And why I'm hiking 350 more...
Leaving behind the comforts of your home for a backpack and an adventure will change you in profound ways.
I think I speak for everyone on the trail when I say that I thought I was going to be going on a journey to find myself in nature, but what has been the unexpected twist is how social the trail is, and even more so how the people along the way have affected me.
While my trip isn't quite yet done, I can tell you some things I know for sure:
Extreme is the name of the game as survival is the objective, and you hunt for water, food, and the meaning of everything.
You come face to face with snakes, spiders, flies that will torment you, and the sun's hot wrath.
Showers are sparse, but more frequent than I expected.
You'll meet people who are younger than you, and bring out your youthful side, but you'll also meet people who make you think that maybe, just maybe, you want to be a dad and get in touch with your more mature side.
A boss lady named Clicker will remind you that sometimes you just need to keep swimming, and that we all have things we're fighting to overcome, but with persistence anything is possible.
Smokey and the Bandit will help you find your southern twang, confirm that no one likes to be sticky, and that sometimes saying "Roll Tide" is the best form of "hell yea" or "fuck it."
A breeze can change your mood, and shade can make your day.
You'll meet some one totally far out, and a Bear married to Ziggy.
You'll come across a legend who found a raven. A mountain lion will take you where you need to go at no cost, and a clover that wasn't four leaves became the luckiest one I've ever found.
You'll realize life is so simple and short, beautiful and beyond, cosmic and carefree.
You'll find yourself exhausted and wanting to quit, but if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other you'll make it farther than you could've ever imagined.
Half a subway sandwich, peanut butter and jelly, and just the offer of water will touch you in a supremely deep way.
You'll make yourself mad by talking in circles, and when you think you're finally done, you'll end up just saying it all aloud to the creatures around you.
Clarity finds you when you're ready to be found, and dancing and screaming at the top of a mountain will remind you what happiness truly is.
Strangers become family in the matter of days.
You'll forget about home, and then really miss it.
Any fear, doubt, and negative thing you've ever experienced will be brought up, and all of a sudden you'll be by yourself on a rock that isn't so comfortable with a backpack that's too heavy ready to move forwards in every possible way because you know everything is finally let go, you're free, and comfort is not a necessary need any longer, but a luxury earned.
Bravery, courage, and compassion for yourself and others champion the fear that the side of a mountain can make you feel.
Butterflies, beetles, lizards and rabbits take on a role of luck and friendship, and perfectly place you in your favorite childhood movies. They calm your nerves, and along with a random footprint in the sand remind you that you're never truly alone.
Stretching is vital. Not carrying enough water is suicidal. Ultra light doesn't mean white, and proper shoes and gear are everything!
Trees and tunnels will welcome you into enchanted new worlds. You'll walk through the valley of lost love, the darkest darkness your inner child can imagine, the windiest of winds, and into worlds you didn't even knew existed.
You'll think of your family and friends. You'll question relationships past and present, and then you'll stop, and let them just be a part of your story. Vignettes written, but many more to come.
There'll always be nuisances, annoyances, and distractions to take your mind out of the peace and tiny paradises you unexpectedly come across, but as long as you remember to breathe, nothing can take away how precious each moment is.
Expectations are dangerous as you learn through the traps of trail names, and coming across another tribe that has their guard up.
The words buff, rattle and myth all take on new meanings. As do cache and sawyer.
You'll experience magic and miracles in things you once overlooked, and your faith in humanity will forever be restored by random acts of kindness and generosity.
Some look for pride and competition, while others just need a really long walk.
Worlds will collide and you'll find yourself sleeping next to childhood best friends that never met, but because of a common passion bond immediately.
A princess will forget what it means to wear clean panties, and snacks are all it takes to change your mood. A fair maiden named Rapunzel will let her hair and spirit flow, and your spirit will connect with many as conversations break boundaries, and remind us that we're all the same at the core.
You'll learn why the dime is the MVP of the coins, you'll hallucinate that you're seeing pennies, and four quarters will buy you the longest four minute shower of your life.
You'll climb higher than the clouds, go through all four seasons in a day, and find that a tent is truly all the space you need to feel right at home.
Sunsets will mesmerize you, stars will transcend you, and you finally understand why anyone would use a hanky.
Your hair gets longer, your waist gets smaller, and the amount of calories you crave is never ending.
You'll learn what it means to truly be hungry, thirsty, and tired.
You'll dream of things you didn't even know you liked, and create questionable food pairings that rock your world.
You'll break it down beyond the basics to almost go back in time physically, but move your mind and spirit closer to a state of nirvana that feels futuristic.
Your body will yell at you, and you'll be forced to listen. A fire negates the need for mindless tv, and laughter is the only soundtrack you need to listen to late at night.
You'll make friends with a big friendly giant, 360 degrees, and a cupcake that just isn't meant to be a cupcake.
Pogano (a Greek beard), a set of bones, and a sponge bath aren't what you expect, but the perfect addition to your ever expanding trail family. A fellow New Yorker reminds you of home, and that we've all found ourselves on the PCT for a reason.
You'll crave meat, booze, and all sorts of debauchery, but honor your bodies needs and not give into all the temptation. Yes, you will indulge, but it's a celebration 99% void of guilt.
You'll find a kitchen sink, a pixie and a ragtag team of mother natures creations.
You'll climb through the garden of butterflies with Monarch close by.
You'll find yourself exhausted on top of a mountain, and regardless of the internal fight, remember why you're doing this.
