The Mountains Are Calling My Name
It’s September 1998. I am born on a Saturday morning in a 500-year-old storehouse in the city center of Amsterdam. While growing up, I became a city lover. I savor the dynamics and atmosphere of a city. Different cultures emulsifying, food from all over the world, and countless museums to visit. The city is always awake. In the summer breaks my family and I would often visit a city somewhere in Europe and combine that with a week at shore. In those summers my parents “forced” my sister and me to go on day hikes. My sister didn’t mind, but me on the other hand, I despised hiking. I would often express my distaste in a loud protest, or sometimes I would even refuse to hike any farther and silently hike back within the first half hour.
All of this changed in the summer of 2013. We went to Lago di Como (Lake Como) in Northern Italy, which is surrounded by mountains. The scenery was something I had never seen before. Here and then my love for the outdoors was born. From then on, the only thing I fantasized about was hiking in the mountains.
Instantaneously I understood John Muir’s most famous words:
“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
The summers following Lago di Como were about one thing and one thing only. HIKING.
As a freight train I discovered the magical Swiss Alps, the rough terrain of the Dolomites based in Italy, national wildernesses Hardangervidda and Hallingskarvet in remote Norway, the quiet mountains at the German and Austrian border and the gorgeous Austrian Alps. I felt reborn.
I couldn’t stop exploring the beauty out there. All those individual, mesmerizing and life-changing trips lead up to this moment:
Attempting to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
Six years ago I read a book called Wild: From lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. I know this sounds incredibly cliché, but it planted a little seed that eventually grew into an enormous tree with deep roots and branches reaching high into the sky. The book Wild is, of course, not my reason for hiking the PCT, it’s simply where this all started.
A lot of people are asking me why I am going on a 2,650-mile hike. Why would someone want to hike that many miles? I asked myself that question over the years as well and every time there is a different answer. I would like to share some of those answers with you.
First of all, there is nothing holding me here in Amsterdam. I just finished my degree and decided to not immediately start working. That means I don’t have a job. Secondly, I still live at home with my parents. Therefore I won’t be dealing with leaving a house behind or having to sublet an apartment. As a third, I don’t have a partner. That one speaks for itself. No one is holding me back!
Me, Myself and I
This is the time to do something for me, and only for me. I am someone who always looks after others and takes care of other people. I absolutely love doing that. Nevertheless, in the process of doing so I forgot to look after and take care of the person who matters most. Me.
I feel like everyone around me tries to become something. I want to unbecome and be who I was meant to be.
I have been in a very complicated relationship for the past five years. This is something I have barely spoken about and just recently started opening up about. I feel like a part of me is lost. For me the trail isn’t about soul-searching. I won’t go searching for that lost part. It’s about finding peace with losing that part of me and finally closing this chapter of my life. I hope the PCT allows me to be whole again.
Unfortunately, I (like many others) have experienced adversity, sexual harassment, and assault. This is something I have partially dealt with and accepted. However, I hope to continue this process on the PCT. I want to give it a place and move on.
It is difficult to put it into words, but this feels like something I am supposed to do. I believe everyone creates their own purpose and it’s all in our own hands to make something happen. This is my something. I am making the PCT happen, because I feel it’s where I truly belong.
So what do I say when someone asks me why I am hiking the Pacific Crest Trail?
I look at them and smile, thinking about all the reasons I could tell them. I always end up saying:
“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
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