My goal, explore South America. Such a simple, concise statement for something that could easily take months if not years to accomplish. Of course, the “what” is almost always easy to define. What Columbus wanted to do was find an easier way to get to the Far East. What NASA wanted to do was land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth. And all I want to do is explore a continent. However, when you start getting into the “how”, things can get a bit more complex and as the saying goes, the devil is in the details.
Step 1 – Retire ✔
Step 2 – Hike the Pacific Crest Trail (just a detour on the way to the goal) ✔
Step 3 – Move to Ecuador ✔
In retrospect, the first 3 steps were relatively easy and trouble-free. In early 2021 I was ready to not be working anymore and had begun thinking about how I would make that happen. At that time, neither South America nor the Pacific Crest Trail had even entered my mind. I was not sure I had enough money to retire in the United States, and retiring overseas became an attractive alternative. After 6 months of research, my sights were set on Ecuador, and March 15th of 2022 was to be the big move. Then, in August of 2021, I was entertaining myself with a few YouTube videos when I saw Darwin Onthetrail. Change of plans. Retirement was still on the schedule, but the move to Ecuador had to be delayed until September of 2022 to give me time to hike the PCT. After watching just 1 video, I committed myself to 5 months of hiking from Mexico to Canada. On April 19 I took my first step on the PCT at the US/Mexico border. Later that year, on September 12th, I took my last step just about 20 miles short of Canada. The final miles of the trail were closed due to a large wildfire burning at the border. Oh well. No time to worry about that, my flight to Ecuador was only 2 weeks away.
When I arrived in Ecuador in September of 2022 I had no idea how to move the plan forward from there. I had not given it much thought. The first major milestone was to just get here. And, being an advocate of lean process management, I knew it only made sense to plan and execute incremental changes rather than attempting to identify in advance every detail necessary to reach my final goal. I had a history of making major life changes on a whim and any other approach to life just resulted in huge amounts of time spent planning things that might never come about. Even though I tend to live my life in a very inefficient manner, I like to fool myself into believing otherwise.
After making the almost obligatory trip to see the Galapagos, I started giving some more thought to the HOW of my plan. I thought about hiking the length of the Andes, but my feet were still recovering from the PCT, and I am sure that had something to do with the idea never gaining much traction in my mind. I considered hitchhiking, but some of the places I wanted to explore are well off the beaten path and probably difficult to reach that way. Even though time is not an issue, spending days or weeks waiting for a ride on a deserted road in some place like the Atacama Desert does not appeal to me. Becoming a bus-riding road warrior was a thought, but that method of travel suffers from the same issue as hitchhiking. It wasn’t until I stumbled across the videos of Itchy Boots (Noraly Schoenmaker) and her ongoing, multi-year, solo exploration of the world by motorcycle that I knew I had found a piece of the next step.
Coming next…Running from Average