You'll see fairy tale esque lands, mountains that are otherworldly, and sunsets that stop you in your tracks.
You'll despise Poodle Dogs, feel like you're going to have to filter water forever, and find an oasis in a trailer park.
You'll speed ahead to only slow down.
You'll sign registries in desert valleys and on mountain peaks, look for familiar names, and then keep on keepin on.
You'll offer something to someone, and barter or trade, but rarely exchange money.
You'll bond over kings, cravings, and junk food during your late night group therapy sessions.
You'll leave your mark with a heart, and touch many along the way.
Religion, love and "what it's all about" are the big "ones" as you chat with yourself, flow from group to group, or converse one on one.
You'll have your reasons for walking, and then you'll have your real reasons for walking.
You'll find a mama bear that plays with a kitty, who just needs a bit of guidance.
Your name will change from day to dark. Poop scoop, hazy and skunk all take on new meanings.
Small towns you would've passed right by become sanctuaries. The price of things loses value as your cravings and obsessions take over.
You'll cheat your morals, question opinions, and find that your way of thinking has forever evolved.
You'll sleep by yourself, but actually be surrounded by people, stars, and the brightest moon you've ever seen.
You'll hike in the night and force yourself to get over your fears.
You'll find bobcats, gnats will find you, and every now and then, you and hummingbirds find each other.
Magic flows everywhere, miracles majestically present themselves to you in ways you once overlooked, and the price of it all is freeing yourself from the possession of things except what you can carry on your back.
You'll walk into what looks like a horror movie to only find strangers welcoming you with open arms, and presenting you with food and drinks that you'd been dreaming of for days completely free of charge.
You'll swim naked with snakes in a hot spring that looks like it's an oasis.
You'll learn that friendly looking dogs bite, and that sometimes you don't need to leave where you are just quite yet.
You'll become a packman, the messiah, and ultimately a sweetheart because that is the essence of what and who you are.
You'll travel by foot, car, and bus to find out that you haven't gotten very far.
You'll reconnect with old friends, find new ones, and just share a chat with someone passing by.
The saying you don't shit where you eat takes on a literal meaning, and a poo with a view is the ultimate way to start the day.
Your own reflection, which tends to consume you in real life, isn't even thought of, and you'll be the smelliest and dirtiest you've ever been in your life, but happier than when you shower twice a day.
The weight you once carried on your shoulders will be transferred to your hips, and you realize that everyone has baggage. Yes, some more than others, but good and bad nevertheless.
Grams turn into ounces, which take on a whole new meaning, and pounds only become regrets.
You'll meet people from all over the world, who are more than just their country, as Germans, Aussies, and people from all over the world make their mark on the trail.
You'll meet a small town couple that is unknowingly chasing a waterfall to find their forever, and Elle Woods with her forever man, Gram.
You'll meet Captain Underpants, a sensitive soul reading a book, and a fuzzy white rabbit that wants you to sign his yearbook.
A fancy pair of shoes that are disguised in a simpler way, a looney tune, and someone you're not even sure is hiking will find you.
You'll meet a trooper doing it to honor those who have passed, a coach looking to find a new title, and another tribe that merges in an effortless way with your own.
An ultraviolet ray will be perfect to watch as French music fills the air, and slowmo isn't our time, but the speed at which moments move.
You'll meet ants in the pants, a fancy pair of pants, and wear the same pair of pants every day.
A pair of boots become a messy and silent killer. Chubs isn't chubs at all, and a mop head is just that.
KOA, Mary with a car, and bam there you are at every post office and food mart in every town you've never heard of.
Bambi, Hiker Heaven, and Casa de Luna are sent to you at the perfect moments, and feed the trail magic even father.
Dapper Dan is actually named Joe, and puts on quite the show. Cora, nightcap, and sunshine welcome you to the bench of the gods as your turn another bend.
Dingos become friends, walking poles become saviors, and fresh produce makes you weep.
Zippers constantly are opening and closing, someone is always farting, and snoring surrounds you.
The term, "hike your own hike" takes on a new meaning as we all dream under the stars, and you realize you're forever a part of something much bigger than you'll ever fathom.
You'll walk along a common path, but the story is forever and uniquely yours.
You'll think this is life, this is what it's all about, this is why we've found each other so imperfectly perfect on the trail, and then you won't think at all.
You'll forget what day it is, what time it is, and where you are.
And most importantly you'll learn that if you haven't found what you're looking for to just keep walking because everything you want is usually just a few steps away. It may not be waiting for you where you thought it was, but I promise it's definitely there.
You want to know why I hiked 350 miles?
I did it because I wanted to. I did it because I needed to. I did it because I could.
I did it because I needed to get out of my way. I did it because it's never too late. I did it because a best friend needed a companion, but would've never asked.
I did it because all we have is now.
Why I'm hiking 350 more?
Because why not.
The trail is more special, magical, and beautiful than I can explain, but I share this with you as my own special ode to the trail that forever changed me. I wish you a journey like this, so that you too may feel humanity, nature, and peace at it's deepest level.
Note: All the random adjectives and nouns are actually the trail names of people I've met along my journey. We lose our real names for nicknames that encapsulate our essence and amazing stories we will all tell for the rest of our lives.
If you would like to donate to Global Citizen, which is the charity that I've dedicated my journey to then please do so above. Every amount helps, and nothing is too small or too big when it comes to saving the world!