Can You Change a Stressed, Procrastinating Overplanner?
I have half-written this post
a million times twice.
The procrastinator in me had to wait until two days before I started walking to write it, because that’s just who I am.
I didn’t pack my backpack or suitcase until two hours before we left for the airport yesterday. I didn’t finalize my resupply boxes until yesterday morning. I didn’t start dehydrating a bazillion dinners until a month before I left. In fact, I still have some chili running in the dehydrator at home right now (shout-out to my parents).
But I made it; we made it. Here we are, Mom and me, sitting inside our Airbnb two blocks from Mission Beach, relaxing. This is just what I needed after months of seemingly never-ending stress and planning and overplanning.
Not If, but When
Since I was a junior in high school, I knew I was going to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. The question was never if, but always when. That’s how my whole life is really; I set my mind to do things and go places, and the question has never been if, but when will I have the time and money to go out and do these things.
Thru-hiking as a high school student was not realistic for me. Sure, I could section hike from June until September, but I don’t think I would ever want to go back to school. I would feel incomplete and daydream about fully completing the trail until the next summer rolls around.
Besides, everyone should experience a true thru-hike, right?
The initial goal was to complete the trail in 2018, the year after I completed high school. After starting a new full-time “starter job” in my career path in February 2018, I didn’t feel it was appropriate to quit only two months later. It wasn’t realistic and saving money had not been my main focus in the previous year. Saving money is hard when you’re the “not if, but when” type of person. It’s also hard when you make minimum wage while putting forth maximum effort. *Cue my push for fair, living wages for EMTs and first responders.*
2017 was my “when” year for so many things. I graduated high school and finished my associate’s degree, spoke at said graduation, went to prom, traveled to five countries, seven states, went on endless day hikes and backpacking trips, and even paid for a guide service in an attempt to summit Mount Rainier.
But 2019 is my new “when.”
The When Is Now
November is when I really started to make this lifelong dream a reality, because it was permit application season. Hiking the PCT had been a brain-baby of mine for years, talk of it occasionally happened, but it was just time to commit.
I work for a large corporation that has a massive monthly turnover rate, so the chances of me not getting re-hired are *fingers crossed* very small. I didn’t travel nearly as much in 2018, I had the opportunity to work copious amounts of overtime, and most importantly, I still live at home. The only bills I pay are my car payment and Spotify Premium; shout-out to my parents for not charging rent.
With discussions of moving out with my boyfriend in the next couple years and moving forward in my career by starting to test for fire departments, there really is no time like the present.
So I did it. I applied. And I got a permit!
So You Have a Permit; Now What?
I got my permit and started preparing myself for the months to come, knowing that preparation is the hardest part. Aside from, you know, walking over 2,600 miles. I’m a list-maker, so that’s what I did.
The list started broad: figure out gear, resupply strategy, time frame, and mental prep.
Sure, those seem simple on the surface, but boy oh boy are they complex.
It took me six hours to decide on a new sleeping bag, and it’s not even a sleeping bag, it’s a quilt! There was such an intricate criteria to e v e r y single piece of gear I own. E v e r y single outdoor website was scavenged, a l l of the REI garage sales for MONTHS until I found the perfect piece of gear. And then it was on to the next piece.
Then came the resupply strategy: nutrition and towns. Researching what and where you should and shouldn’t eat, buy food, or sleep is time-consuming when it is over a 2,600+ mile span.
Hearing it’s been a high snow year in the Sierra and figuring out if the place you are planning to resupply at will even be open by the time you’re there. Trying to plan so your family and friends can meet you places and having to stick to those dates because they have already been approved for the time off work. On top of the endless hours spent researching, I had to continue normal life: a full-time job, a social life, hobbies, physical fitness, mental wellness, etc. This may not sound like a lot, but it was.
I know the trail provides and you shouldn’t worry about money, blah blah blah, but I am such an overplanning worrywart that I can tell you every exact detail off the top of my head about where I will be when and what I will be eating.
That’s why I am so thankful I planned almost three full beach days of relaxation into this itinerary.
This is the mental health portion. Relaxation and rejuvenation. All the stresso, depresso, and (sadly) espresso are melting away into the sand while the sun revives my soul. Watching the waves creep up higher and higher onto the shore is not only soothing, but reflects
the sun into my baby night shift retinas the journey I am about to embark on. I will be creeping higher and higher up the globe. Every step, every day, every mile I walk, I will be closer to Canada. I will be closer to completing my first solo backpacking trip. Closer to my home and my friends, family, and dogs. I will be closer to completing my first thru-hike.
But completing my first thru-hike
is isn’t the goal. The journey along the way is what I am most looking forward to. I know, cliché. The ever-changing scenery, the trail culture, the moments of triumph and tribulation that accompany everything. I want it all.
Overplanning Is Useless
I can’t plan out the whole journey, as much as inner me wants to.
I can try to prevent injury, plan out when I will be somewhere, the miles I will cover each day, how long I will stop in town for, etc.
But I can’t plan injury, the wonderful people I will meet, the experiences I will have. I have to live in the moment to meet these people and have these experiences. I have to be present.
So for these three days, I will be here on Mission Beach. I will be present.
Today we walked eight miles along the beach just exploring. Tomorrow we will kayak and ride a roller coaster. I didn’t plan an itinerary for this portion of the trip because I was too busy overplanning the PCT. And you know what? This has been great so far. There’s no itinerary and I’m loving it. Right now, I am present. And I like it. I can already see that the itinerary I planned is bound to change because I will change.
The Pacific Crest Trail will change me and I am so fucking ready.
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