Today I decided to begin a journal to help document the decision-making, prerequisites, training and everything else that will go into planning a through hike of the PCT this time next year. Perhaps if I start engaging in the journal, the idea will become more of a reality. Initially, the posts will probably be a lot of rambling on about what brought me to this decision and hopefully will keep me focused, but may involve a lot of back and forth on whether I should or should not do this.
First things first, my interest in the PCT was sparked in Spring 2010 when I saw a Nat Geo documentary about various people embarking on a through hike from Mexico to Canada on the West Coast. Growing up in New Jersey with a father who loves and studied the deep woods of the NJ Pine Barrens, I also developed an interest in all things outdoors. I had always known about the AT since I was young, as my dad had hiked several sections in the NJ/PA area. I also read Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" at a fairly young age, but never heard about the PCT. Certain life events led me to Colorado, where I fine tuned my interest in hiking, particularly in the Colorado Rockies, where I spent almost an entire summer tent camping and working with a trail crew to build a horse trail in RMNP. Fast-forward several years, I moved back to the East Coast, finished college and got a job in Banking. A couple years later I found myself in the concrete wilderness of New York City with a great job in finance that was quickly becoming very lucrative.
I have always been "restless"...never feeling truly "at home" anywhere. The most at home I have ever felt however, was when I was living in the Rockies, waking up with the sunrise and going to sleep at sunset. Perhaps my body really functions best when tuned in with nature...who knows, but I'm sure it's like that for a lot of people once they experience it.
Anyway, that day in 2010, watching that documentary whilst sitting in my 500 square ft NYC apt, I realized I wanted to do that. I saw the hikers trekking through the Sierras in running shoes and running shorts and thought about my time spent in the Colorado Rockies. I didn't realize it until now that my subconscious was setting in motion an idea that would keep resurfacing over and over.
I am still working in the same profession, same company, same position, but in another city, Philadelphia. Over the last six months I have grown increasingly unsettled in my position, realizing more each day how unfit I am for Corporate America. I listen to the Senior Execs drone on and on about things and people that I don't care about. I know there is something more intended for me, but over the last 6+ years I've been so caught up with trying to prove myself professionally that I've lost who I really am inside. Even worse, I've let money be the driving factor for the decisions I'm making. For each of the last four years, I've earn six figures and have recieved a progressively hefty year-end bonus. I bought a car, a house and lots of stuff. I have never been an acquirer of "things" just for the sake of having "things", but I have allowed my financial position dictate my life. I am by no means complaining, but the salary and bonus are probably the ONLY things keeping me at my current job...particularly my company. I am sitting on a promotion within the next 6 or so months, which will propel my salary to a whole new level, with a minimal change in day to day responsibilities, as I am already performing at that level now. But that does not inspire me to give any more to that world than I already have. I feel drained, I have gained weight, and for what? A higher salary, a higher level position, respect of people who probably lived their entire lives fitting into a box and have no desire to be any different. All of this has really been the big motivator, but the hurdle for me is giving up what is seemingly should be a "great" position to be in, "particularly in this economy" as my family and colleagues would say (although I haven't told anyone but my parents about my "plan"). That's the problem, I will never fit into that same box, but I continue to try. That is why I need to get away from it to understand that there is more out there for me...and vacations just aren't working anymore.
Right now the plan is to work like nothing's going on, hopefully get that promotion before the end of the year (although it's not guaranteed), save as much as possible and secretly plan my escape for next April. By starting this journal I feel like I'm accountable for following through. I will have a lot of things to shore up before leaving but nothing I can't handle with some diligent planning and support.
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 2,650-mile national scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. The PCT traverses 24 national forests, 37 wilderness areas and 7 national parks. The PCT passes through 6 out of 7 of North Americas ecozones. Learn more: www.pcta.org