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Lasque Tiarc

Goodbye Amsterdam, Howdy Montana – De Trek

Vaseline 3 months ago

“Once in a lifetime experience” – what a lie.

I’ve heard that over and over again, before, during and after my PCT hike. Each time I smiled and nodded, ignoring the tight feeling in my chest. Once in a lifetime? No. I knew I wanted to do more thru-hikes than the PCT before I had even walked a mile. But by the time I reached the northern terminus in mid-October 2023, I was exhausted, and the thought of setting off for another long hike in a few months? Unrealistic. I was pretty broke and tired from being on the road all the time.

It was time to return to Europe and look for a job.

Zoom meetings in national parks

After the PCT I was still backpacking the west coast. Therefore, my job search included conducting interviews via Zoom in national parks and using WiFi in visitor centers. I often woke up at 5 am or earlier to bridge the time zone difference with Europe. This all felt so unprofessional, but the course had given me new confidence. And so I simply blurred my background from the meeting and confidently answered the screening questions.

After running 2,600 miles, I felt like I needed a new challenge and decided to switch my career to tech sales. But when I finally got an offer after multiple interviews, the company gave me a contract for just five months with the justification I needed to “prove” myself. They only hire from December 4th to May 4th and then reevaluate.

Staring at the screen with a lump in my throat. I’m disappointed. 4th of May.

Suddenly I smiled and whispered to myself, “May the force be with you.” Something my dad always said, my dad who got me into this hiking craze in the first place. I received the job offer on a Friday afternoon while I was transporting groceries to the Calabasas motel where I was staying. It is now November, but still warm. A salty tear streams down my face.

The universe left a message for me. 4th of May. CDT. I’m doing it.

Heartache in Amsterdam

“I’m going on another one”

4 months later. I was sitting in a dimly lit bar in Amsterdam on a sturdy wooden table across from my best friend. I twisted the small 0.3 liter beer glass awkwardly between my fingers. Staring at the floor, staring at the faded paintings on the wall, staring at the bartender’s bald spot. My eyes wandered everywhere just to avoid looking at her.
“I’m going to another one,” and when our eyes finally meet, her image becomes blurry.
Embarrassed, I wipe the tear from my cheek.

My flights are booked, my gear is patched up from last year’s PCT adventure, and everything I own fits into three boxes. Maybe there is excitement somewhere deep inside, underneath all the stress and guilt. The sadness. But today I’m not excited about hiking the CDT. It hurts to leave and it hurts even more to do this to the people I love.

“Isn’t it a bit rushed? I mean, you just came back…” She tries to smile, but I can see the pain in her dark eyes. She’s right, of course she’s right. My PCT walk ended on October 13th, I spent another five weeks in the US before starting a new job in Amsterdam last December. Now it’s March, four months flew by like it was nothing.

Ultimately, I liked the job and they offered me an extension, which I accepted. For May. When I told my boss I was leaving to walk from Montana to New Mexico, he didn’t say anything for a while. I thought he hung up on me.

Mouse in a trap

“You’re so lucky to be able to do this,” people say. Over and over again, at the airport, on my last day at the office, on my Instagram. They mean well and I feel happy when I am there, while walking.

Many years ago I lived in an old apartment in the center of Amsterdam. View of a canal. With creaking floorboards, drafty windows and mice. We set out traps to control the mice, but we didn’t catch any for weeks. Until one morning I walked into the kitchen and heard an unusual scratching sound. I crouched down and saw a little gray mouse with big black eyes looking up at me. Scared, panicking, fighting to be free again.

And the past few months, glued to my laptop screen, looking at the gray sky of Amsterdam outside my office window. I felt like that mouse. It was time to escape.

title photo courtesy of https://unsplash.com/@hollymandarich

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