Why Am I Hiking? For Simplicity and Freedom
“Why are you hiking the Pacific Crest Trail?”
This is the golden question for thru-hikers, but ironically one that is hard to answer (at least for me). I have noticed that my “why” has been changing throughout the preparation of my 2,650-mile trek. But if I truly dig deep and find the most honest answer possible, I am hiking the PCT because I simply cannot stop thinking about it.
My obsessive thoughts about hiking for months at a time is how this whole “I am going to hike the PCT” thing started. But then, when the decision to thru-hike was all I had accomplished, I really started to question my motives.
“Am I trying to run away from my current life?” No.
“Has this been a dream of mine since I was a little girl?” No. (I was going to be an Olympic gymnast. I’ll check that off my list next year.)
“Am I going to hike to fund-raise for an honorable cause and donate all of the proceeds?” No.
So then, why?
Instead of trying to figure out a better “why,” I focused on why I couldn’t (and still can’t) stop thinking about this fantasy of doing a thru-hike. I truly am fascinated by the concept of living intentionally. This is coming from someone who is a slight hoarder, as in someone who still has T-shirts from middle school because “One day I will fit into this Hollister shirt again! I swear it.” It’s ugly and out of style and *really* ugly, but I need it just in case. So this idea of living intentionally challenges me, and quite frankly, scares me to my core. What does it look like (and feel like), to live off only what one can carry on their back? The simplicity of that kind of lifestyle drew me in and I wanted it.
Another facet to my yearning is that right now may be the only time I can actually do something this crazy. I am 28. Single. No kids. My legs still work. And that screw that is loose in my head hasn’t been tightened in a while, so now is the time. I just simply don’t have the responsibilities that many others have. I also am fairly healthy, and I never, ever want to take my health for granted. I believe that we as humans naturally want to postpone things because “it’s not the right time,” but seriously, when is the right time? I slept in a warm bed last night and literally questioned myself as to why I would ever choose to sleep outside on the ground in the cold over this warm, cozy bed. And the simple answer to that is, freedom.
Freedom. That’s right. Free from all obligations and responsibilities. I get to be in the desert or the mountains or swimming in a lake and just get to be free. No work, no set schedule, no real responsibility, except keeping myself alive, which I have successfully done thus far. I am sometimes so bogged down by guilt and shame and bills and work schedules and deadlines and failure and the list goes on and on, that the fantasy of living without any expectations from the outside world really sparked something inside of me.
Now, I must say, there is something incredible about the “real world.” Consistency, relationships, growing families, etc., are all beautiful parts of life. But right now, just right at this moment, I want to be wild.
I think my not being able to stop thinking about thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is good enough reason to make this decision. I mean, I don’t have to be out there. If I hate it, I can leave. But what if I fall all sorts of in love? With myself, the trail, and others? I am betting on the latter happening.
So, why am I hiking the Pacific Crest Trail?
Because I think I can. I think I will love it. And because I think it will make me that much better of a person, and really, how incredible is that?
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