Am I Putting My Life on Hold?
My name is Dan, but my friends call me Miz (I don’t have a trail name yet but looking forward to gaining one). I was born and currently live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Like a good, typical Canadian, I grew up playing, watching and breathing hockey.
My family moved to San Diego, California, when I was in middle school. I enjoyed long walks on the beach, hiked some of the numerous trails San Diego has to offer, and participated in many sports. I found the lack of seasons to be strange. To have warm weather and full sun all year was different than what I was used to. This move affected my life in a lot of ways. I struggled to make friends and fit in at first. However, I eventually found my way and met some really awesome people. I picked up the game of lacrosse while in San Diego and this sport became prominent in my life.
After a few years of living in sunny San Diego, my family moved back to Toronto, where I graduated from high school. I went on to attend university in northern Ontario. I chose this college for its array of on-campus trails (which include hiking to a breathtaking lookout and a waterfall), access to prime fishing lakes, and the lacrosse team. Here, I met some of my lifelong best friends and enjoyed every second of my postsecondary experience. My friends would tell you I graduated with a master’s in ice fishing and lacrosse. I tended to spend way too much time outside and not enough time studying. There is just something so enjoyable about walking onto a snowy lake on a cold day, drilling a hole, sitting there for hours, and hoping for a fish. My lack of focus on school did not stop me from graduating from university with a degree in environmental history. My grades were also good enough to get me accepted into a postgrad program (environmental history degrees do not lead to too much).
During my postgrad was when I became exposed to the world of backpacking. I had always had a passion for the outdoors and loved hiking, but I had never experienced backpacking. I had done some car camping but quite frankly, found the lack of activity boring. Once I experienced backpacking, I had the bug. Since graduating from my postgrad, I have been working a Monday-Friday, 9-5 typical office job, living for my weekend adventures. These include long-distance day hikes on the Bruce Trail (900km trail in Ontario) or multiday backpacking trips. My most recent trek was with my childhood friend Thomas, who introduced me to backpacking. We visited the La Cloche Mountain Range in Killarney, Ontario, where we backpacked the 90km (55 miles) La Cloche Silhouette Trail.
While researching different backpacking trips, I came across the PCT. The trail instantly called to me; it captivated my attention and imagination. I dreamed of the day I could be dropped off at Campo, to see the Southern Terminus and start hiking toward Canada. I think about romping around the PCT with a trail family or hiking through the snowy peaks of the Sierra in awe of their sheer beauty and size. I have officially fallen into the trail’s spellbinding trap. After months of daydreaming and researching about backpacking the PCT, I decided to commit to a NOBO thru-hike. On May 14, 2020, I will begin my PCT thru-hike.
Putting Life on Hold
After committing to a PCT thru-hike I began to tell my close friends and family about my intention to attempt a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. Most have never heard about the trail, but a few knew the trail from the book/movie Wild. Those who have seen Wild envisioned me as Reese Witherspoon, a beautiful blonde all alone in an expansive wilderness, with a pack way too big for me, and a challenge that seems impossible. I had to correct people that I am nowhere near as pretty as Reese, nor is the PCT as desolate as experienced by Cheryl Strayed. I would then provide some background info on the trail and an explanation of why I’m hiking. Normally a barrage of questions would follow. People tended to ask questions such as: Are you going to be safe? Do you have the gear/money? What about your job? Why are you putting your life on hold? This last question slowly began to bother me. Why do people believe that this trek will put my life on hold? A few internal debates later, I realized it was because I am stepping out of what is traditionally expected of me.
For most of my life, I have tended to follow the societal norm. I went to school, did my chores, played sports, bought a car, graduated from university, got a job, and started saving money to buy a house. Most people thought I would continue to follow the path society sets and go on to get married, buy a house, raise a family, retire, and grow old. In truth, before a few months ago, I thought I would follow that exact path.
After my first year of 9-5 working life, I began to struggle with the thought that for the rest of my life I will fight traffic to get to an office, sit at a desk for eight hours, stare at a computer screen, attend a meeting or two, talk to colleagues, leave work, fight traffic home, make dinner, sleep, and repeat. It felt like I was living in the movie Groundhog Day. I was experiencing the same day over and over again with my only relief coming on weekends when I could escape the repetition.
I realized this is not a lifestyle I wanted to live. This is not a lifestyle I believe humans are meant to live. John Muir stated: “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” I have become the tired and over-civilized person Muir refers to and it’s time for me to go home. Nature is where I have always felt most alive, where I am most connected to who I am, and where my anxiety fades away.
Now, before my parents read this and start having a heart attack, I am not becoming a full-time vagabond—I prefer the term part-time vagabond. I do realize that life working in an office may be inevitable. But, before life’s constraint pulls me in, I want to experience something more, something truly magnificent. For me, that is the Pacific Crest Trail. For five months, I intend on leaving my job and societal norms to frolic my way around the PCT. On May 14, 2020, I will not be putting life on hold, but rather I will be escaping the normal, the predictable and living my best life, on my terms.
Thank you to everyone who has read this post. Feel free to follow my PCT thru-hike on my newly developed Instagram (@mizhikes). I look forward to sharing more with all of you! Happy hiking!
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