One of the keys to success for finishing any long distance thru hike is knowing very clearly why you are there in the first place, what your intentions are and understanding what you want to get out of a thru-hike. Walking aimlessly will not see you to the end. A thru-hike has be pleasurable but also purposeful. There will be bad days, guaranteed. There will be obstacles and hardships to overcome. I will get lost (more than once); there will be rain, sleet, maybe snow, possibly for days on end; I will run out of food; I will think about quitting and Bluff will seem so far away. But I will not quit. Being able to reflect back during those hard times, reminding myself of why I am there, will be one way to push through whenever doubt creeps in. I thought it would also be imperative to document my reasons, my ‘whys’, so I have something firm to look back on. So here are a few of my main reasons for walking 3,000km on foot across the length of a country:
• To do epic stuff. I read a book last year by Jimi Hunt in which he describes his rules for living a happy and fulfilling life. It was a great read and I really liked the concept of rule number No.1 ‘your life is only as interesting as the stories you can tell’ so get out there and do more interesting and epic stuff. I have found this to be very true and there is always room to add more adventure to my life. Life is too short, so pack in as much fun, interesting and exciting stuff as you can. Give it a go and don’t be afraid of failing. Set your ambitions high and do more epic shit!
• To take a summer off and enjoy it. Since starting my career some 17 years ago I have had forest fire fighting obligations each and every summer that precluded taking large chunks of time off over summer. Up until now I have never taken a summer season off. Generally, leave has been over winter where I’ve headed away to chase the sun. Finally the opportunity is here to take a full summer (and some) off. I will enjoy it!
• To be more spontaneous and live in the moment. Planning forms a large component of my work life. Things are highly predictable and well thought through at work because if they are not then lives are a stake. For this trip I’m looking to throw planning to the wind. I have the first week locked down but basically after that the following 5 months are wide open and fluid. I have no idea of how far I’ll walk each day, where I’ll stay at night, who I will meet along the way and what opportunities lay ahead. I am adopting an attitude of “Yes” for this trip – basically saying “yes” to any opportunity that comes my way (except for hitching around sections), particularly where ‘trail magic’ (unexpected assistance from strangers) is on offer. If dinner is on offer, a place to stay provided or a side trip recommended – yes will be my answer.
• To see it through and get to the end, walking every step. Having set a massive goal I am determined to test myself and see it through to the end. I’ll tackle Te Araroa like any major goal in life – aiming big but breaking it down into manageable chunks, setting clear objectives, and working at taking concrete steps to achieve them. It’s important for me to make my goals public so I can be held to account in bring them to fruition. Without goals, things will only remain dreams. I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other on Te Araroa and get there in the end.
• Minimalise life. Increasingly I’m looking at ways to simplify life and following minimalist principles. How much simpler can life get when you carry all your possessions on your back and your main concerns each day are walking, eating, drinking and finding a place to stay.
• Escape society (if just for a while). I am bored of what ‘society’ has to offer a misfit like myself and getting far too cynical about everything that surrounds me. I’m sick of constant grabs for my attention, particularly those that waste my time – I feel like they are slowly murdering me by taking away time that I will never get back. I’m sick of the media (all forms) shouting at me, telling me what should be important in my life. I’m sick of politicians selling the same tired policies that are not really aimed at changing anything except to further restrict our freedoms and choices, continuing to tell individuals what is best for us; and continuing the game of thrones of ruling ‘elite’. And I’m sick of the false sale of the necessity to live a normal 9 to 5 life that has been drummed into each of us since birth (ie. get born, go the school, get a job, get married, have kids, retire and die) – it is not for me. Heading bush for 5 months will go a long way to escaping all of this, if only for a short amount of time. Time away will allow opportunity for me to reassess my priorities and meditate on what is really important in life.
- and the scenery of course. What better way to spend 5 months on foot than walking through one of the friendliest and scenic countries on the plant. I couldn’t think a better way to scope out my future country of residence.