Category Archives: Canada

Commitment

Out of all the lessons I learned during my recent two-day white-water kayaking adventure on the Cheakamus River in Squamish, BC; the power of commitment proved the most effective.

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Photo by Dave Berrisford

Paddling on white-water is like living life in fast motion. You don’t have the luxury of time for decisions or chances to renege. You are powered by reactions, to the water and the obstacles around you. You must choose your direction and commit to it; then paddle to get there despite what happens in-between. Anything less and you’ll end up hitting the rocks, floundering in the waves or getting trapped beneath the trees.

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Photo by Dave Berrisford

To successfully steer into a narrow eddy or surf a challenging wave, you need commitment. If you give it a half-hearted effort you’re bound to miss or be swept away with the current. But if you’re committed to the direction you want to go and keep your eye on the prize, even if you overshoot or stray by a fraction, strength and determination will get you there.

This idea of commitment can obviously be applied to all things in life, but I never realised just how necessary it was until I witnessed its immediate consequence on the water first hand during the field course.

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Music: The Temper Trap, Sweet Disposition

I believe what got me across the border to Canada on the PCT was a commitment from the very beginning to finish the trail; no matter what the circumstances or conditions, providing my body could propel me there.

Strength of mind is more powerful than muscle, and a long distance hike like the PCT is certainly not just about physical endurance. I think any thru-hiker would agree that at least half the challenge is mental. Mood alone can determine your energy levels that day. It’s a lot easier to hike 30 miles jacked up on serotonin than it is when you’re feeling down.

I’d like to say I’m a person who follows through on commitments, but I also think very carefully about what I commit to first. When I tell someone I’m going to do something, it means I’m 100% committed to doing so, unless powers out of my control prevent me.

Someone at the store today asked me what’s next after the PCT. I have asked myself this question numerous times, and there are countless options I wish to explore. I have some ideas in mind, but I won’t be sharing them until I’m 100% committed! 😉

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Descending from Black Tusk – Photo by Steven Bridge
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Trail to Panorama Ridge
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View of Black Tusk from Panorama Ridge

In the short term I’m continuing to explore the trails and waterways of BC, having recently hiked up to Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge near Lake Garibaldi. Next month I’m hiking the West Coast Trail, my first real multiday hike since the Camino. The trail is only a meagre 75kms (47 miles), but it’s said to be demanding, and I believe my biggest challenge will be learning to compromise. I have become incredibly used to solo travel, my own habits, routines and making my own decisions. I’m doing this hike together with my friend Steve, who has been my hiking and camping companion throughout the summer. We share a passion for the outdoors, equal fitness levels, similar hiking pace, and both love to analyse life, people’s behaviours and the complexity of the world; ensuring we’re never short of conversation. But it will be interesting to see how two incredibly independent, self sufficient and opinionated people (when it comes to wilderness travel at least), team up over a period of four or five days.

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Thankfully we are both lovers of logistics and documentation, so I’m looking forward to sharing my gear list, food menu, and tips for hiking the trail once the adventure is over. It’s one of the most expensive trails to hike in Canada (or anywhere I’ve ever known) – with permits alone costing over $100, not to mention the cost of ferries, the bus back to the start point, and getting over to Vancouver Island. But I guess it’s something you only ever do once.

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Lake Garibaldi

I should also mention that I’m no longer required to move house, which I somewhat attribute to the power of manifesting reality. Up until the end of July, I truly believed that I wouldn’t need to move out of the room I was subletting. There was no evidence, suggestion or reason why this would be the case; and although I still wanted to believe it, I eventually gave up and secured another room. But just recently the roommate decided he was not going to return, which means that less than two weeks before the move, I’m now in exactly the position I had hoped to be in. In some respects I’m not that surprised, as I’d almost expected it to pan out this way. I did feel guilty cancelling on the room I’d secured, but thankfully because the rental market in Vancouver is so saturated, it took the woman less than a day to find someone else, so she kindly offered me back my deposit.

In addition to my lessons on commitment this week, I have also recently been reminded that positivity breeds positivity, and that positive thinking can create endless possibilities.

