Imagine that you are an astronaut preparing to leave your family, your friends, your comfy bed, a well-rounded exercise routine, TV, WiFi, showers, and fresh food in order to embark on a mission to Mars. You would move through “normal life” in a daze, knowing that the seemingly mundane comforts of life as you know it are about to become a distant memory. But the mission is calling, and you know you must go.
This is the sensation I’m experiencing with four weeks until I begin the Pacific Crest Trail, which spans 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada and will take me almost six months to complete.
I didn’t feel it this intensely before I started the Appalachian Trail in 2016. I was a thru-hiking newbie then, so I didn’t truly understand what I was in for. Now, with one thru-hike under my belt and another about to begin, I am starting to stare in awe at refrigerators full of food and hot water that instantly flows from the faucet; I can’t help myself but to eat all the things, drink all the things, snuggle all the people, sleep in, take long showers, and savor getting dressed up. The scarcity mindset is setting in hard because I viscerally know what I’m about to give up. I should probably be preparing for the trail by weaning myself off of things, but instead, I am doing the complete opposite.
As mind-numbingly trippy as this pre-hike stage is, I have to admit that it is one of the most profound parts of the overall journey. In a way, it forces me—no, compels me—to live like I’m dying. How would you savor “normal life” if you knew you were about to lose it? Who would you make time time for? What would you say that you have been afraid to say?