[pct-l] Hiker trash lifestyle
jolson at olc.edu
Sat Sep 6 18:29:56 CDT 2008
I must admit I want to move into the hiker trash lifestyle. In May of
1973 I graduated from college six days before my 21st birthday. I
couldn't legally drink while in college. I got a 66 VW camper in June,
1973, and spent the next couple years living from place to place, party
to party. My base of operations was the bay area, but I spent time in
Boston and Kansas City. I always knew I'd go to grad school and "get a
I think I missed an opportunity back in the 70s - my 20s. I had no
driving purpose that coalesced what meaning there was in my life. I was
a product of the 60s, growing up in the bay area, being 16 years old
when I discovered the Dead and Airplane and Quicksilver and Hot Tuna. I
lived from one party to the next, one woman to the next, and as I got
older, they were fewer and fewer. There was all this turmoil - the
Vietnam War, Nixon and his resignation, the onslaught of Punk.
If I'd've been aware of the hiker trash lifestyle, as well as it's
defined right now, in 2008, I think I would have found my purpose in
life, or at least for my youth. I might not have gone on for the MSW at
39, and finished my PhD at 49. The hiker trash lifestyle has an elegant
coherence that I think scares most of my peers - parents and
grandparents of today's 20 somethings. To attempt a long distance hike,
and complete a major part, if not the whole thing, is life-changing.
It is easier when 23 to hike a long trail than 33 or 43 or 53. I say
that because to even contemplate the possibility means that something is
"off track." It is expected that a 23 year old will spend some time
off-track. Most boomer parents had at least a fleeting thought, if not
a year or two, where they indulged in an alternative lifestyle or set of
goals and objectives - that now seems "off-track."
The power of the lowest common denominator for us is incredibly
powerful, and mostly invisible. At 56 I am in a social position where
it is part of my job to think about, talk about, and critique our
social, unconscious allegiance to the lowest common denominator. I
won't go into what the lowest common denominator is - I think that it's
pretty obvious for most on this list. That said, I've looked back
enough to know what I want to do before I am unable to do it - hike...
The hiker trash lifestyle is incredibly attractive. In my mind it's
pretty close to the life I lived out of my bus in the early 70s - lots
of free time, time to think, time to meet other people, time to meet
"the" woman, time to spend to think, meet other people, and be open to
finding the love of my life...
It's a lifestyle that has a center. Whether 23 or 53, the center is the
same. The call is "being-on-the-trail." The reality is living life to
support being-on-the-trail. The center isn't necessarily balanced or
harmonious or healthy. But its a center. One foot in front of the
other. For day after day, week after week, month after month. That I'm
a little quirky and my social persona is a little rough is just part of
the lifestyle. I'm constantly trying to juggle the illusory, perhaps
bullshit straight world with the hiker trash world of being-real and
really, really present.
I know which is most real for me - the hiker trash world. Go back and
read Paul Magnanti's thoughts on his long-distance hiking experiences.
His words are nicely evocative and chordal.
I think the bottom line is that the hiker trash lifestyle is far more
satisfying for a couple years than avoiding it and slipping into the
world of the lowest common denominator. Even if each of us knows we
can't do it every year for the rest of our lives, we know that if we
don't do it for a couple years, don't follow the call, don't hike, we'll
get fat and lazy and stupid. TRUTH... Skittles... You're a writer.
I'd love to hear the stories of hikers who've lived the hiker trash
lifestyle for a couple years and what you did when you re-entered the
straight, bullshit world. How did you - how do you make it mean anything?
Jeffrey Olson (Jeff, just Jeff, said to the cadence of "Bond, James Bond.)
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