The continuation of life

It’s like the summer never wants to end in Vancouver this year, providing endless opportunities to be outside exploring nature. After four months in this city my life has fallen into a comfortable rhythm of work and adventure interspersed with short moments of downtime; and I’m pleased to report that the work/life balance I’ve been able to achieve is definitely leaning more heavily towards life as opposed to work. The various chapters of my almost 33-year-old existence have introduced me to a wide variety of lifestyles, cultures and routines; and although all have had their merits, they’ve allowed me to appreciate just how fortunate I am to be living this one right now.

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I haven’t felt this grounded since hiking the trail, enjoying the simple pleasures life has to offer, without all the bells and whistles a healthy income allows. It’s helped me to realise how easy it is to overcomplicate things, reminded me that less is more, and shown me that the simplicity of living from a backpack can be achieved off trail too.

I still can’t figure out what the actual meaning or purpose to this life is, what my ultimate objective should be, what I’m destined to achieve, or why I’ve been given the opportunity to roam this magical planet. But maybe that’s just it; I’ve been given the opportunity to roam this magical planet, maybe I’m doing exactly what I’m meant to be.

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Photo taken by Jon Lane

During a three-day sea-kayaking trip this week, I realised that activities like these can be incorporated into a regular lifestyle. I don’t need to take big chunks of time off for epic adventures every two years; I can simple have shorter adventures more frequently. Upon this realisation, I said to one of my colleagues from work, “Wow, I want to live like this!” – to which he responded, “You are!” I guess I’ve been so used to living in transition mode, ready to move onto what’s next, that I sometimes dismiss what I’m doing in the present. I feel like I’ve been in research mode, attempting to discover what life I actually want to lead; without realising the clock started ticking many years ago, and the present is where it’s all at.

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When I look back at the last ten years, the timeline of my journey seems to lack continuity. To me it’s like reading a book of short stories. Every time I reach the end of a chapter I begin a new one, as opposed to continuing on with the same theme. My last three years have been especially disjointed; a collection of two, four, or six month experiences, where I seem to have gone back to square one at the end of each. But for the first time in a long while, I’m not thinking about where I’m moving to next or what my next job will be. I’m focussing on the continuation of life, laying foundations, joining clubs, adopting routines and cultivating friendships, without that familiar restless feeling nipping at my toes. It probably helps that I need to remain in Canada to renew my residency, reducing my ability and desire to up and go whenever I choose. And my mood is certainly aided by the flawless weather we’ve been having. But it’s also nice to feel that foreign sense of belonging I rarely experience during my short-term stints, because like any good thing worth waiting for, it takes a bit of time.

I’d been saving up so many things to write over this last month, but when I put pen to paper this morning, this stream of ramblings simply spilled out. What I originally wanted to share was the video of my sea-kayaking adventure on Howe Sound along the Sea to Sky Marine Trail this week.

Music: Mr Probz – Waves (Robin Schulz Radio Edit)

Not only were we in the middle of the Perseid meteor showers, I also experienced bioluminescence for the first time. For those who have never had the opportunity to witness the astounding spectacle, I have included a stock image below because I wasn’t able to capture the magic on my own camera. Three of us kayaked along the sound at midnight, with the disturbance of our paddles through the water creating an electric glow like sparks of electricity igniting just under the surface. The stray droplets were falling like fairy dust onto our shoulders, and as the power of the luminance increased as the night became darker; we dove into the water creating human silhouettes of light through the dark blanket of ocean. It was one of the most phenomenal, spectacular and beautiful visual experiences I think I’ve ever seen. No words or pictures could ever do it justice, but my eyes will hold onto those memories forever.

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Image taken from http://www.robotspacebrain.com/tag/bioluminescence/

High expectations of happiness

I’m back at my Phở restaurant. Needed time to think and reflect. Life has been moving at a fast pace recently and I have such a jumble of thoughts running through my head I’m attempting to obtain some clarity.

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For the first time in my life I’m not sleeping well due to useless repetitious thoughts about interactions at work, the fact I have to move house, planning my next short term adventure, and then general musings about life in Canada, how long I want to stay, and what on earth the future has in store.

