6 MINUTE READ
For about a year, my friend, Jay, and I talked about escaping our lives and living out on the trails or tramping. It had been a hard road to April 2012. We spent many weekends hiking around Los Angeles where we’d talk about leaving this life behind us. What the future held for America and where we could find our place in it.
He had become consumed with the idea to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). We talked about how we could do a month that summer. Where could we start so that we wouldn’t die from the heat? What would we need? For me, I enjoyed talking the logistics. It took me back to a time that I really enjoyed in my entertainment career. A job that I missed and was no longer an option.
As we looked deeper into hiking the trail, the reality was that I couldn’t afford to take a month off to go hiking somewhere. I really loved the idea. The thought of the freedom and being in nature appealed to the child in me.
When I was young, my Dad took me camping every summer. For weeks at a time, we would portage 5-10 miles, canoe for a few more, and find a campground. At night we had to put our food up into the trees so we wouldn’t attract the bears. We were what I called, “real camping.”
As an adult, it took me a long time to realize that it was okay to drive my car to the campsite and pop my tent. If I wanted to be in nature, I didn’t need to be so hardcore about it. During the years of struggle, this is what got me through. If I had a lousy week, Friday afternoon, I’d toss in my camping gear and drive off.
I had waxed nostalgic about those camping trips with my Dad. Jay’s idea to hike the PCT was a way to recapture some of my childhood and perhaps find a clearer path to my future.
I needed a drastic change because I was about to implode.
My best friend's mom, who was by this point my extended family, had been in town. We went about doing what we usually did during their visits, and I mentioned the potential plan to hike the PCT. By this point, she knew that if I was talking about it, then the likelihood of it happening was very high.
It just so happened that she bought Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed for her airplane read. She had just finished it when I started talking about it. She never mentioned it as I rambled on and on.
She gave me the book before she left and said, “read it. I think you need to hear the story.”
She was right. I’m sure she loved hearing that.
The PCT was not the type of adventure or change that I needed.
The realities of tramping and camping days on end are expensive and dangerous. I was broke and trying to make ends meet. Escaping to the woods would not solve my problems. I also knew that I was too broken as a person to have the will and determination it would take to finish.
I didn’t want to make it a few weeks, then leave Jay behind as I somehow found my way home. Or worse, he felt bad and came with me. If I did drop out, what would I do? Where would it happen? Would it happen on the top of some mountain? Would I have pushed myself beyond my breaking point and hurting myself trying to escape? And if I did decide to leave the trail, how would I get home? Walk?
I may be a lot of things and decide to do things seemingly spontaneously, but I do have the foresight to think about the what ifs… most of the time.
Random Act of Change
The discussion about the PCT made it clear to me that I needed to change my life. And like most people, if I wanted to change it needed to be drastic.
I was consumed with the idea of travel. The constant moving back and forth as a kid, then growing up in the Caribbean, I had always felt unsettled.
Many people feel attached to the place where they grew up. They know where their home is.
Whenever, I was asked, “Where are you from?” I paused and stumbled because I don’t know how to answer that question. It’s a simple question, but I didn’t know where I considered myself “from.”
I know where I was born, but that’s not home.
I know where I was raised, but that’s not home.
I know where I grew up and that’s the closest to home.
Before I moved to LA, I went on my first trip out there for a convention. I can still see myself looking out the plane window and thinking, “this is home.” Which is good because I decided to move there on a whim four months prior. The thirteen years I lived in LA is where I grew up. It is what shaped and finalized me as a person.
So, where am I from? Los Angeles.
My decision to move to LA was made on my 21st birthday. I had never dreamed of living out there. I had never been there. Just driving down the interstate with a friend from college when the idea popped into my head. I turned to my friend, “Hey want to do something crazy?”
“Let’s move to LA.”
We quickly convinced our other friend to come with us. We set a date for a few days after their graduation. And that was kinda that.
Eight months later, we loaded up a moving truck and drove across the country.
What Is The Drastic Change I Need?
I had always wanted to go to Europe. When I had the money, I was scared to take a vacation. As a freelancer, turning down a job could mean sliding down that person’s call list for the next gig. It was too risky to take a week and go away.
Now, I was broke. The money I made was enough to live a minimal life in my small studio apartment. I was lucky to have a few friends that understood my situation. But, I knew that there must be a place where I could extend my money.
My life at the time was wake up, coffee, work, coffee, try to remember to be human, coffee, and sleep. The habits I had developed were horribly unhealthy. I rarely went outside. I didn’t eat right. My days were spent at my desk trying to make my life better. When all it did was ruin my health and relationships.
It’s not good when your friends tell you are you the hardest working poor person they know.
Man, did I wish I could just get a job? Work 9-5 and hang out with friends on the weekend. Absolutely. It just wasn’t happening.
As I worked, I always had a movie playing to keep me company. I began to realize there was a pattern to the films I chose. They all related to travel and escaping life.
The more I thought about my life, it was no longer to escape it. I wanted to fundamentally change it. I wanted a life. I wanted to see more than my four walls.
This frustration lead to the moment that completely changed my life.
One of the first steps I took was reading an hour before bed to help me relax. I had a Kindle, and I would search for free books to read. One day I came across this book called Life Nomadic: How to Travel the World for Less Than You Pay in Rent by Tynan.
Holy mother -- this book was life altering.
I was in the middle of reading this book while I was working on this huge client deal. This deal would have been the breakthrough that I had been waiting for. It would have breathed life into my bank account.
There were four parties involved, and all four were needed to make it happen. I should have known this was going to blow up because it’s LA. People are ego-driven, narcissistic, a-holes. Sure enough, one dude exploded. Which caused another dude to explode. Sitting on the conference call, I just felt the world falling apart piece by piece.
The things these guys said to each other, there was no going back. This deal was not going to happen. I hung up the phone and threw it across the room. My rage was apparent by the number of things that ended up on the floor that day.
When the rage passed, I threw myself into my chair and said out loud, “why can’t I be in Paris, right now?”
It was a good question and a bit out of the blue. I don’t know what made me say it. There was no one in the room with me. But, it was exactly what I needed to hear.
I spent the rest of the day finishing Tynan’s book and used it as a template for a new life.
That weekend I started selling off all my belongings.
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