KETCHIKAN, Alaska – In a method or one other, the COVID-19 pandemic has been life-changing for practically everybody, however it’s taken one San Antonio man on a novel journey.
You may name it the final word street journey, however as a substitute of driving, he determined to stroll 3,800 miles from San Antonio to Alaska.
Michael Collins, 33, arrived in Ketchikan, Alaska, on Oct. 18, precisely 9 months after he began the trek.
He has tales from the path that sound straight out of an adventure film — encounters with rattlesnakes and bears and battles with Mother Nature — however he stated it was what he discovered from the various hours of quiet solitude that’s made the most important affect.
Collins stated he got here up with the concept final December, feeling unsettled and pissed off by the restrictions of pandemic residing. He was impressed by reveals he’d watch in regards to the Alaska frontier.
“I’ve always liked Lewis and Clark and Manifest Destiny and the spirit of adventure,” Collins instructed KSAT throughout a Zoom interview. “This world is big and exciting and life is hard, but like through those struggles, you can really learn some important valuable lessons that I think this country was founded on.”
He additionally observed that lots of people have been affected by melancholy or psychological sickness, exacerbated by the pandemic, digital media and the trendy life-style.
“I was really kind of yearning for a different type of adventure,” he stated.
So he set out with a backpack, a tent, a sleeping bag and a not-so-detailed plan. He additionally had a map e-book at first, however he ditched that fairly rapidly after it weighed him down.
Until this year, Collins had by no means backpacked or accomplished a lot tenting, however he’s an athlete. He performed soccer at Churchill High School, The University of the Incarnate Word, and even professionally in England and Nepal (so, yeah, he’s acquired an adventurous streak.)
“I knew that I needed to go northwest,” Collins stated. And then he simply took every day because it got here.
“I think somebody said that living in the future brings anxiety. Living in the past brings depression. Living in the present is the only time you can have peace. And I learned quickly along the way that it was just one step in front of the other,” Collins stated. “One of the most valuable experiences that I learned from that journey is just being very present.”
Collins stated solely planning 20 miles at a time opened him up to new experiences and actually took him on new paths, like when he found the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail that goes via 5 states from Mexico to Canada.
“I met a bunch of other hikers that were doing the same thing that I was doing, walking really long distance, and that was very surprising, like, ‘Oh, there’s other crazy people out here like me,’” Collins stated. “But one of the things that we talked about on the trail is how it restored our faith in humanity. Like, there are really kind, generous people out there.”
Collins stated there could be instances when he was out of provides that somebody would pull up subsequent to him and provides him meals and water, or provide him shelter from the chilly. Hikers have a time period for that sort of surprising generosity — path magic.
A stranger who lived close to a freeway in New Mexico referred to as out to him to ask if he wanted meals. She supplied him a burrito and he ended up sheltering in her residence for every week throughout February’s winter storm. They drank espresso to keep heat and watched a decades-old TV sequence collectively to cross the time.
Of course, there have been scary experiences, too. Like when he was mountain climbing up a mountain within the snow and ran out of meals. He made snowshoes out of tree branches, a tip he remembered from a survival present he’d watched.
He’d additionally be taught that he would wish to change his footwear about each 500 miles. He began his trek sporting Natives, a shoe made out of recycled rubber, and no socks, however discovered from different hikers about the advantages of extra technical path footwear.
Collins stopped a number of instances to work in cities alongside the best way.
He was employed on to paint at a ranch in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, for a few weeks. And in Bellingham, Washington, the farthest level he may stroll earlier than he’d attain the Canadian border, he earned the money he wanted to take the 36-hour ferry to Ketchikan by portray a church.
The time in Bellingham helped him course of the journey he’d been on.
“I had been walking for 10 hours a day for about eight-and-a-half months. And there’s a lot of emotions that flood your head,” he stated.
There’s a mountain climbing time period for that, too. It’s referred to as post-trail melancholy.
“There is this kind of processing wave of, like, being static and not knowing how to cope with that. So that was tough processing those emotions,” Collins stated. “It’s like, OK, so I got to Bellingham and I’m going to get a ticket to get to Alaska. But then what?”
After such a very long time of actually strolling one step in entrance of the opposite, he had to be taught to switch that mentality of staying within the current as he built-in again into society.
“There’s really so many things I can’t control,” he stated. “I didn’t let that dominate my life when I was walking for eight-and-a-half months. Why would I let it dominate my life now?”
Collins stated his religion is what impressed his strolling journey and it’s what retains him targeted on the larger image now.
“I believe that God is in sovereign control of my life. It takes away fear from things that I can’t control,” he stated. “It is a totally different perspective shift, and it’s also freeing. I get a chance to just kind of let go and be like, ‘it’s in your hands.’”
“It’s such a sad waste of energy to try to control things that we just can’t. And if we, for me personally, if I use that energy towards living in the present, towards engaging with people, towards trying to love my neighbor, I think it’s a much more effective and a better use for kind of the time and the energy that we have here on Earth.”
So now what?
He’s unsure aside from he is aware of he desires to keep in Ketchikan for a bit, be a productive member of society, assist the place he can and possibly impart a bit of knowledge.
Collins stated he’s working the night time shift at a homeless shelter, the place he’s been ready to use the teachings he’s discovered to assist others on their paths. He hopes to someday flip his story right into a documentary, however that’s an concept that additionally makes him a bit of nervous.
“I’ve thought about this a lot is like, if the documentary and the journey becomes about me, it’ll destroy me. I know that that’s a pretty unhealthy place to be,” he stated.
Instead, he desires the message to be about encouraging others to hunt down adventure, religion and personal development.
“Looking back on the trip, you know, it was really hard. It was really grueling. It took a lot of endurance. And not only that, I learned about patience and I learned about self-control… and to expand (my) mind toward things that are seemingly impossible,” Collins stated.
Collins is aware of that few individuals would need to stroll to Alaska, however he hopes extra individuals will simply get exterior and stroll — with out TV or social media — to expertise solitude and apply meditation and important pondering.
“I don’t think that enough people create space for that these days. And I think you’d be amazed on what perspective can shift,” Collins stated.
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