Published Feb. 8, 2018 on TheTrek.co
I’m still not entirely sure how to prepare my body and spirit for a 6-month-long journey by foot across the continent though I’ve done it once already (AT 2016). I think because I’ve done it before, I understand the gravity of the discomfort I am signing up for.
Through-hiking is glorious and life-changing, but in order to do it, you need to make peace with what you are losing.
With 6 and a half weeks now until I start the Pacific Crest Trail, the awareness that my life is about to dramatically change is affecting my behavior and thought patterns. I’m noticing myself eating more junk food as if preparing for increased amounts of processed wheat and sugar in my diet. At the same time, I have been ceremoniously eating arugula and spinach salads every day, savoring each bite knowing that fresh, vitamin-rich foods are about to become a rarity in my diet (…anyone know about edible plants along the PCT?!).
When I get up in the morning and walk to the bathroom without any stiffness, the realization that I’m about to hobble every morning for the next half a year hits me. Suddenly, pain-free walking seems like a miracle–one that I am acutely aware I’m about to lose.
Perhaps most bittersweet is the imminent loss of affection and connection to my close friends that I have enjoyed these past few months. After returning home from through-hiking the Appalachian Trail, where I had gotten used to being alone all the time, I went through an introverted phase for almost a year. Only in the past few months has the extroverted, people-loving me come back in full force. This past weekend, when visiting college friends in LA, five of us were smooshed together in a cuddle puddle on the floor of my friend’s house. In that moment, I felt comfort and a relaxed joy coupled with the uneasy feeling that I’m about to forgo experiences like this for half a year because I’ll be so preoccupied with hiking, eating and sleeping.
I could choose to let this transition time scare me by fixating on the “loss” of certain aspects of my “civilized” life. But like everything in life, understanding that good things come and go makes every moment sweeter; it helps you realize that every simple pleasure is a huge blessing.
And I know that something that looks like my current reality is waiting for me on the other side of what will be one of the greatest experiences of my life–walking from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. I don’t know who I will be afterwards, but I know she will be better because of the journey.
When choosing any path in life, what you are actually choosing is how you are willing to struggle.
Without struggle, you couldn’t fully appreciate the beauty of every little victory you experience along the way. So here’s to ritualizing our reverence for the good things we are about to give up for the great things we are about to gain.