Walk Unafraid

“Courageous, stumbling
Fearless was my middle name
But somewhere there I lost my way
Everyone walks the same
Expecting me to step
The narrow path they’ve laid
They claim to
Walk unafraid
I’ll be clumsy instead
Hold me love me or leave me high” – Walk Unafraid, R.E.M.

(Weisbaden live version)

This song means so much to me, for many different reasons. It is about owning up to your faults and mistakes; about not being afraid to fail and stumble trying to be yourself and not who others want you to be.

I first heard that Aid Kit cover version back in 2015 when I saw the movie Wild.

It is also where I first heard of really long trails and the idea of thru-hiking. The notion that people walk for thousands of miles, for months in one go. The idea got planted. But it was just a dream. Or a dream of a dream. This far off fantasy, that some other, braver, better me would do, in some distant future.

Moment of Surrender

I’ve always put things off to the future. Things like moving to London or Berlin or just anywhere away from home. Things like getting fitter, so I would dare wear shorts and colourful dresses. Like getting a working holiday visa for New Zealand. Learning to play the guitar. To ride a motorcycle. Like getting a dog. A tattoo. Going to a U2 concert. Things like trying out different jobs, to see what is it I want to do. Things like buying a van and renovating it. Writing a movie script. Going on across Europe bicycle trip. Ride the Bernina Express and Trans-Siberian Railway. So many things I would do someday.

I’ve always played it safe. I didn’t quit university, even when it became so very clear I’m not a physicist by heart. I dragged myself thru a BS and then another 2 years of MS, which I then didn’t finish because my mind revolted.

I took a safe job – data analytics and engineering – that didn’t excite me in the slightest, but it paid relatively well. Stuck at it thru the pandemic, because no way I was brave enough to change jobs during a crisis. And besides, I was dealing with additional one at home – struggling to end another unhealthy relationship. Breaking up and the aftermath of this one left me in pieces; not because I missed the guy, but because I’ve been here before and I honestly thought I should know better this time around.

So, during quarantine, I was mostly alone, living in a tiny flat in Ljubljana, stuck in a sea of concrete. Working from home, with a downstairs neighbour who kept complaining I’m making too much noise, even though all I did all day was sit behind three computer screens. One thing that kept me at least a little bit excited about life, was the YouTube vlogs of PCT hikers. Heading Somewhere, Elina Osborne, Homemade Wanderlust, Mari Johnson. Thank you. Thank you for keeping me sane during those times.

And then it finally hit me. I find no true meaning in my job. I have no relationship, no dog (yet!) and no debt. No real obligation to anyone and I finally have some money saved up. Now is the time.

Finally Moving

I committed to this journey in the summer of 2021. I moved back home with my parents (yay!) to save up some more money and to get away from the city. Each month I ordered a new piece of equipment, so every month was kinda like Christmas (You’ve Got Mail! ?). But still, it didn’t really feel real.

Then comes The Permit Day. When the portal opened, I was in a car, driving home from a business trip in Munich with my coworkers, who couldn’t know about anything yet. Luckily I have really good friends – one of them secured a permit for me. Little did I know, how lucky I was to get a permit at all – even if the start date was about 2 weeks after the one I wanted. I joined Facebook groups the next day and read comments there… I got really really lucky with just one device in the permit line.

The next step was getting a visa. Again lots of comments on FB groups: “There are no dates for visa appointments till September 2022”. What? Seriously? And here the advantage of living in a really small country comes in – I had an interview date 3 weeks after I filled out my DS-160 form. But then I got covid in January. Luckily quarantine ended one day before my visa interview, which lasted about 5 minutes and I have been granted a B2 visa. Which is supposedly valid till 2032? Insane.

Walking back to my car, it hit me. This is getting real. I’m really going.

At the end of February, I quit my job (I had 2 months’ notice in my contract) and bought the last big pieces of equipment. I booked a plane to LA and an Amtrak ticket to San Diego. I’m staying with Scout and Frodo before I hit the trail.

She Just Wants To Be

I finally stopped putting my life on hold. Funny thing about making this decision to hike the PCT? It got the snowball rolling. I quit my job. I got a tattoo (okay, I got two of them! ?). Two weeks ago I even secured a working holiday visa for New Zealand, so now I have a plan for life after the PCT. A plan that excites me.

Even if I don’t make it to the northern terminus, this journey has already been worth it.

p.s. Watch out for those song titles.

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