Today I woke up at 5:45am with two more hours to sleep, yet despite the fact I was so tired my head actually hurt, my busy mind went wandering for almost two hours before I plugged my headphones in and tried some guided meditation. I’m on my 22nd day straight of Headspace, an app that talks me through a 10 minute meditation-style chill out. Only today it ran over 10 minutes, maybe because I changed the settings or progressed to a new level; and I lost my shit in a completely non-Zen fashion. I stared at the screen of my phone angrily watching the seconds tick past, before ripping my headphones out and giving up altogether. It was absolutely ridiculous how irate I was, considering my app had only forced me to sit still for probably another 5-10 minutes. That event basically set the tone for the rest of the day, although I was surprisingly relaxed and jovial during my 8-hour shift at the store.

I had to laugh the other day when a member came in who had read part of my blog and told me I was lying when I said I actually enjoyed work. “No you don’t,” he corrected me. “I read your blog.” I’m not just saying this because I know people from work ARE now reading my posts, but I’ve actually grown incredibly accustomed to the unusual environment; living out the laid back, non-conformist, cap wearing, gear junkie I never thought I’d be. No wonder I feel like learning to surf and living by the sea. Soon I’ll be tree planting or dog walking or owning a stall at a farmers market. Who knows what great things the future has in store!

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I don’t actually have a care in the world at the moment. I’m living the exact lifestyle I’ve only dreamed about before, surviving on so little, and feeling almost as free and close to nature as I did on the trail. But over the last few days I could feel my internal storm clouds brewing. I’m either incredibly susceptible to menopausal mood swings, or I just get down on life every so often. Or I’m letting the fact that I REALLY don’t want to move house get in the way of my happiness.

I’ve literally found the greatest living situation of all time – my roommates, the house, the location and the price. It’s beyond perfect, but as I only agreed to sublet, I’m soon again to be homeless, and so the tedium of room hunting has been taking up the better part of my spare time. What I’ve actually found most interesting is how people convey the kind of housemate they are in a short concise email. I’m obviously not doing so well, because out of the 30+ emails I’ve sent, I’ve only received three responses. One meeting was via Skype, and after 30 minutes of talking and agreeing to meet face-to-face the following day, the girl emailed me the next morning to say she Skyped with someone afterwards and already made her decision. That was a lovely blow to my ego; what on earth was the other person like?

In reality, despite what I say in my emails, I do keep to myself a lot at home. I’m rarely ever there, and when I am at home I’m mostly on my computer in my room. I’m certainly not antisocial, but I don’t often seek out long-winded conversations or sit in front of the television. Home is a place to get chores and projects done, while the rest of the time is dedicated to sleep. So if that’s your cup of tea and you live in central Vancouver, let me know!

I’d somehow convinced myself I wouldn’t have to move over the last few months, until I recently confirmed that the person I’m subletting from is actually coming back. I still have a sprinkling of denial over the reality, but am forcing myself to send emails and view places, against every impulse of not wanting to do so. I’ve gone from moving every few months without a fleeting question, to wanting to stay smack bang where I am. And if I do need to move, I still want to remain in the same neighbourhood. I’ve surprised myself by how attached I’ve become to my low priced supermarket within walking distance, the cemetery where I take my evening walks, my favourite coffee shop down a few blocks, and of course my beloved Phở joint.

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Becoming attached to things is not something I’ve recently been accustomed to. I get asked at work all the time if I miss home, which I inevitably do. Especially this week as my entire family are spending two days at the snow, and I’m missing snowball fights with my niece and nephew. But I try not to dwell on the idea of missing things too much to avoid the notion preventing me from enjoying what I’m doing. Thankfully my mother continues to send me motivational cards each month, like the one I received today which says “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined,” – a quote from Henry David Thoreau (an American author, poet, philosopher etc from the 1800’s Wikipedia tells me). Her cards are always incredibly fitting, and are the only post I receive outside of my monthly health care invoice, which is abominably high considering my monthly earnings.

