An Ode to Not Having a Plan: Why I Haven’t Planned My PCT Hike

Today it is exactly one month until I set foot on trail. Hiking the PCT has been such a long time coming, I can hardly believe it’s becoming a reality. I won’t truly believe it until I touch the southern terminus monument. All the worries that have been occupying me for so long, like saving enough money, getting all my gear ready, locking down a visa, are done and sorted now.

I really tried not to plan too much and to balance this against the need of friends and relatives to keep track of me. Whilst still making sure I finish the trail before my visa runs out or winter hits Washington. Not planning has been a very different experience for me.

I’ve had a plan all my life. From high school to universities to internships to jobs. As soon as I finished one phase of my life, I had a plan ready for the next one. Not having a plan actually terrified me. So I rushed from occupation to occupation from country to country and from place to place. No moments of reflection in between. And now I’m thirty and looking back on all those years, I wonder where I was going. What was I reaching for?

Not Planning is Also a Plan

So now I’m fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, I have made a conscious effort to not have a plan. Sure, I have prepared and I have familiarized myself with the trail. I know what to expect in the desert, in the mountains, and in the forests. I know how to keep myself safe. I have an idea of what pace I need to keep to reach Canada in time. The towns I will reach in between wildernesses and national parks. But I don’t have a daily itinerary. I will go when and where the mood strikes me. My only compass will be the 18-inch wide trail to follow south to north.

I also don’t have a plan for when I finish the trail. The only thing I know for certain is that I have to leave the US but the rest is wide-open. I quit my job. I don’t have a house I need to get back to. Or a significant other waiting for me. Sometimes ideas pop into my head for things I could do after the trail, like hiking the CDT, moving to New Zealand, investing in a cabin in the woods in Sweden, get a cool job in Brussels or London. But I push them away. I don’t want to think about afterward or make plans.

A Live-in-the-Moment Experiment

This hike is going to be the biggest exercise of living in the moment I have ever been in. All I need to do is be. Hike, see where the day takes me. No responsibilities. I know the closer I will get to the endpoint, the harder it will be to not plan out my future. Stepping into the unknown scares me but it is also a relief. It’s a present just for me. I can’t wait to discover what it feels like to wake up and have nowhere to be. No expectations. I’m going to take my time and savor every moment. And I hope somewhere along the way I will finally find what I’m looking for.

The last one to Canada wins.


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Comments 3

  • Leslie Gerein : Mar 5th

    Good girl!! The non-plan-Plan is the best. It’s so important to have flexibility of Mind out there. I think quite possibly it is the best asset you can bring to your hike. Keeping your expectations in check/low/flexible is also huge. Overplanning leads to expectations not being met and frequently, disappointment. So There! You are going to be Golden out there with this mindset. Enjoy every moment.

    Tour Guide Class of 2012, Canadian, lover of the desert. Class of 2014 and 2015 SoCal/desert.

  • Crossword : Mar 6th

    It’s actually best not to plan when on the trail. Any plans would quickly be useless as things happen. Stay in the present! Daily meditation helps with that. Not planning for after the hike makes sense. You will be a different person and you will meet all kinds of people. And from the sound of it you have no obligations to anyone but yourself. Stay focused and safe travels.

  • Deadpool : Mar 6th

    Wow, great mindset to have. Why not have it all the time. Don’t just be in the moment, savor the moment. Don’t worry, take it all in. Smile all the time.


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