And I walked the Pacific Crest Trail.
The hike has ended, but it burns in my mind. Thoughts of the trail resurface daily. An experience difficult to describe in my own reflections and in conversation. Mysterious and sacred. It still teaches me. I sometimes can’t believe that I finished. I completed what I set out to do. As I approached the end, feelings rushed in. Proudness, sadness, happy that I can stop walking-ness. Sorrow because I can be dangerously nostalgic. A chapter closed. And damn, what a good chapter. A chapter that you don’t typically find in other people's books. A chapter that few of us will share, who can all lean on this experience until we are wrinkled and gray. We will continue to share it . A chapter that I actually felt like I got to write. I don't want to let it end. It’s the heavy pit you get in your stomach when summer camp ends, but worse. Similar because the sunshine & dirt will no longer cloak my skin. Similar because the friends I made won’t be there when I get home. Similar because of how simple life was. Worse because I wasn’t gone for 1 week but 5 months. Worse because I had made a home in the wilderness and had to leave it.
Reintegration into society, a tough process. The world, overwhelmed when I left, everything was noise, always busy and rushed, irreverent. The world remains that way, only now I can't ignore it. The symptoms you'd expect. The part I didn't expect was the struggle to retain what I've gained. To maintain my perspective, to apply the lessons that I’ve learned. To be who I’ve become. The world I returned resists. I lived life contrary to our society. I fight to remain simple, but the world i live in refuses to honor my claim. I slow down, the world honks. I crave deep headspace but my thoughts are procrastinated and distracted. I pray for peace but find stress. I am suddenly aware of all of this common discourse. To experience life in its fullness leaves me wanting it back.
I will never forget how it felt to be in the wilderness that way. I’ve since returned to the wilderness, brief in comparison, but helpful, definitely helpful. Like turning down the volume knob on the rest of the world. You can, for a few moments, forget the rest of the worlds existsence. What you thought mattered doesn’t matter. How do I create an atmosphere in my normal life that facilitates the freedom and depth that I experienced on this journey? The slightest representation might suffice. The wilderness isn’t replicable, but it’s lessons are. We must relentlessly demand back our time, our space, our physicality, our humanity. Prior to my time on the trail, my schedule constantly overlapped itself. Tasks and events shoved between wake and sleep. The world we live in equates busy-ness with importance. We portray important people as busy. Being busy doesn’t make you important, being stressed doesn’t make you important. It only makes you a slave to your duty. I want time in my day to be overflowing with nothingness. And I don’t want to feel anxious about it, like I need something to be doing.
Feeling at peace was common on the trail. One of the greatest things I’ve gained is a heightened sense of self-awareness. I’ve never been so in touch with my own thoughts, and to think about what i’m thinking about. Why do I have these thoughts? I started to notice patterns, why are my thoughts negative? Why am I re-playing this moment in my head over and over again? It’s a type of mindfulness that people teach classes about. We have services in the world that are meant to center people, help them control and understand why they think the way they do. It seems so obvious and simple but is so rarely practiced. Like most other things, it’s a muscle that has to be exercised. Now it’s difficult to go from using that muscle every-day to using it rarely. Those few moments a day when I get the chance to stop and take a few deep breaths, are the best. I need to work harder for those.
I'm finding that I have to fight the natural urge for excess. Material Things ruin us. Living out of a backpack and sleeping on the ground teaches you how much you really don't need. Re-enter our consumerist society and you’ll feel the pull to have more and do more and be more. Nothing about it has changed, only now, it’s clearer, you feel it more, you’re aware of it. It's more offensive. It’s not just about material things, it’s about everything. When your days are reduced to eating, walking, drinking water, and sleeping, you realize that we do a lot of things, that typically don't have a direct connection to our well-being.
There are simply too many thoughts to share, I have withheld them in hopes that someday we may have a conversation about my experience, where we might both learn more about each other than we would from words on a screen.
Life after the PCT has been a whirlwind. I came back with the goal of creating more time and space in my life, slowing down, focusing on depth over distance. I moved back into my place in Oakland, where I lived prior to hiking the trail. I spent the first few weeks catching up with friends and settling in. Then I got to work on my plans for the future.
Firstly, I decided that working a full-time 9-5 job would make it difficult to create more time and space in my life, as it is what took up most of my time and I had very little control over it. I then decided to start my own marketing practice and operate as an independent marketer. I’m not sure what that will eventually turn into, but as for now, I can take on as little or as much work as I need, and for the most part, my hours are flexible. I get to work from wherever I need to.
Secondly, I started reconsidering my living situation. My current roommate, Josh is going to take over our place in Oakland with his fiancee, Jackie, after they wed in March. With a couple months left on my hands and a flexible means of work, I made plans to live on the road. I decided to build a camper. I found the perfect truck. A 4x4 1982 Toyota Pickup, with a flatbed. A vehicle that was fairly cheap, easy to work on, was told would last forever, and can drive over pretty much anything. That was my logic. I chose that over a sprinter van or whatever else people are doing because I wanted to build something myself, from the ground up, exactly the way I imagined. Plus, I wanted a vehicle that could take a beating.
In early December I drove it cross country. It quite make it. I broke down in Marfa, TX, a spec of dust in the desert that has recently gained a massive following for its art. It wasn’t the worst place to break down, I met tons of rad people and enjoyed art for a few days. I ended up having to replace the alternator in my truck myself, in an autozone parking lot, and it somehow worked. A proud moments. I made it to Houston in time for the holidays, where my family is. I worked with a fabrication shop to install an aluminum structure that I designed for the foundation of my camper. Everything was falling into place, I was on track to complete the build in January and have it livable by March. I hit the road back to California and experienced another breakdown. I stopped in El Paso, TX. Luckily, I had a place to crash for a few days while I tried to get it worked on. I ended up towing it back to Houston (10 hours). My friend Dayton - an absolute legend - drove from Houston to pick me up. We got a U-haul trailer and hauled my Toyota back to Houston. Now it’s parked at my grandma’s house.
I’m putting the entire project on hold and honestly re-evaluating my entire life. My goal is to simplify and I’ve learned the hard way that simplifying is not always a simple process. I still have hopes to complete the project in due time, but I’ve had to shift my focus to finding a new living situation because, come March, I no longer have a place to live. I plan on staying in the Bay Area, which is potentially one of the most difficult places to find a good housing setup. I’m still setting up goals for 2017 because so many things are up in the air right now. I’m stoked to be figuring it all out though.
Like I said, post-pct-life has been a whirlwind. I chose this path, and I hope to remain challenged.
I want to thank every single one of you who has followed along and read my thoughts. It has been insanely encouraging to hear from so many people who kept up. I’m going to continue to write on this blog, it’ll continue to focus on adventures and photos and deep thoughts and I’m excited for what is to come. In any case, it’s been a rad outlet to practice articulating my thoughts, share photos and stories, as well as pursue something creative that connects with others.
I also want to thank everyone who helped us out along the way, we wouldn’t have been able to complete the trail without the insane hospitality and help from the people we encountered. Whether it was a ride, or a place to stay, or a care package, or even a few words of encouragement, it means the world and I’m eternally grateful. I have a LOT of paying forward to do.
Thanks again for reading. It was a wonderful experience and I found that indeed, "heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads."