My Goal is to be Goalless

Therapy made me realize something

I was headed for the same thing on my thru-hike attempt of the PCT that I’ve been trying to stray away from. Goals. It’s not that I dislike goals completely. They are healthy in moderation and have helped me achieve a lot. However, I often live with my head in the future. This has fueled me to graduate college, get into graduate school, work hard, and save. But in all my dreaming, I have forgotten to enjoy the process. It has always been I will rest when … instead of I will make the best of my life now.

Where did I get these Ideas?

My Family

A single mother of two, my Nana left her job to return to nursing school school when my mom was a junior. My mom watched as my Nana gave up her car and became nearly homeless to get an education she hoped would improve her and her children’s lives. It’s no wonder that after seeing her mother go back to school, my mom decided to turn things around for herself. She changed her friend group, started attending classes and getting good grades.

My mom as a teenager

My mom did get into college; however, at 19, she became pregnant with me. Despite her cheerful attitude, things were hard for her. We lived in our car, family student housing, and a house so moldy I had pneumonia that didn’t go away until we moved. She worked hard in everything she did, throwing herself into motherhood, and into her career and graduating college. To prepare me to avoid her hardships she raised me to care about school and my future.

My mom at 21 with lil old me

The ambition and drive of my nana, my mom, and I serves a function. When we are struggling, we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and kick ass. There is one key difference, however, between them and me. They had to go through the trauma of struggling to provide for a baby as very young adults. They had to kick ass. It was a survival mechanism. I don’t have to pull myself out of poverty or support a child. Yet I save and work as if my life depends on it. Sometimes I feel that this gets in the way of me prioritizing my happiness.


I worked multiple jobs while in school full time. No one could see how depressed I was due to how high functioning I was. There were always priorities over what nourished my soul. The funny thing is, I didn’t have to work so hard. I could have taken out loans or asked my family for support.  I had this idea that I needed to do it alone the hard way. I’ve come to find out that despite my terror of being poor, living at 2,000 in the bank feels much the same as living with 20,000 saved. Especially while on the trail, I’ve realized I really don’t need much money to survive and be happy.

Hiking with friends don’t cost a thing

The American Dream

The American dream is my dream; to have a family, a little homestead, and a good career. All that I do has been working towards that faraway goal. It wasn’t until my first 55-mile hike on the PCT that I started asking myself; is that what will make me happy? There are many things I know make me happy: hiking, contra dance, art, friends and family, and my pup. It seemed odd that so much of what currently makes me happy wouldn’t fit into my dream. Buying property would mean having less opportunity to adventure and being farther from my family. Homesteading would take time away from the work I love doing as a counselor (and who am I kidding, I garden a couple times a month at most). Is this dream really mine? Or did I adopt it from Instagram?

My Grand Realization

My grand realization, which seems quite simple, is that I don’t need to have the perfect life before I start living. In all my striving towards my next goal I had forgotten that my life is now and not in the future. That is one of the biggest reasons I am getting on the trail.

I got 5 months but I wanted 6

In all my planning, I had slipped into my goal-oriented mindset. I had accidentally set my hike to be five months instead of six, making it a faster pace hike than I thought I could complete. Feeling anxiety over whether or not I could finish the hike, I had to slow down and ask myself; am I doing this just to tack another accomplishment on my resume? (And yes, I did seriously fantasize about putting it in my resume. Conceited? I know.) Wasn’t the whole point to break away from my accomplishment-oriented life and live in the present?

I got 4 months but I wanted 6

I felt immense happiness and sadness culminate into a strange numbness when yesterday I was accepted into San Jose State Universities Masters in Social Work program. It had such a low acceptance rate (around 20%) that I was sure I wouldn’t get in. My start date for classes is August 21st, forcing my hike into a four-month adventure instead of the slow six months I had originally wanted.


Of course I did the math. Was it possible to complete in four months as a fat, first-time long-distance hiker? The answer is unlikely. If I want to enjoy the hike and not push myself to injury, I probably shouldn’t average 22 miles a day. When I thought I had five months my goal was to be OK with not finishing (but I secretly still cared). Now that I have four, I have to come to terms with the fact that I will absolutely not finish this year.

What does living for happiness mean to me on the trail?

Having less feels like more. I have so much stuff that I don’t really need to be happy, and the less junk I have the more I can focus on the things that really do bring me joy. Living on the trail really is the epitome of minimalism I am interested to see how that will test me.

The dreams of the future I have seem to pull me into living for something I don’t know will actually make me happy. I want the time and space to not work towards the next best thing. This means living in the present more, finding balance on the trail of when I need to rest and not pushing myself to make big miles if I don’t need or want too. This journey should be as joyful as possible for myself not another miserable way to push myself towards an accomplishment.

I will be spending as little as possible due to my trail partner only having $3,000 to spend on trail. However, as I see my bank account dwindling, I may have anxieties arise. I’d like to remind myself how unless I stress about it, I will not feel the difference in money impacting my life when I get off trail.

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Comments 2

  • Chris : Mar 6th

    Wow, 4 months. Still possible,.. being in San Jose isn’t a bad area, especially if you end up having to skip NorCal, you could always head up and finish that section later. Good luck!

  • Kirsten Liske : Apr 30th

    Lucia – this is so wise, as all your posts are, and oddly I am still in the same journey at 54 you are – how to shift to being and enjoyment over high functioning doing. The trail is a great mix of that – you have to work hard AND it powerfully pulls you to stop, pause and enjoy while living with very little.

    Just back from my Grand Canyon trip where it was both HOT HOT HOT and thunderstormy cool both, I thought of you a lot and am sending blessings!



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