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I’ve been delving into how my fellow colleagues survive on their wages recently, and it seems that sharing a house with up to 11 roommates is a conceivable option. Some have partners who earn more than they do, many have second jobs, but most work at least 30+ hours where I’m balancing an average of around 27. At least I’m answering the question, well and truly, that money doesn’t bring you happiness; because I’m as happy as I was on the trail with nothing – minus the heavy pack, blisters, bland food and 10 daily hours of steady walking. The obvious key to my blissful mood that I can easily identify is my simplified lifestyle, lots of outdoor activity, a good community of people and an exceptional work/life balance. It doesn’t hurt that Vancouver is also experiencing one of its greatest summers yet. Talk to me in the fall when the rain starts and the cold weather begins, I may be singing a slightly different tune.

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A leap of faith

Amidst the smoky haze of the multiple wildfires burning across British Columbia at the moment, I paddled with seven colleagues to Anvil Island yesterday, crossing Howe Sound from Porteau Cove Provincial Park to climb Leading Peak (754m). Here’s a quick snapshot…

Video: Music: Come away to the water, Maroon 5

After a 10km paddle, 4 hours of hiking, and 8kms of riding to the pick up point and back, I felt the same level of exhaustion I used to feel every day on the trail. But in contrast to the serenity of yesterday, today I also hit the Cheakamus River in Squamish for another whitewater adventure, successfully landing my second ever seal launch. (I tipped on the first attempt!)

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My enthusiasm for paddling in general has enhanced my fervour for life, giving me the same confidence in ability I used to feel on the trail – the ability to live outside of my comfort zone.

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On the way to the river this morning, I was talking to my colleague about the satisfaction I get from doing something that pushes me beyond my comfort level, making me sick to the stomach with nerves even thinking about it. When I was younger the thought of going to school did this for me, but now whitewater kayaking is the same. After launching into the river off that rock however, which looked about 10 feet higher from where I was sat, I felt invincible. I’ve come a long way from that shy school girl, and now have some understanding of why thrill seekers love nothing more than to live on the edge. It may be an addiction, but it certainly adds another dimension to life!

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Pushing the boundaries

There’s no doubt that physical activity and fitness stimulate the brain and improve our wellbeing on many levels. Life for me is always about finding a new challenge, something to sink my teeth into and push myself beyond the limits of my comfort. Generally I enjoy the things I’m good at, usually because I can do them comfortably, and because I don’t have to invest time or effort into learning new skills. But the greatest satisfaction always seems to come from pushing my boundaries, and putting my skills to the test by trying new things.

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There’s definitely a reason I chose to try my hand at retail in an outdoor adventure store, because it represents the kind of activities I want to be doing myself. The part of my brain who carefully plans the direction of my life knew exactly where this path was leading, while the flippant, reactive, ‘everything has to be rosy all the time’ part, freaked out the moment monotony crept onto the scene. But over the last two weeks I took on the well-guided advice from my followers that happen to know exactly what is good for me. Get out and hike they said; which is exactly what I did. I dusted the cobwebs from my pack, filled it with gear, and walked with a friend to Garibaldi Lake 9km off the beaten track to one of the most stunning settings in the world. That was step one. My next challenge was to push my boundaries, which can be difficult having superseded my own standards by hiking the PCT right off the bat. But life ain’t all about long distance hiking, and I can tell you there’s much enjoyment to be found in shorter multi day excursions, overnight trips and day hiking.

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A lovely young woman came into the store today and approached me to admit she was having a star struck moment because she follows my blog and has watched all of my videos (which is how she recognised my voice in the first place). I was left flattered and speechless, with that vague celebrity sensation I experienced  when visiting the school children at Leona Valley, Del Sur and Anaverde Hills School in Southern California, post PCT hike. Of course I blushed exponentially with embarrassment and laughed throughout the entire experience, but what she said before she left stuck with me the entire day. She told me, “You’re so inspiring.”

