“I’m tired, bored, lonely and this journey has gotten monotonous.” Those were the words I heard from Andy on the phone after he was back on the trail north of Ashland. Tough to hear, but important to report in on. We’re so conditioned to report just on the fun stuff, the happy stuff – the excitement, the adventure. But the truth is, life’s not always fun ~ life can be hard, difficult and painful. And that’s what it’s like on the trail.
When Andy stops walking his body hurts, he’s got pain in his hip and in his legs. He fantasizes about food and is lonely for his family and friends. We talk about him leaving the trail. But, he’s afraid to leave the trail because he feels as if he leaves he’ll be letting down his family, friends and fans. I think mostly, in his heart of hearts, he’ll be letting down himself. He doesn’t want to be a looser or a quitter. The dilemma of what to do swirls around in his mind. And the answer it seems, is just to keep on walking. Through walking, the problem will be solved, the answer revealed.
As I reflect back to when Andy first started to plan and prepare for this journey we talked about the practical things like how to package the food, what type of equipment he would need and how he would condition and prepare his body. We also talked about “why,” what was the driving motivation behind why he or anyone would want to take a Pilgrimage across the country roughing it in every sense of the word. He would be facing physical challenges, coping with uncomfortable mind states while facing rugged and difficult terrain, uncertain where the next water source might be or who or what would cross your path at any given time. How does one stay motivated while taking on such a difficult aspiration? The only true gift at the end of the long journey is a deep sense of personal accomplishment . . . is that enough?
Why? and what is the motivation? I really wanted to dig deep into Andy’s psyche and find out exactly what it was that was motivating him. Last March we talked about a blog and initially he was reluctant. We talked about keeping a record and making it deep and personal. He said that it would scare people if they really knew why. I said, “people like to be scared, look at all the scary movies they go to.” “People really want to know the truth.” Using my convincing motherly way, I said, “let’s just give it a try”, and I powered up my iPhone voice memo app and started to ask the deep questions about Why?
I said, “Let’s begin by being completely real and just putting it out there. If this is your truth then tell it.” Andy said, “I can be very real, I can tell people exactly what I’m thinking, and what my intention is and what is behind my intention, but it would scare people. . . . and I guess that’s fine . . ummm . . . I’d say that I’m at a bottom for me right now and if I start this journey I could change that. I haven’t been feeling that well lately (mentally and physically) and this seems like something I’d like to do whether I was dying or if I was really starting to live, so if I die on this trip then that’s the right thing and if this trip allows me to get the momentum to start living my life any number of ways that I want to live my life, then that’s the right thing too.”
I ask, “Are you afraid?” Andy says, “Am I afraid of what?” Me, “Anything?” Andy, “The only thing I’m afraid of is that people don’t think I can do it. I sense that people see that I’m not at the top of health and vitality and they doubt that that I’ll be able to complete the trail. That doubt annoys me and then leads me to doubt my own abilities. When I got this idea, I just knew I would do it.”
Me again, “Well aren’t there a lot of people that start on the PCT trail that don’t make it?” Andy, “Yeah, most of them, actually.” Me: “How many people make it on the trail?” Andy: “I think less that a third finish.” Me: “What are the usual reasons that people don’t complete it?” Andy: “I don’t know. Some people have to work, some get tired, some get hurt, some don’t know what to expect.” Me: “How are you going to feel about yourself if you get to a point where you feel like, Umm, I’m going to come off the trail for a while? Is that going to be disappointing for you? Are you just going to get back on your feet and continue on with life and go on to the next thing?” Andy: “It’s okay if I need to get off the trail for awhile or a few days or a week. A lot of people do that, but I know I’ve gotta come back to the trail. Unless I really hurt myself and can’t walk any more then I’m just gonna keep going back.”
Me: “What is it inside you that know that this is what you want to do, this is what you’ve gotta do?” Andy: “It’s the only thing, the only thing that I haven’t tried that really could heal me, body, mind and soul. These last two summers I’ve gone out on these adventures and they’ve been more spiritually focused and they’ve been good, but I’ve got to balance that with my body and giving it it’s optimal environment and giving my mind the space and environment to expand. I just can’t focus on the spirit and so that’s what I’m going to do on the trail.”
Me: “Do you see this though as a spiritual journey?” Andy: “Definitely, I mean every moment of my life is a spiritual journey, this is in its deepest sense a spiritual journey taking it to the limit, doing the most I can possibly handle.” Me: “What do you feel like is your biggest asset or strength going into this pilgrimage? Andy: “I think it’s courage. I don’t get scared of the things most people get scared of.” Me: “How come you don’t get scared of the things that most things people get scared of?” Andy, “I don’t know, I guess you could say I’ve seen scarier things, and I guess when you’ve seen all that little stuff most people are scared of it’s just not so scary.” Me: “Uh, hum, what’s the scariest thing you’ve seen?” Andy, “Hum, a lot of things . . . watching my Dad slowly kill himself was scary, just watching him slowly fade away, even when you’re right there, it’s pretty unsettling, seeing him on his deathbed the day that he dies like a skeleton, it’s pretty scary.”
Me: “Hum, are you afraid to die?” Andy: “Not for myself, but I’m afraid to hurt all those people that love me. They’d be sad if I died and I don’t want to make them sad.” Me: “Do you want to live?” Andy: “I want to live if I can live a joyful life, where I’m having fun, being in the moment, feeling joy and sharing it with other people, helping other people, inspiring them, teaching, learning, playing, then I definitely want to live, if that’s the life that I can live.”
Me: “Do you think you’ll find those opportunities on the trail? To find joy, to help other people, to teach other people, to engage in life, to laugh and play?” Andy: “Yeah, I think that this is one of the biggest reasons I chose this (path) because being out in nature for me is one of the most joyful things that I can do. I just start smiling when I start walking.” Me: “Is there anything else you’d like to add?” Andy: “Yeah, I love you!”
Recorded March 2012, 30 days before he hit the trail.