We’ve all seen those motivational images, the ones that tell you to follow your dreams before it’s too late. It’ll invariably be a stunning image paired with words of wisdom suggesting that a soul will have a more pleasant journey to, wherever you believe souls go, if it spent it’s existence pursuing memories rather than possessions. In 2013 a nurse named Bronnie Ware surveyed terminal patients in her care as to their biggest regrets; her results showed that the number one regret was not following one’s dreams.
When I was in 6th or 7th grade I had a dream of running away. I convinced my friend, Anthony that we should take off and live like Grizzly Adams. After school we headed for the hills. We were going to go into the Superstition Mountains to live off the land. On our travels we found ourselves under a bridge with some kids from the high school. One of them started picking on Anthony so I punched him in the stomach. He started crying and said that he’d just had an operation. He was sobbing as he and his friend limped off; no matter, the call of the wild was loud & clear – Anthony and I kept moving.
I don’t remember why now, but we decided to stop and wash our hands in one of the lakes; when I say lake you should think “golf-course water hazard”. Anyway, we stopped to wash our hands and that moment I was taught the importance of sturdy equipment. My awesome watch with the thick leather band stopped working. It stopped working at 6:22 p.m.; I remember this because at that moment I realized that my mom was probably panicking. But still, the desire to turn feral and live in a cave was strong, so we pushed on.
It started getting dark and we were exhausted from our journey. We decided to take refuge under some bushes. I had no idea how far we’d gone but I knew we’d really covered some ground. We could still see traffic so we knew we were safe but we felt like we were really hidden. Then, just as the sun was setting I heard a scream “THERE HE HIS!!”. It was my mom. She’d seen me from the street hiding under the Oleander bushes. We’d traveled about 2 miles and were holed up under the bushes on a golf course along a major road.
So much for going wild!
As I look back on this event in my life decades later I realize that I wasn’t running away from something, I was running toward it. One of the defining moments of that experience is ingrained into my memories – it was the moment we laid down under those bushes. I remember being scared because I had no idea how I was going to protect myself from the elements let alone the monsters in the dark; but at the same time I felt a sense of freedom. Fuck school, fuck the kids that picked on me, fuck having to do homework – I was going to find Tarzan and show him I was in charge.
My desire to wander has always been. In fact I’ve always said that if life gets too difficult I’m not killing myself, I’m going to live in a van down by the river. One of my favorite paintings was done by my mom, it hangs on my wall right now. It’s an oil on canvas of an old log cabin, next to a large river and just under the shadow of a forbidding peak draped in clouds. The light from inside the cabin is shining and warm. I dream of that place often; and not just that place – I dream of exploring everything around that cabin. But most of all, I dream of the wild.
About 21 years ago I heard of the Arizona Trail. It’s an 800 mile trek that traverses the state from north to south. You can hike it “NoBo” or “SoBo”; northbound or southbound. You can start in Mexico and hike to Utah or the other way around. When I heard of the trail it wasn’t finished, but I wasn’t deterred, in fact I wanted to set a speed record. I figured that 20-25 miles a day would do it. I prepared for that dream; I studied books and maps and plotted strategies. I never went.
Today, I’m older and way fatter. My dream is only to finish the trail. I have no illusions of setting any type of speed record. I think the only record I’ll set is for total consumed Ibuprofen. Nevertheless, I’ve set an intention – to thru-hike the Arizona Trail, SoBo, starting in October of 2016. I anticipate that it’ll take me approximately 55-75 hiking days, not counting days of rest. I’ll be doing this solo, with a dog or two when the trail permits.
I’m going to live the dream; I’m going to live sole to soul.