This is a much easier statement to accept when you’re walking 2,650 miles across the length of the United States. But she didn’t say, ‘you were inspiring’, or ‘that hike you did two years ago was pretty cool’. She said ‘you’re inspiring’, and it definitely shifted my thinking. If I had to write down just one goal I hope to achieve in life, to be filed away in some universal volt alongside my hopes, dreams, and darkest secrets; it would be to inspire another human being. My goal used to be to impress my parents, because I often gauged my success on how proud they were of what I was doing. But although I still strive for my parent’s pride in the things I do, I now have to work even harder to impress myself.

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Because of that interaction today, I’ve chosen to open up my world again to share my most recent experience, which I’m proud to say did push my boundaries in many ways. I’ve begun taking advantage of the field courses, discounted club memberships and the storeroom full of gear I’m able to rent at work, and have dived head first into the sport of kayaking, both on whitewater and on the sea. I made the short montage below of my first whitewater experience to share with the team I paddled with, but hopefully it will have the added benefit of inspiring the rest of you!

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I believe the hardest part of starting or exploring a new hobby is finding a way into it, and the only way I’ve figured out how to do this is to surround myself with people who practise that activity. The doing part seems easier than figuring out how to get there. Like before I began the PCT, I remember my greatest concern was simply how to get to the trail. Once I was there, I knew all I had to do was hike, and once Don and Donna relieved me of that anxiety, it was up to me to continue walking.

Fortunately I’m surrounded by people who mountain bike, climb, kayak, hike, canoe, surf, swim, camp, and have a passion for the outdoors, every single day. It’s taken me a while to find my groove; but now that the doors are opening, it’s up to me to pick the ones I want to walk through.

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The grass is always greener

My legs felt like lead this evening as I pushed my heavy hybrid mountain bike up the steep hills of Vancouver towards my house, following my fifth straight day at work. In other jobs I’ve worked for months at a time with no days off, sometimes for more than 15 hours a day; but there’s something about working in retail and customer service which drains the lifeblood from every one of my veins. I’ve spent the last three days paddling boats in English Bay to gain hands-on experience about our rental fleet, but fatigue and hunger and my general feeling of blah urged me to stop at my local Vietnamese Phở restaurant ¾ of the way home tonight on Main St. I’ve named the place appropriately ‘Can’t give a Phở’ because I tend to stop here when I’m aching from the incline, and I can’t be bothered with the thought of cooking dinner at home.

On this particular occasion, sitting opposite my steaming bowl of raw beef and rice noodles, accepting the fact that with my miserable pay check I’ll need to work a full hour to cover it; I feel unusually alone. Not the kind of loneliness where I’m craving for someone else’s company, but the kind of isolated sensation where I realise that I do things like sit at restaurants or go to the cinema solo, just because it’s more convenient to be by myself. While listening to the stereo in the back corner pumping out karaoke style instrumental versions of popular music, I’m sliding into one of my favourite habits of overthinking.

Perhaps it’s a result of my hunger, or fatigue, or deepening sensation of isolation, but I can feel my mood slipping from a rather flat, insignificant feeling of dullness, to bored, to cranky, to being self spiteful, to overwhelmingly unmotivated, to a sense of being poisoned by my own negativity. The kind of feeling where my dark inner demons pull me deep into my own self disillusioned despair. This often happens when I’m on my own. When my brain has the time to focus and think solely about me. About my situation in life, and all the things that I could be doing better, or that I should be doing better, and where I eventually hit the bottom and question why I’m such a miserable and useless human being.

I snap out of these pretty fast, like a passing rain shower on a summer’s day when an unsuspecting cloud whips across the sky. For others this state of despair is more permanent, and I’m thankful to say I’m in the category where I might just get a little damp in the sudden downpour, but am able to dry off soon enough. For those caught in the deluge for long periods, I can only guess that eventually they feel like they’re drowning, becoming water logged so the effects are not only internal, but are also physically visible, like wrinkled fingers that have soaked in the bathtub for too long. But I’m no expert on these conditions, I only know what I feel, and the things I can learn about myself from those feelings.

