another one” and when our eyes finally meet, her image gets blurry.
Embarrassed, I wipe the tear from my cheek.

My flights are booked, my gear has been patched up from last year’s PCT adventure, and everything I own fits in three boxes. Maybe there’s excitement somewhere deep down, under all the stress and guilt. The sadness. But today I am not excited about thru-hiking the CDT. It hurts to leave and it hurts even more to do this to the people I love.

“Isn’t it a bit rushed? I mean, you just came back…” She tries to smile but I can see the pain in her dark eyes. She’s right, of course she is. My PCT hike ended October 13th, I spent another five weeks in the US before starting a new job in Amsterdam last December. Now it’s March, four months flew by like it’s nothing.

I ended up liking the job and they offered me an extension, which I accepted. For May. When I told my boss I was leaving to walk from Montana to New Mexico, he didn’t say anything for a little while. I thought he had hung up on me.

Mouse in a trap

“You’re so lucky you get to do this”, people say. Again and again, at the airport, on my final day in the office, on my Instagram. They mean well and I do feel lucky when I am out there, thru hiking. But in between hikes, there’s a deep low.

Many years ago, I lived in an old apartment in the center of Amsterdam. Overlooking a canal. With creaky floorboards, draughty windows, and mice. We put traps out to get the mice under control and for weeks we didn’t catch one. Until one morning I walked into the kitchen and heard an unusual scratching noise. I crouched down to see a tiny grey mouse stare up at me with large black eyes. Frightened, panicked, fighting to be free again.

And these past months, glued behind my laptop screen, watching the grey skies of Amsterdam outside my office window. I felt like that mouse. It was time to escape.



title photo courtesy

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