You may think this is another essay about the spiritual journey one is taking on a long-distance hiking-trail, another essay saying how one is being transformed to a new human being becoming one with nature ‘n’ stuff. Well, to be honest, everyone’s life is a spiritual journey, some learn to see it this way – others don’t. But this story is about how I really lost my identity on trail.
It was on day 5 when I reached Stagecoach RV in Julian, about 75 miles (120 km) into the trail. This whole adventure was still new to my body & mind, so new that it was time to only take my second shower since I left my friend Susies’ house in Sacramento about one week ago. Here I was, arriving at an official campground with toilets, showers and washing-machines – boy that was exciting! I checked in, set up my tent and took my backpack with all my belongings to the laundry-room to put my few clothes into a washing-machine. In the corner in the room I found a soda vending-machine which I immediately fed with my money out of my pouch to get a nice, cold, and sugery drink. I drank it fast because a refreshing shower was waiting for me. Afterwards I went to collect my clothes, went to my tent, cooked dinner and quickly fell asleep. The next day was supposed to be a zero day, a day without hiking. I just wanted to relax a bit. My backpack was a little too heavy in the beginning because I had packed about ten days worth of food, three gas-canisters, one gallon of soap and other stuff I maybe should have not brought. It sounds ludicrous now when I think about it now but that’s how it was back then. Anyways, I’m drifting off a little bit. What was I saying? Ah yes, I wanted to take a zero day and relax. I woke up in the morning, had breakfast, sat around for a little while and at some point decided to have another one of those delicious sodas out of the vending-machine I found last night. I looked for my pouch in my tent and found … nothing! Wait, wait, wait. It had to be somewhere, I looked again. And again nothing. I got everything out of my tent and layed it out flat on the ground, looking in every pocket but still couldn’t find my pouch. What a shocking moment! I had to realize that there is no pouch; a pouch which included some cash, my passport incl. visa, my credit-card, my hiking-permit. Everything “important” was gone! I panicked a bit, looked at every place I had been since last night and after one hour I had to admit it’s gone. My hike was over after five days. One year of preparation, one year of looking forward to this adventure was over after just five days. I couldn’t believe it!
I didn’t know what to do. At least I still had a little bit of food with me. As I tried to relax on this situation I sat down with a fellow hiker, CamperDan, and his wife, Linda, who camped close by my tent. He hiked the trail, while she drove a Campervan along and meet him every few days, they did this adventure together. I told them what happened and after thinking for a little while Linda came up with the idea if there is no one I could call. “Hmm”, I thought, “yes there is.” This one little question she asked me got me out of my thoughtless moment and getting focused again on problem-solving. There was someone I could ask for help, someone I WANTED to ask – Michelle. A dear friend from high-school which I haven’t seen for over twenty years but when I sent her a notice that I’m coming back to the States and asked if we want to meet, she immediately said yes. While we met, she made sure that I understand that if I need any help I should contact her. Now was the time. Now I needed help. To my luck the campground provided free wifi and I contacted her, told her what happened and we discussed next steps. For my own surprise I had copies of my passport, visa and hiking-permit on my ipod. I sent them to her, asked her to print them out and send it back to me with some cash. From that moment I felt positive again. It took 4 days for the package to arrive. In those 4 days I contacted my sister, she had to cancel my credit-card and organize a new one and send it to a location I would arrive at in a few days. In those 4 days, many people have helped me out. The camp-ground let me stay for free, fellow hikers bought me food and stood by me with nice words, other campers invited me for meals and spent time with me and gave me good ideas for how to proceed. Those 4 days have shown me the kindness of people’s hearts.
I contacted the Consulate of Germany in Los Angeles, told them my story and we worked out a plan. They also helped me out very much.
Michelle, CamperDan and Linda (I’ll write a seperate essay just for you later), Christina G, El Queso Grande, Bluebird, Richard and Linda V. this is a try to thank you very much. The trail provides! Also this is to my sister who managed all my stuff, mostly financially, from back home. Without her constant support I would have never hiked this trail or La Réunion or The Camino and I certainly wouldn’t be hiking the E1 next year. Thank you, Yvonne. I love you!
With copies of my identity-papers and some cash I went back on trail. Two weeks later, after arriving in Idyllwild where I got my new credit-card, I went to L.A. to personally show up at the consulate. CamperDan and Linda drove me there. But this story and all the other things that happened between CamperDan, Linda and me will be covered in a separate story. So stay tuned and see how livin’ is done!