It’s been more than three month since we celebrated at the border. We’re back home, in “normal” life. We’ve gone through quite a process since seeing the monument, and it seems like a good time to write down my thoughts about it.
Welcome to Canada!
After having crossed the border, we had to hike on to Manning Park, a resort next to a road and the first “civilisation” in Canada. There was no difference to hiking on the American side, we were still on a little path in the forest. It was totally surreal, I knew we were done, yet it felt like we’d hike on further and further north like before, as if nothing had changed. I felt empty somehow, and I realised I hadn’t had a moment for myself at the border to really think about what happened and what it meant to me. So I fell back a little behind Andy and our friend Polkadots with whom we were hiking at that moment to catch up on it. The trail led to a dirt road we then followed. It was there I saw this little sign attached to a tree that read “km 4”. Kilometers, not miles. We were not in the US anymore, and that was the moment it really hit home, when I realised for real what we had achieved.
In Manning Park, we had lunch with Polkadots and Mayhem (who had been at the border with us) and we cheered with hot chocolate – something a little weird, fitting the whole wonderful and weird pct-experience. Then, we hitchhiked to Vancouver, and although it was a bit more difficult that hitching into a trailtown, thanks to three friendly people, we made it that same evening.
Hitchhiking with a little help…
Arriving in Vancouver was a shock – all those lights, people and the noise! And nowhere to pitch our tent, instead a tricky search (at 10 pm) for accomodation. But we also managed this challenge, and when I woke up the next day and heard the rain softly beating on the roof while I was laying in a soft, warm and dry bed, it felt like the best thing every!
We started to do our usual tasks of laundry and drying gear. Yet there was no resupply to do. So on one side it felt like a normal stop on our hike, like we would continue the next day, yet at the same time we had to remind ourselves that we wouldn’t. Our bodies at least were not unhappy about that…😉 And to be honest, neither were we – the last weeks had been hard, and we were ready to be done.
I had been looking forward to being in Vancouver for a long time, I’d heard it was a great city. But my plans of seeing a lot of it failed: It seemed that even if we somehow were still struggling to accept it, at least the unconscious parts of our brains and our bodies had realized very well that we were done hiking, and so they shouted “relaxing, finally!”, and shut the system down. We were totally exhausted! So we did relax, met pct-friends for a brunch, spent a whole day in a cafe writing postcards to the trailangels who had helped us on our journey, and looked at the big cruise-ships leaving and arriving.
…or at those planes…
I felt like an alien in the city. When we entered a shopping mall to buy postcards, I felt a strong urge to run out screaming after 30 seconds, so uncomfortable was I in this unnatural space together with so many people, noise and lights. After six month in the wild, it also struck me that in a city you can see your reflection everywhere – I became aware for the first time of our appearance, how different from other people we looked in our (although for once clean😉) hiker-trash clothes. On the trail, appearance hadn’t mattered at all, but here, seeing ourselves everywhere, it suddenly started to be not so unimportant anymore… It seemed we had to enter “normal” life again, much faster than we felt like doing it.
The pct seemed to be so far away already, but we were thinking and talking a lot about it, about how it had influenced us, what we wanted to change back home. We felt clearly that we wanted a simple life, to slow down, to give (even) less importance to material things and possesion…
And we were looking forward to going home. It was great to see our families and friends again! My parents, my brother and my best friend came extra to the airport to fetch us – what a wonderful surprise! I was so happy!
During the first weeks after our return, we were very busy and quite euphoric, meeting people, starting to work again (we had both been on unpaid leave), getting our flat back etc. Quite fast, though, it was business as usual again. Nobody talked about the pct anymore, while we were still often thinking about it. I missed being outside, feeling the wind and seeing the little changes in nature. I missed the simplicity of our life out there and felt quite overwhelmed even in a little city like Zurich. Sitting again all day long in the office was hard, I couldn’t focus the whole day long anymore (something I hadn’t had problems with at all before) and felt like I couldn’t get enough air. The days passed so fast, unlike when we were outside, where I somehow lived much more intensely. It was as if I didn’t quite fit anymore in my life as I had left it.
We had given ourselves three month to figure out if we wanted to change major things (like for example our jobs, our flat, our way of living). This proved to be very good because it lifted the pressure of changing something immediately on “bad” days. It left us time to think, to talk and to adapt. Initially, we didn’t go back to all our former hobbies and activities, because we already had gone back to our old flat and work and felt that we wanted at least a little difference to how it had been before, and also because we wanted more time. Slowly, we took up a few things again. Andy went running and playing football, for example, while I started to dance again (I had missed that a lot), deciding to try a new style – flamenco (it’s super cool!).
As time passed, I felt less like an alien (though I still have my moments😉). Andy and I had long chats, and I think now we see a little clearer how to continue and what our priorities are. We will start our next big adventure, getting married, and then – I’m sure this won’t be our last adventure…😄😉