My initial reason for logging my thoughts at this very moment was because I was thinking that if I were craving solitude and freedom, this would be the exact situation I would dream to be in. No obligations to anyone other than myself. I can sit alone in a restaurant amongst a few strangers and no one on the planet would know where I am. No one’s calling to find out when I’ll be home, what I feel like eating for dinner, asking about my day at work or making plans for the weekend. I’m a lone ranger, my own airline, cockpit and pilot. No one’s calling the shots except for me. Other than keeping to a revised bi-weekly schedule of around 35 hours a week, when my lifeblood is drained and I ride home with heavy legs, I’m completely free.

It made me wonder why our brains constantly crave the green grass on the other side of the fence. It’s not exactly the situation I’m in now, but it’s invariably something I contend with. Those times when I’m compelled to fence jump, because I’m tired of the side I’m on, fighting hard to make it over to somewhere new. And then after all those struggles to change, the mountains I climbed, the hurdles I jumped, the rivers I forded and the distance I travelled to get there, I want to go back to the original side I was on.

greenwashing-question-mark I think part of the issue is not looking after the grass on my current side of the fence. The grass that was green; exactly the way it had looked; but now is turning a little yellow, lying almost horizontal and lacking that lush, vitalised appearance it once had. I seem to forget that once I’ve chosen a side, I’m responsible for tending to that particular patch of grass. For feeding it and helping it grow. If I don’t assume responsibility the grass will inevitably turn dull and lifeless, or it will grow out of control into a jungle of weeds; until I look back at the grass I originally came from, with its lush green trim at the right height because it’s been carefully tended to. Of course I want to go back to that side, but that’s not where my life is anymore.

Then on the other hand I might see grass that’s far worse than mine in a different direction, but I ignore that brittle, patchy lawn in need of serious attention, thankful not to be there. That’s not grass I’m envious of, and it’s not a place where I want to be; but sometimes we all hit bumps in the road that allow our gardens to degenerate as badly as that one. And if we let it go too far for too long, we may accidentally cross into that place, because we can’t tell the difference between them anymore.

What this brief lesson in lawn maintenance has taught me is that I need to work hard to create the foundation I want to build my life upon, and then constantly maintain it. It’s a lot easier than letting it grow out of control or die altogether, where the only options are to simply continue living that way, work harder to repair it, or flee to a new patch and start all over again. The problem with the latter option is that if I don’t learn how to become a better gardener, the same thing will inevitably happen; no matter how tough or how green or how thick or how loved that lawn once was. If I don’t look after it, it will deteriorate in time.

Not everyone is going to have a manicured lawn in the end with the luxury to employ others to tend to it. But if I look after what I have, with the resources available, bouncing back from the dry summers and harsh winters that might set me back, I’ll end up with a few green sprouts in the springtime that will make me proud. And then maybe, just maybe, I’ll stop looking over the neighbour’s fence, and writing deep philosophical essays when I’m alone eating phở.

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Anything difficult is worth doing

It’s been over a month since I last posted, which is why I got itchy feet from inactivity today, forcing me back to the keyboard to report on the happenings of the weeks past. Restlessness has been my theme of the week, so I’m putting these thoughts into words, hopefully to paint a clearer picture of what I’m actually going through as a self diagnoses. I’ve been living in Vancouver for almost two months, not long enough to be settled, even by my standards. I’m living in a great house with awesome housemates, I’ve reconnected with old friends, I’ve found a job, and summer’s on the doorstep; but already my mind is thinking beyond.

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On my way back from the quaint little suburban French café a few blocks from my place, which is a local hang out for new mums in the neighbourhood and where I spend half an hour of my hard earned wages on decent coffee; I thought about what has been stirring these fidgety feelings of flight. I received an email last week from a friend I made at the hostel I volunteered at in Güemes, with the subject ‘Astronauta’. What I could translate from the rest of his message was that the world is running small for me; that he believed I wished to be an astronaut and travel beyond, more far, more high, with more curiosity. Perhaps he knows me better than I thought, though for someone who doesn’t speak a word of English, and with my rusty-at-best Spanish, it’s incredible how much I was able to communicate through body language and behaviour.

