I’ll get on to what you will learn after a short story, so skip ahead if you’re only here for the main headline!
On a rather spontaneously wet Tuesday evening in Southern England, there sat an extremely handsome young man (some would say “Roman God-like”). Much like any other evening in the build up to the PCT, he sat questioning his decision to permanently deform his feet and other vital joints. Not to mention the endless state of hunger, loneliness, pain and self-resentment he would endure. It was all but a matter of time before a reprieve would come his way.
There have been many a protest targeted at the social media generation (everyone’s too digitally focused, it affects your health etc.). As one of the 90% of people who don’t really care and utilise these platforms, he happened to reap the benefits on that Tuesday evening. Peering out from the dining room to the patio, which was under attack by a barrage of rain clouds, he heard a ‘ding’ from his outdated and heavily worn smartphone. A social interaction via Facebook came his way. It read…
“Hey Ryan, me and rest of family cannot make it on Saturday, we were wondering when you are around for a drink as we would like to wish you good luck x”
This “Saturday” you say? To the best of his knowledge, he was out for a training hike during the day and was due at a friends birthday meal following that. What could this mean? He thought about it for approximately 0.4 seconds and finally responded…
Coley, you’ve definitely just revealed a surprise party hahaha”
Then there was a short pause before…
“Oh **** (are kids reading?)! Please don’t tell anyone you knew!”
He kept his word of not telling anyone by instead writing a blog post about it. Now some of his monumental stress levels have been lifted, knowing that he’ll see many of his nearest and dearest before leaving.
Special thanks to Mary for organising what will be a great evening! (Check out her blog!)
Things you can learn (pre-PCT)
I didn’t go to university. Not to say that it won’t happen in the future though. The appeal of learning on the job made far more sense to me. One thing you’re unlikely to predict is for the PCT to be a major learning curve in your life and career.
1 – Survival
If there’s one thing that you must do for a thru-hike it’s prepare. And by doing so you train yourself in a number of key survival techniques, such as water filtration (check out Sawyer Products, who are supporting my thru-hike), building a shelter, campfire construction, wildlife safety, snow/mountaineering skills and many many others.
2 – Leave No Trace!
When in nature you want to leave as little evidence as possible of your presence. This will be incredibly useful for anyone expecting to be pursued by the FBI in the near future and wants to go under the radar. This means going as far as packing out your used toilet roll. Lovely!
I wrote more about LNT principles here – When to begin? Leave no trace!
3 – Writing
It’s safe to say that I body-swerved reading for the most part growing up (Sorry, Dad). However, as time’s gone on it’s thankfully become more of a hobby than a chore. This blog is my first attempt at public writing on a personal level. Post after post I’ve become far more comfortable with my writing style. The grammar/punctuation isn’t spot on always, but you all get what I’m on about either way. Writing this blog made me realise that it’s something I’m very much interested in.
(Longing for the days when I can write about lots of meaningful things rather than how to pack out and dispose of your used toilet paper!)
4 – Fundraising
If you’ve never fundraised before then you’re in for a surprise. Don’t expect people to throw their hard-earned towards your charity for any old challenge. The PCT is a difficult one because so few people have heard of it. For me it’s been about educating those around me about what the trail entails. It should only take a couple of sentences to get it across. Also, letting people understand your reasons why – see here.
It’s going fairly well so far with three weeks before I leave. 65% as I write. There’s a link if you click on the drop down menu at the top right of this page. You can subscribe there too 🙂
5 – Building a Brand
As I came into this process with the aim of building a new career around what I enjoy and what challenges me, a brand identity was always going to be key. Not wanting to just think about the now, but the future too. The focus had to be on outdoor activities.
Finances were also tight going into this process, so any companies or individuals who wanted to support me through providing gear were also a factor if not necessity. There’s a post I did about this if you scroll down on the Blog Posts Page called ‘Sponsors’. Most probably out of date now, but the methods haven’t changed.
Palisade Gear sent me a package earlier in the week with their Ultralight Carbon Trekking Poles, as well as a few other treats.
With the above in mind I jumped onto the other social media platforms, such as Instagram and Twitter. Previously not understanding the benefits of either, it’s now starting to make more sense to me. My Instagram (@Lost_Outdoors) is building steadily and it’s become enjoyable to see many of my best hiking-related posts on there.
Then there’s the website. It’s THE most frustrating thing to keep on top of in addition to preparing for a thru-hike. Especially with the restrictions placed on the customisation of the theme before upgrading to one of WordPress’s Premium or Business plan. However, I’m so glad I did this! Building a website has always been on the agenda and now I have one that’s not all that shabby and allows me to diarise my trip too.
6 – Photography
One important skill people often ignore is how to take a good photo, rather than point and click. Not to say that I’m the Picasso of photography, but I at least know the basics. Throughout my thru-hike training it’s been important to remind myself of how to approach this, in order to build my Instagram following and for this website.
As we grow older and want to show our kids that we once had hair, we’ll be grateful that we could do it with an epic backdrop too.
The above are just 6 of many things I could have listed for you and that’s before starting the trail itself. Can’t wait to see what else there is!
I’m currently in crazy gear mode. It’s endless getting the last few things together. I’ll put a spreadsheet up once it’s more or less all sorted (with weights and all).