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  • Tim Mathis

Stating your intentions is the first step: Birthing Travel, the PCT, and the dream life

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

This is a post about taking the first step towards doing the things you dream about.

First off though, I want to say that the kids these days have it tough, because they’ll never experience a world where their entire lives aren’t chronicled online. Those embarrassing photos will always be available for the world to see.

I don't know why we do it, but it seems like it’s a natural human impulse to humiliate ourselves on the web. My childhood is mostly private because I grew up pre-internet, but I started posting regrettable things as soon as it became an option. The other day, in fact, I found my first contribution to the internet, and you’ll want to check it out. It’s a David Lynchian Angelfire site I built when I was 19.

Despite the pitfalls, posting embarrassing things is healthy sometimes. While I don’t know that I gain a lot from no longer knowing how to delete that old Angelfire account, when I was scrolling posts to transfer to this blog, I was reminded that my life has been dramatically changed at various points by sharing stuff online.

In particular, I came across a post from 2015 that I recognize now as a pivotal moment in my journey. It was something I wrote as a way of calling my shot - of declaring my intentions and speaking reality into being at a time when I didn't know if Angel and I could actually pull off our big, audacious goals. I wrote it shortly after telling my work I was leaving and going to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Here’s what it said:

Prophecy 2015

Angel and I are just back from an International Dream Vacation, skiing the Canadian Rockies with some Kiwi friends, enjoying unseasonably warm weather in Banff, and trying out the related unseasonably bad skiing and smelly hostels in Fernie. It was our first time downhill skiing since we were teenagers. It was fun and nothing's broken, but that's mostly neither here nor there.

Travel is always a nice chance to take a break from normal life rhythms, but for us it has also frequently been a chance to plot major life changes. Travel to Australia led to us living in New Zealand, which preceded our move to Seattle. Traveling the Camino in Spain ultimately led to a decision to hike the PCT and then go learn Spanish.

Going places makes us want to go other places.

This Canadian trip (with good Kiwi friends who we never would've met if we hadn't traveled to New Zealand) was a nice reminder that Angel and I would rather travel than do just about anything else. Hanging out with Kiwis always has that effect because they travel as well as any nationality I know and because our two years in NZ were some of the best of our life. And it was also a nice tune-up for our upcoming period of vagabonding.

Beyond just wanting to be on vacation all of the time, traveling in 2015 (and maybe beyond), is about trying to figure out how to prioritize the things that are important to us. Different people want different things in life. Some people want to spend time with their family, or make a lot of money, or have a meaningful career. All of that is important to us to some degree, but we also want to do it in the context of experiencing as much of the world as possible. Our priorities in some random order include: meaningful and beneficial work, outdoor adventures, close relationships, a sense of home, seeing as much as we can, learning as much as we can. We've spent a decade hammering away at debt, investing, buying and remodeling a home, changing careers, and trying to put ourselves in a position of professional and financial flexibility. What that adds up to at this point is a chance to try to move the balance away from career a little bit and more towards life.

A more accurate way to say it might be that we want to shift more towards a model where, when we are working, we are working intentionally - shaping our work life so that it will allow us to do more of the things that we want to do. Part of me always feels like I need to justify our decisions to travel, both to myself and others, as if they were inherently selfish. But in practice I doubt that our contributions to society will be significantly diminished by the fact that we'll be moving from place to place for some period of time in the near future. And we're lucky to be in a position where our jobs themselves are a meaningful part of the lives we'll live. If we pick up nursing work while we're traveling, it should contribute to the experience rather than feeling like a necessary evil.

The two year plan is to make this a sort of intensive Masters program in resilience and creativity: stretching the resources we have as far as they'll go, investigating what nursing can do for us to both enrich our experience and extend it, developing other skills to make money to keep traveling, sorting out how to balance being home with being away.

The long term goal is to develop a life where travel and adventure is a regular, viable possibility: More Caminos. More through hiking. Spending more time with the people and places we love. Floating the Mississippi. Going to new parts of the world. More friends. Ultras, Skiing, Biking, Mountains, Surfing.

In two months, we'll see how this goes.

What the value of a public announcement?

In retrospect, this post reads as audacious and maybe a little bit self-indulgent. But while it reads like a brag to me today, at the time it genuinely didn’t feel like that. It felt like a risky public commitment to a major life change that terrified me. It was an attempt to fake it until I made it - to pretend I had the confidence to do the things Angel and I had dreamed about for years, in the hopes that the confidence would come when we tried it.

It did.

A few years later, we’ve done most of what we planned, and a lot more.

So now I can see that saying it out loud is an important part of the process in any big life decision. It’s embarrassing to talk about your visions and dreams in public, but it also helps you put together the life you want..

When you say it out loud, you’ve committed. You’ve added ego and the potential for public failure to the quest to live your dreams. You’ve also counteracted the insecure gut feeling that you’re not the type of person who does these sorts of things. You’ve put out a call to supportive friends to help you get there. And you’ve admitted to yourself that this is something that’s worth taking risks to accomplish.

So, even if I think some of my earlier posts read as self-indulgent, I can give my younger self a pass. Sharing your dreams out loud isn’t a brag. It’s an important part of the process.

So build that Angelfire site. Write that blog post. Say the things you dream about out loud. That’s not the whole battle, but it’s a first step.

My books were also initially so painful to announce publicly. Now, I think of them as the coolest things I've released into the world since that Angelfire site.

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