Turning a Someday Dream Into a Plan

As the days have been counting down to the start of my hike, I have been reflecting on how I got here. To be honest it has snuck up on and surprised me. For such a long time, I have had this dream of someday I would like to thru hike the PCT and now I am about to board a plane and fly to San Diego to do just that. I think we all have these someday dreams, but all to often they stay just that, a someday dream. I want to share how I turned my someday dream into a plan in hopes that it may help you make something of your someday dream. Here are the steps I took:

Understanding the Why

The why behind a dream is never to be understated. The why is the reason and force behind everything we do. It is the energy that drives all the work. I have a different post about my why here so I won’t completely repeat myself, but I will highlight its importance.

Why do I want to take a 5-6 month break in my career, move away from all my friends and family, and abandon the comforts of modern society? Why do I spend a year’s savings to go walk in the woods? Why do I want to put my legs through over 5 million steps risking all sorts of injury and danger? The PCT doesn’t make sense without a solid why. I could never turn my dream into a plan without knowing why I really wanted it.

Understanding the What

I almost forgot to mention this step and take it for granted, but it is also another important step. I wasn’t born with the innate knowledge of what thru hiking is; I had to learn it. The years browsing hiker blogs, checking gear lists, going on my own adventures and building my own experience helped me understand what it is to thru hike and what I needed to do to make it happen. Without all those little moments of research, I wouldn’t be prepared for the next steps.

From my first time hiking in the Sierras (2012) a key moment in my Why

Identifying and Addressing the Barriers

One of the first things I was taught in engineering school is how to solve problems, chiefly, how to take a big overwhelming problem and break it down into small steps. Inserting a thru hike into a growing career without major ramifications is a big problem to solve. Since there are several things that were outside of my control, I decided to take the approach of removing every barrier and excuse I could come up with that would get in the way of hiking. Thus, when the things I couldn’t fully control lined up, it would be so easy to hike the PCT. The ideas was to make thru hiking something that would fall into place in the life I had made. Here are the 6 barriers I spent the last year and a half removing:

1) School and work

I think school and work are some of the biggest barriers to a thru hike. It took me 10 years to finish all my post secondary education. There wasn’t much I could do about the barrier of school but wait until I finished, and then make sure I didn’t sign up for a 4th degree. There were some days I thought about it, but thankfully reason found me.

Removing the barrier of work was a bit different. The traditional ways of addressing this is to quit or hike during a transition. I did the latter to hike the Long Trail in 2022. I didn’t see another transition in my near future and I enjoy my job too much to make flat out quitting a primary option. That left me to try to request a leave of absence.

There is a lot that can go into requesting 5-6 months off work with no stable means of contact during the early side of one’s career. For me it came down to being a part of a team that values me and my work life balance, working for a company that promotes flexible work arrangements, and proving my worth to my team (so they keep a job for me to return to). Thankfully that all aligned to get me the time off I requested. 

2) Finances

Finances are pretty self explanatory. Thru hiking requires savings. I spent a little over a year saving up through adding a saving target to my budget, working a side gig of art commissions, and living with my parents for 6 months.

Me working on a stained glass commission that ended up being a big help towards reaching my savings goals

3) Lease or mortgage:

What to do with all my stuff and living space? I knew having to break a lease would be an added financial cost I didn’t want to deal with. If I had a mortgage, paying that while not making an income would be more difficult. My housing search was put on an indefinite hold, goodbye Zillow, leaving me to rent until the rest of life aligned for a thru hike. In renting, I shortened my first lease so that it would end in March to coincide with the start of the PCT season. If the PCT didn’t happen that year, I could then keep renewing 12 month leases until it did. 


I have worn glasses or contacts ever since second grade, but working towards hiking the PCT changed that. The additional logistics and weight of daily contacts aren’t ideal, but it was really the risk of eye infection that was a barrier for me. Imagine hiking for a few months, only to get an eye infection from putting in contacts with dirty hands and being forced off trail. I try to keep good hygiene on the trail, but there is no good way to keep your hands sanitary every single day. I saw my eyes as a barrier so I went and got LASIK surgery and am contact free. 

5) Responsibilities:

Being single, no kids, no pets, and with parents that are independent is a definite blessing when it comes to planning a thru hike. The barrier here was to keep a similar status quo. I refrained from getting a pet and made sure I dated with the mindset that I would need someone supportive of my dream to hike.

Not having a dog of my own never stopped me from loving my parents’ dogs while writing this post

6) Permit:

The PCT requires a permit. Yes my midwestern friends who find this surprising; hiking out west requires a permit to protect the environment from overuse. Talking about permits is borderline planning instead of removing barriers. However, I include is a a barrier because I never mentally committed until I had one. I had a bad lottery placement the first round in November, but then caught a stray open permit the day after Christmas. If I didn’t get a permit date I was comfortable with, I was going to wait until 2025 and try again. 

Making the plan:

Once I had all my barriers removed, making the plan to hike became easy. I no longer had any excuses left to put off my dream. My permit gave me a date and all that was left was to secure the time off with work, book a flight, plan my resupplies, and train. 


So, what is your someday dream? Your why? Your barriers? Your plan? Are you going to let your someday dream stay a someday dream or are you going to change that?

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