It got me thinking that even though we’re in one place, part of us is always somewhere else. I’m not sure how much of me is spread around, but there’s certainly part of my soul in Spain, a large chunk back in Australia with my family and friends who I miss more than ever, a portion with my family in Holland and my friends in Dubai, and an eternal piece left in the USA on the trail. And then there’s the physical me in Vancouver. Perhaps that’s why my mind wanders so frequently to other places?

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Many would say I’m living the dream, and I wouldn’t disagree. I’m working a casual summer job so I can focus time on other projects, but I seriously underestimated how demanding a retail job at an REI equivalent would be, selling outdoor gear to likeminded adventure enthusiasts. Aside from the hissy fits from unsatisfied customers who have thrown shoes at me or treated me as a sub-standard human being, most people who are shopping for their next international jaunt or escape into the wilderness are happy-go-lucky individuals, who love the fact I know even a marginal amount about the gear they’re purchasing.

A job with little responsibility, minimal management, where I can live my inner teenager by painting my nails blue and showing up with un-brushed hair from under my bike helmet seemed like a no brainer; but in reality, I’m having to dig deep to find ways to cope with the dull repetition as the hours of each day creep ever more slowly by. On weekends it’s slammed, and I don’t have a chance to wallow in my own self-pity between juggling boxes of shoes, filling packs with weighted stuffing and discussing the R-value of sleeping pads. But during the lull of customers, when I’m straightening shoes on display and zipping up jackets that are sliding from their hangers, this is when my mind goes into mayhem.

I found one of my colleagues hiding behind the display of sleeping bags yesterday, so I know I’m not alone in my struggles with monotony. And when I see my workmates passed out on the sofas in the lunch room, I realise I’m not the only one battling the physical drain of scaling shelves in the back stock to retrieve the last size 7 pair of sandals hiding beneath 50 other boxes. Truth is unlike me, they’re probably suffering from their social debauchery the night before, when I’m simply tired from the one hundred ‘can I help you’s’ I’ve spoken that day.

I consulted my eternal source of wisdom Wikipedia yesterday regarding my curiosity for the state of boredom. I learned among other things that:

Boredom has been defined by Cynthia D. Fisher in terms of its main central psychological processes: “an unpleasant, transient affective state in which the individual feels a pervasive lack of interest and difficulty concentrating on the current activity.” 

In positive psychology, boredom is described as a response to a moderate challenge for which the subject has more than enough skill.

Perhaps I’m suffering from both these causes, but it’s only me who has the power to alter my emotional state. I figure if something is difficult, it’s worth doing; and perhaps what seemed to be an easy task at first, may well present one of the largest challenges for a restless person like me. To conquer boredom, tedium, restlessness or whatever seems to be ailing me, my first task is to accept the challenge, as large or small as it may be. I think instead of cruising the sidelines at work, subbing in for bursts of activity like I sometimes do, I need to immerse myself completely. And failing that, falling back on my inner crazy seems to be helping too, like wearing outrageously patterned leggings to work that double as pyjama pants to see just how far I can push the open dress code.

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In regards to staying in the one place, perhaps that simply needs to be treated as a challenge too. I go from thinking about how I’d manage to enter the extortionate real estate market here, to dreaming about packing my bags and getting on the next plane. But I set my goal to stay until September, and vowed not to make any rash decisions too prematurely before that time comes.

So that’s my therapy session for today, I’ll hand it over to the other brains reading for their input.

Be what you decide to be

This post may sound a little ‘self help’ and preachy, but my parents just sent me the most incredibly thoughtful greeting card, and it got me thinking. On the front is a little yellow bird, sitting on top of a teapot, with one of the best quotes I’ve ever read beneath it:

‘The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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I’ve spent most of my life having no idea who I want to be. I remember being asked this question in grade 2 at primary school, and couldn’t believe at the time we were being asked to make such a formative decision. It seemed so final. But my parents aren’t even here to consult with, I thought, as I fretted watching my classmates scribbling away with their coloured pencils and crayons. I felt paralysed, with my entire future dangling before me, dependant on this finite decision.

