Working On A Dream
The idea came to me two years ago.
I fell epically, painfully, and unexpectedly in love with someone who did not love me back. Through the darkness which shrouded my thoughts, the idea of the Pacific Crest Trail became a pathway out. A glimmer of light in the deep dark hole of unrequited love.
From a young age, I had been taught that nature can heal, so It was somewhat ironic that at the time of my heartbreak I was living in Fiordland, New Zealand. Here I was surrounded by dramatic mountains, lush rainforest, icy glacier lakes, and rare native birds. I was running a lodge kitchen on the Milford Track, what is described as one of the world’s greatest walks, and yet, I hated it.
I was surrounded by the natural elements so much so when the freak storms of the 19/20 season happened they cut us off from civilization for weeks on end. I couldn’t wait to leave and return to the yoga studios, cafes, and late-night cocktail bars of my previous life. Yet that’s when I decided I wanted to attempt to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. To jump from one reckless adventure to another. It still doesn’t make any sense to me.
Two years on, I guess my heart has mostly healed, but this idea, this dream of attempting a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, has been growing large, all-consuming. I successfully got a permit for the ’21 season but canceled it as the pandemic raged around the world and the vaccine was not yet available in Aotearoa. I wondered aimlessly about conforming to society’s expectations of a woman in her 30s, perhaps returning home to study, but I couldn’t. This dream had already become too real. Nothing provided a greater sense of purpose, more focus, and most of all, the thought of freedom, than the trail. Freedom is everything to me.
Crazy and Impulsive
I’ve done a lot of crazy and impulsive things in my 20s, mostly with a reoccurring theme, to heal my heart. After one bad breakup, I moved to Nicaragua as a hiking guide, when the country was on the brink of civil war. That failing, I then spent months pouring shots of Mezcal until the early hours of the morning in a dive bar in the heart of Guatemala. I’ve spent months in the Alps, cooking all morning and evening, skiing all day and partying all night, repeating until I couldn’t repeat anymore.
Once I even quit my career, left the city I was living in, and moved to Tanzania to escape an abusive relationship. I’ve been fortunate and privileged enough to experience the pre-pandemic world in which I am so, so grateful. But the world is changing, travel will change, it won’t and can’t be the same. There is so much pressure on the climate and so the way I want to experience the world has changed. I want to feel the effects in my body of my journey and to practice Leave No Trace. To travel by foot feels the best way to do so.
Leaving New Zealand
Two days after November 15th, the build-up to the day that had kept the thousands of us wannabe thru-hikers awake for days before, I was lucky enough to secure a permit and I suddenly started to question myself ‘what the fuck am I planning to do?’ The reality is, I will need to give up my life here in Aotearoa, and it is a life in which I have been happy in. With the border restrictions and the visa issues, it is unlikely I will be able to return to this beautiful country that I have become to consider home.
Suddenly, it felt like a gigantic risk. I sat on my bedroom floor surrounded by thousands of dollars of ultralight gear and panicked. I thought I had mentally been preparing for this for the last year. Do I want this badly enough to put myself in such a position of vulnerability in the US? I am terrified of hitchhiking and eating the same dry food for days on end. I am scared of getting bored of walking, of aching knees, and I’m scared of the regret of leaving New Zealand.
In my anxious state of mind, already regretting a choice I hadn’t even made I did the only thing I know how I took to the mountains for the next four days, and it was there I had my answer. Yes, yes I do.
The dream is Enough
I have come to realize that I have never felt stronger or more equipped or wanted something more in my entire life as I want this. I dream of those mountain vistas, the sand beneath my feet in the desert, the fear and excitement of the bears, the coyotes, and the mountain lions. I dream of the vast lakes, the glittering rivers, the knowledge that it will only be myself who is responsible for each step, each moment.
I crave the solitude and simple life that I hope the trail will give me. I crave the connections with like-minded people, all of us for all our different motivations, driven enough to walk a path through the blazing sun and the heat of the desert, the snow-capped mountains of the Sierras, and the cold rains of the Pacific Northwest, all of us becoming part of the modern-day beat generation.
So in only a matter of months, B2 visa permitting, I will be at the Californian/Mexican border, about to embark on what I am calling the greatest adventure of my life, and despite the original motivation of a broken heart, for the first time in life, I truly feel I am seeking adventure in this, not to run away from something, but to walk towards something I really, really want.
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