Sometimes people call me fearless. They probably don’t know me very well. Worry might as well be my middle name. I am the kind of person who has already weighed the pros and cons of five potential scenarios before something even happened. Checking under the bed was a nightly routine for longer than I care to admit and overcoming my fear of picking up the phone took the better part of my high school career.
People meeting me today also assume that I must have always loved hiking. That, my poor parents can confirm, is definitely not the case. In fact, some days I still wonder whether I just excel at tricking myself into believing that personal growth through suffering is fun – ignoring the pain, discomfort and exhaustion that appear to be regular by-products of my escapades.
So how did I become the avid hiker I am today?
“Are you running away from something?” my friend Bassam once asked me after a weekend spent walking in the hills together. The truth is, I quite possibly was.
Ten years of volunteering and working in the humanitarian sector had left me feeling disillusioned. The activism I had once poured my heart and soul into suddenly seemed void, messy and meaningless.
And then there it was. During my time in Amman, I found the Jordan Trail. Or rather, it found me through my friend Katy, who I regularly accompanied for day hikes. Before I knew it, the trail became the place where I could escape my anxiety and budding identity crisis.
Yet more than a distraction, it also provided me with a new purpose. And so, I got hooked on leaving the city behind every weekend to work towards a clear and attainable goal: walking the length of Jordan.
I soon discovered that compulsive thinking and worrying get paused when hitting a trail. In hiking, I found the most powerful antidote to the curse of busyness, allowing me to feel free and see more clearly. It empowered me in ways I was not expecting and reminding me of how simple life can be when we choose not to complicate it.
As Ton Lemaire wrote in his book Met lichte tred: “The walker is freed from the duty of productivity and efficiency, and freed from the eternal time pressure that in normal live narrows and impoverishes the experience of the world.”
Hiking is no longer just an escape to me. Rather, it is a way to experience beauty and adventure, a way to redefine my relationship with the world around me. Five months of living in nature therefore seems just as worthwhile an objective as any other, which is why I am committing to thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail with my partner Fadi this year, all 2,650 miles from the Mexican border to Canada.
Do I feel ready? Not really. But being able to embark on this adventure is an absolute privilege, so I choose to feel grateful rather than nervous as I pack my bags and count down to April 30th. Canada, I am on my way.