The friendly lady at the US embassy utters the nerve wrecking sentence: “I’ve approved your visa on the spot, it’ll take 7 to 10 days to process. Have a nice hike!”
I stare at her through the 3 cm thick safety glass, speechless for 2-3 seconds, before I reply with a dry “Thank you” as my head is bursting with the consequences of her approval. Turn around, walk past the line of optimistic Ecuadorians who share my desire for a US visa and past the dense security level of the US Embassy here in Quito at the Equator line in Ecuador. My mind is blank and I feel the quiet happiness rush over me, spiced with an intense fear of the coming half year.
Damn. That was my last and largest excuse and it didn’t work. Now, I have nothing holding me back, nothing to cling to: The season is right and I have just gained access to the US. Now, it is all up to me, my only opponent is my body and mind. A tiny part of me, deep inside myself, almost wish she had declined the visa.
The Pacific Crest Trail is looming ahead of me.
A 5 month and 4300 km hike from Canada to Mexico that passes through 25 National Forests and 7 National Parks, and an abundance of postcard pretty scenery, far away from human civilization, living with only the stuff I can carry on my back. Finding my way, going days without seeing other humans, hoisting my food into trees to avoid bear-theft at night, singing during the day to away bear-attacks and negotiating snow-passes with crampons and an ice-axe. Solo.
Holly F***, I am excited. And scared. Because I don’t know whether I will succeed, and that is exactly my reason for trying. I expect to meet my mental and physical limits and to push myself deep beyond my comfort line, which I already consider to be flexed after 2,5 years on a bicycle across 4 continents and 5 months on a homemade bamboo raft down the Amazon River. Because I want to flex my limits and because I, sometimes, probably have to in order to reach my next resupply point, whether I like it or not. If I break, I’ll break crying in my own hunger, pain, dirt and blood but I will make it out of there. If I surrender, I will do so at my all-time-low, meeting my own limits of body and, especially, mind and only then will I allow my own defeat and only then will it be worth it.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with my bicycle and the thought of continuing my bicycle route is, indeed, very tempting. It is an amazing form of adventure, to cross continents on a bicycle, living with the freedom and adventure that those 2 wheels can give you. But The Walk is more tempting at the moment, for several reasons:
a) as said, I don’t know whether I will succeed, and hence I can learn new stuff and push my own limits. I know, for sure, that I can cycle around the world and cross continents on a bicycle, I simply have to continue what I’ve been doing for 2,5 years. The Unknown is luring me here.
b) leaving civilization. I hate to sound like a lunatic, but the thought of living in stunningly beautiful nature for 5 months where the sounds come from only the wind, the birds, the insects, the rain and my own footsteps and not from cars, tv’s, and small-talking conversations is a highly attractive thought to me at the moment. Easy now, I’ll return again and be a normal nine-to-fiver.
c) it will be a nice way to finish off my 4 year travels around the world and to ponder on all the experiences I’ve gained and the lessons of life that I’ve learned.
Plane ticket is ready, just gotta fly to Seattle and shop for a bunch of lightweight outdoor gear. I visited the local vegetable store here in Quito and put each and every piece of my items on a scale, before entering the whole lot into an excell sheet. My home will weigh-in at around 9kg, tent, sleeping bag, mattress, -10 C clothes, camera, everything. My lip balm is 18 grams, in case you wonder. My Kindle is an elephant with its 217 grams.
So I am heading out in order to look in. Look at these photos. Wouldn’t you?