I think this fear of commitment has continued to plague me. What if I get locked into this one thing forever?  is a common concern of mine. I realised the other day that I’m not satisfied with living just one life. I want to see, be, and experience everything the world has to offer. That’s why I’m constantly jumping around, taking part in one lifestyle, before following another dream and moving onto the next.

But am I lacking substance? Am I missing out on the experiences and relationships that take time to create?

I want to find out, which is why I’ve decided to stay put for a while. I finally knew where I wanted to be so I moved here. I knew exactly what sort of house I was looking for, and the kind of people I wanted to live with, so I found them. I knew the job and the exact store I hoped to work at, so I start tomorrow. Did I manifest it, or did I just work hard to get it? Should we expect things to happen just because we want them to, because we decide they should? I don’t think so. But if you work towards what you want to happen or who you want to be, it’s got a much greater chance of happening.

Back in that classroom in grade 2, I decided I wanted to be a magician. Not a bad choice at the time, without the modern day considerations of work/life balance, financial constraints, career progression, working conditions, holidays and sick leave, pensions or health insurance. Maybe we should be making these decisions when we’re 7 years old, before our minds get clouded and jumbled with too many conflicting ideas.

So what did the 32-year-old Rozanne decide she wanted to be? An active person sharing her passion for the outdoors, while living in the most beautiful city in the world.

Sure I’m earning minimum wage working part-time in the third most expensive city on earth. But like the 7-year-old me, I’m not thinking about my future career path. It’s what I want to do now, and unlike that paralysed schoolgirl in grade 2, I’m no longer scared of my future decisions being forever. If you can’t be the person you decide to be today, then who are you destined to become?

Two years down the track

There’s no better way to bring on nostalgia, than by rediscovering all the gear and clothing I carried for 2,650 miles along the PCT, for the first time since I finished the trail.

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It’s been 2 years since I stood at the Southern Terminus and began that life changing experience. Since then, a whole season of hikers have lived their own adventures along that twisted red line that stretches all the way from Mexico to Canada. Remember what that looks like?

I do. All too well! But now when I look at that red wiggly line and imagine walking every mile, all I can wonder is how?

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MUK AUK?? Ahh well… close enough!

I’ve had a few people contact me about their upcoming hike on the trail this year; and if I played any part in inspiring them to get there, that’s the best news I could hear. Every time someone tells me they’re off to hike the PCT, my immediate reaction is envy. I can never go back to that cloudy day on April 15, 2013, when I stood on the trail looking north to Canada and thought, ‘well, here we go!’ But as I was talking to my friend Leigh recently about repeating the experience, we concluded it just can’t be done. Sure you can hike the trail more than once, but there’s only one first time for the trail; and like the first time for anything, it’s often the most special.

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I was sad to discover recently that I barely fit into my hiking pants anymore. I’m not talking about the pair I finished the trail in, when I was a bag of bones with loose skin hanging off me. I’m talking about the pair I started in, when I was beefing up before the trail. I said in my last post that I feel more solid, well there’s probably good reason for that! But it simply makes me more determined to hit the trails. Since arriving in my new home, I’ve done a few short walks to set me back on the right track. Despite feeling pain in the front of my shins and the small bones on top of my feet, it felt good. But you better toughen up body, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

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I was also disappointed to hear recently that a fellow mountain-lion-fighting lass named Cat has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, just before starting her journey on the PCT this year. Though devastated by the news, she isn’t going to let her condition stop her from following her dream. She may not be able to hike the trail the conventional way, but she’s determined to tackle it whatever way she can. Her story is inspiring!

I also discovered in the most mysterious way that my SPOT device is out on trail again this year, being carried by a Kiwi named Stewart. The device completed the trail last year with a hiker named Brian, whom I can only assume has passed it along to Stewart for his 2015 hike. How do I know this? You’d never believe me if I told you!

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The SOS button looks worn out!

So with new footprints marking the soil of our beloved trail again this year, instead of feeling envy, I’m going to celebrate the class of 2015 beginning their epic adventure, and the fresh start of my own!

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