When I set out on my Kungsleden thru-hike this summer I told you that I wasn’t sure whether it would be the big crescendo of my reboot-at-forty journey or just the beginning. Well, I guess I have an answer to that query now – this is only the beginning!
Rebooting for me is a journey of discovery and my thru-hike this summer flung the doors wide open. Coming home was really hard though… harder than I thought it would be. I did not feel ready! Upon reflecting I knew I would never be the same. I felt almost a sense of panic at the thought of assimilating back into my old life again. I am at a turning point in my life right now, in more ways than one, and it is my choice how I proceed from here. Bottom line, none of us know how much time we have left in this life. I have a responsibility to myself to listen to what my soul is trying to say… and it is not chaining me to a desk – it is telling me to keep walking! So, I am liquidating my company and taking an extended sabbatical. I am leaving for New Zealand next month. I had set out to redefine happiness after all… this is a start!
When is the right time for daring, radical decisions and life changes? If not now, then when? Fuck logic!
While trying to wrap my head around all this I was listening to British philosopher Alan Watts talk about life. He was explaining that life doesn’t have a destination like we have been lead to believe. To think that life would have some serious purpose at the end is all a great big hoax, and in thinking this way we completely miss the point. This really hit home with me as this is what my reboot really is all about at the core… but perhaps I have been asking the wrong question. More interesting than finding a purpose or a meaning to it all may be something a lot less specific… like a feeling or ideology perhaps, rather than a conviction or a road map. Life, after all, is what is going on all the while we are struggling to reach our goals or fill our intended social roles and live up to some absurd social norms… and instead what we really just ought to do is to follow our heart and enjoy the ride. Hmm… good thing I will have time to mull this over some more soon…
“The existence isn’t going anywhere… it doesn’t have a destination. It is best understood as an analogy by music. Music, as an art form, is essentially playful. Music differs from, say travel, one doesn’t make the end of the composition the point of the composition. Same way with dancing. You don’t aim at a particular spot in the room because that’s where you should arrive. The whole point of the dancing is the dance. We thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing, or to dance, while the music was being played.”
So my plan is to thru-hike Te Araroa (Maori for the long pathway), a 3 000 km trail spanning the entire country of New Zealand, from Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff in the south. Established in 2011 it is a newcomer on the though-hike circuit, but it is already touted as one of the world’s greatest long walks and it is not hard to see why. The trail features a wide variety of experiences, from natural to cultural and historic. It differs somewhat from other long trails in that it actually promotes interaction with the kiwi culture and people along the way, especially on the North Island. Many other long trails also generally have a geographic and geological unity while Te Araroa is quite the opposite. It is a celebration of New Zealand’s incredible variety, its mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes, tombolos and volcanoes.
There is a reasonably wide window of opportunity to walk Te Araroa. Heading southbound, like I plan to do, a September-December start is recommended. So I am starting towards the end of the seasonal window and many people have already started walking. The main concern being weather, either early or late in the season. This being the southern hemisphere all the seasons are reversed, so I might run into winter before I am done in April just like I did on Kungsleden. Fine, I will pack some warmer gear in the bouncebox to be safe. The reason I am pushing back my start date is to give my knees as much time as possible to rehab from the last hike… I am doing a physical therapy program every day until I leave. According to the official website a thru-hike takes somewhere between 100-160 days. There are of course a number of variables in play, but most seem to aim for about 4.5 to 5 months to complete the trail, and I will too. I am leaving on November 25 and have a return ticket booked for April 29 next year, but it is open ended so I can change that date if I need to.
First there is a lot of planning to do! This is a massive undertaking requiring a daunting amount of preparations. I am trying not to get overwhelmed by the task, taking it on one step at a time, just like when hiking… one foot in front of the other.
I am looking forward to finally getting there and to settle into the walking routine again. Away from constant digital connectivity and close to nature and my own thoughts. This time I am hiking alone so even though my friend and I really hiked our own hikes (while together) last time, I imagine there will be even more time to think, I will be out a lot longer for one… but I am also curious about the trail culture and look forward to meeting other hikers. There is already a great community on Facebook and according to the signup sheet there we are about 156 thru-hikers to date for the class of 2016-17.
As usual I doubt I will find the time and energy to blog live, but I will try and share a few thoughts and snapshots on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) along the way. I should have access to electricity and wifi while resupplying about once a week or so, but who knows…
I will share my packing list next as usual. Stay tuned!