Travel Insights Blog
Travel Insights Blog
On April 15th, 2018, I started on a 2,650-mile journey along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which spans from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, traversing six eco-zones and seven national parks.
At the time, I was 30 and had been a bartender for almost ten years. I had reached my wit’s end with my career, knowing there was something out there more fulfilling than pouring drinks all day. I had learned of the trail from my oldest brother, who hiked it in 2011. Seeing how much it changed his life, I knew this could shake things up for me as well.
Thru-hiking, for those who choose to attempt, is not for the faint of heart. Every day, I would wake up around 4:30/5 am to be hiking by 5:30. By the time I was in really good hiking shape, I was averaging between 25–30 miles a day. Some days, it’s really hot and you have big climbs with little to no water. Most days your body is tired and your feet hurt. Not to mention, you’re always hungry — we call that “hiker hunger”.
Despite the challenges of my five months spent walking and living outdoors, it was the most transformative experience of my life. The wild places you get to see that most haven’t, the wildlife encounters, and the people you get to spend your time with — it’s what makes the trail beautiful.
The day I finished the PCT, I approached the Northern Terminus, a wooden statue that signifies the end of the trail and sits on the border of the US and Canada. There stood all my friends, some I had walked hundreds of miles with. It was a visceral experience to know all the beauty I had let into my life was ending. I was terrified of what waited for me outside of this trail life I had become so accustomed to.
Coming back to reality after a long-distance hike was difficult. I had left behind an entire community of people and friends I would never have met had I just stayed home. The duality of the thru-hiking community is we all shared a love of nature, yet we all came from such extensively different backgrounds. The camaraderie I experienced was never telling of our professions or socioeconomic status. You became friends with people simply because you were sharing nature and going through the same hardships that thru-hiking bestows.
Today, I work as an outdoor photographer with an interpersonal focus on photographing people who connect to nature and telling their stories of who they are and why they recreate outdoors. My job requires constant travel and I am always meeting new people. This career has brought me back to the community I once experienced on the PCT; sharing the outdoors with like-minded people from all different backgrounds.
Going to new destinations with others is such a grandiose and special way of building meaningful human connection. Whether you’re on a 2,650-mile backpacking trip or taking a weekend holiday to Vegas — there is a lot of beauty in the unknown and the memories you can build with those accompanying you.
Journeying beyond the comforts of home can significantly benefit our mental health, whether for fun, exploration, escapism, or simply just going outside of our comfort zone. I find my deepest connections with those I meet away from home and will forever have those people and memories emblazoned in my mind when I think of the places we traveled together. A shared wanderlust can inspire our intrinsic thoughts and profound conversations. We all have so much to learn from one another and I think being together in new spaces can be an opportunity to open our hearts and minds.
I think from my experiences in thru-hiking, travel and finding interconnectedness over the years, I’ve been able to create my own unique empiricism. Through Floqsta, I’m excited to make valuable memories and see new places with strangers that will soon be friends. I hope you’ll join me in my home state of Northern California for a personally curated trip or the beautiful, rugged desert outback that are Utah’s National Parks.
I know how leading up to any type of travel can feel daunting, and sometimes it’s just easier to succumb to the comforts of our own homes. However, to motivate myself and others to take the plunge, be spontaneous and go on that trip, I always pose the question: “In 10 years, will you look back and be happy you stayed home? Or will you be grateful you gained a beautiful new experience?”
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