Going into the Pacific Crest Trail I had a lukewarm feeling about America. I had mainly been interested in moving there but it didn’t seem that attractive to me, particularly the infamous commutes, the long distances between everywhere, the lack of vacation days in a lot of companies and the lack of amenities that I was used to in Europe. On my PCT trip I did discover a completely new side of America, and not just the spectacular nature but also cities like San Francisco, Portland and Seattle where locals helped me find the best spots and really show me what life would be like in America.
The distance between everything is one of the things that bothered me the most if I had to move to the US. Need to buy some bread? Get in the car. Go to work? Get in the car. Want to go for a run? Get in the car. I do however appreciate the distance in nature where it is possible to hike for days and only meet a handful of people. The nature here is grand, it’s sprawling and it’s far away from any kind of civilization. We just don’t really have that in Europe. And I love that.
There’s a lot of space in America which contributes to the distances. Everything is large which I really got used to. It’s nice to go to the supermarket and not have to rub shoulders with everyone. Or have rooms in a home where you don’t have to choose between a bigger bed or a wardrobe. It’s been a bit hard for me to go back to the lack of space in Europe after spending so much time in America.
One thing that surprised me a bit was how commercialized and generic everything in America is. Sure, the name of the big grocery store is different from region to region, but they’re all owned by the same big corporation, has the same layout and has the same goods. Which is sad on one hand because the local flavor disappears when you see the same constellation of brands and franchises. On the other hand it’s comforting to see the same tuna packets all throughout the PCT, the same kinds of food and have the knowledge that you can probably get that thing you crave in the very next town no matter where you are going.
American media make Americans out to be very xenophobic and hostile but nothing could be further from the truth. Americans are some of the nicest people I’ve met. And it doesn’t matter who it is. I’ve had people in big cities like San Diego help me out. I’ve met people who lived in the middle of nowhere help me out. A rich person once threw down a hundred dollars to cover a bar tab. Poor people who barely had enough for themselves opened up their home and gave me food. People in fancy cars gave me a ride and people in beat up cars gave me a ride. And friends and family of the friends I had made in a few weeks had no hesitation to treat me as one of their own. I know and believe, despite the media, that Americans are some of the friendliest people here on Earth.
Diversity is something I love as well. Denmark is very much Danish. Most of its people are what you would picture as a typical Dane, everyone’s political orientation is also pretty much the same with minor differences and people largely agree on most things. That’s really comforting to return home to but it doesn’t make my life as exciting as being in the US where people all look different, people can believe in radically different things and the concept of an American differs depending on where they are from in the States. I’ve learned so much through this diversity and while it’s not always easy with diversity, it’s ultimately for the better. There’s certainly never a dull moment in the US.
The PCT has really given me a better and more nuanced view of the US and I cannot wait to come back at some point to both hike more of the PCT but also experience more of the US.