I had just spilt hot, green tea all over my notebook when I noticed David Green standing in front of me. He was wearing baggy jeans, an extra-thin cotton t-shirt and a thick, shaggy, black beard. The last time I saw David was at City Fish in Thorton Park; he was shaven, clean-cut and dressed in what I assumed to be his work attire, khakis and a collared shirt.
“I’m a mess. What can I say?” I said scrambling to wipe the tea of my notebook. It was too late, ink was running off the pages.
“It’s OK,” he replied. He ran to get paper napkins and then returned to sop up my mess.
“Thanks… so, how are you?”
“I’m good, really good. How are you?”
“I’m as busy as ever; just working on some school stuff.”
Before this interview, David and I were restaurant friends. Meaning, we ate at the same places because we lived in the same neighborhood. Therefore, I didn’t know things like his favorite color, TV show or music. I knew things like where he ate and who he ate with. On this day, we were not technically at a restaurant but at Starbucks. He was alone.
“What’s with that beard? Are you going on a trip or something?” I said half-jokingly.
“Actually, I am.”
“Really? Where are you headed?”
“I’m hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.”
“When do you leave?”
“That’s soon,” I replied. It was a Tuesday. ‘Who are you going with?”
“When are you coming back?”
“I don’t know, maybe 6 months.”
“You don’t know when you’re coming back?”
It wasn’t the most intelligent response, but considering I had just been deep in the existential works of Jean-Paul Sartre it’s all could come up with. Luckily, it didn’t prevent David from telling me the story of how he quit his job, gave away all his things and was leaving for an adventure; he planned on back-packing the entire west coast, from Mexico to Canada.
After David left, I wondered if he’d make the journey; I wondered if I could do something as brave as him; then it occurred to me that maybe I should have stopped him. Recently, I read Into the Wild. The back-packer in that book hiked the west coast, but then died in Alaska. I convinced myself this would not happen to David.
The next day on a whim, I e-mailed David and asked if I could interview him. I had only thought of it when I had tried to go to bed the night before and could not sleep. I was sure David didn’t have time since he was leaving in one day and considered my chances lost. But David surprised me with a quick response to my e-mail; and we did meet for coffee talk the next day—the day he was leaving town.
Jana: So today is the big day. What errands do you need to do before you go?
David: I’m checking the backpack one last time and making sure everything is in there. I got a solar pack from a friend yesterday; that’s going to keep my phone and iPod charged all the time. I mean, it shouldn’t be to hard finding sun in the desert. Right? So basically, I’m just making sure everything is ready. Other than that, I am making phone calls to people; I did a blog entry today. There’s been an outpour of love, kindness and support. Everyone wants do whatever they can to help and be a part of the adventure. That’s a cool feeling. It gives me the idea that I’m on the right track.
Maybe we should back step for a second. Can you tell me again what it is you’re exactly doing?
Yeah, Ok. Sure. I’m hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a 2700 mile trail system set-up by the federal government as part of a national park system. It starts at the border of Mexico and California and heads north through Oregon, Washington and ultimately ends 8 miles into Canada. It passes through 21 national parks, 18 mountain ranges; you can climb one of the highest mountains at Mt. Whitney and you also pass three of the largest lakes in the country.
How Many people take on the Pacific Crest Trail adventure?
There are about 300 people a year that try the whole thing. It’s called a “through hike” when you do the entire 2700 miles. Out of the 300 people that try it, about 150 make it. But probably a million people touch some part of the trail each year; they’re just on weekend trips.
And you’re back-packing the entire way?
Yes, I’m going to back-pack the entire way, which means carrying a 50 lb backpack on my back that has a tent, a sleeping bag and whatever I may need for survival.
What other essentials are bringing with you?
Different clothes for different types of weather. The common mistake is to—well because you start in the desert—it is to bring warm clothes. But when you get into the mountains—even in the summer time—you can expect snow and ice. If you end up in those situations with just shorts and a t-shirt, you’ll be in trouble.
Are you bringing money with you?
Yeah, I’ll have some pocket cash because along the way there are small towns that have general stores. If there is something that I need, like supplies, it’ll be a good time to grab them.
What about food?
I’ve got a back-up supply of food that is basically a raw food diet. Mostly, it is 40 different fruits, vegetables and nuts packed into a 1 lb block that is super loaded with nutrients; I’m bringing three of those. That way if I’m struggling to find food, I’ll have something. But my main goal is to eat off the land as much as I can. I’ve been studying several different books of edible wild plants and fruits; there are some excellent resources online about things that are edible in the wild.
Are you going to hunt?
I’m mostly vegetarian now. So I probably won’t hunt anything. I will do some fishing. When you’re traveling by yourself and you hunt anything that is large it’s kind of wasteful. There’s no way to take it with me; and if I’m in the forest I’m pretty much making myself susceptible to bears at that point. It’s never a good thing to have extra meat lying around.
Are you trying to disconnect yourself from the world? I wouldn’t think so since you’ve mentioned you’re bringing a cell phone and an iPod.
That’s a good question. I’m not running from anything and I’m not searching for anything. That’s a little bit different than most of those who take on this kind of adventure. For me, I have always searched for something my entire life; unfortunately I was always looking externally. I thought I could find happiness through objects, people, achievements and other things. Finally, I was fortunate to wake up one day and realize that success for me was to find that peace from within—and to realize it had been there all along. Once I found that, I had a new outlook on life. I was like, “Wow. I just want to enjoy things and live life to the fullest.” One of the first things to come to mind was to go on this trip. Part of that is because I love music. There could be nothing more exciting—ugh, powerful—than sitting on top of a mountain and putting my favorite song on. You know … just enjoying life.
How long do you plan on this trip taking?
I could do it in 4½ months based on what I’ve read, but I’m going to take a full 6 months to do it. That way I don’t feel rushed. And if I get someone where that is absolutely breathtaking, I can spend 4-5 days there without feeling like I’ve fallen behind schedule.
What have you done with your life here?
I love Orlando; it is a great place for me. I moved here about 6 years ago from a small town in South Georgia. I got here at a really exciting time … the housing market was doing great and the economy was great. I started here in the technology business and did that for about 4 years. Then, for the past 2 years I was in the mortgage business and met a lot of really great people. I grew a lot as a person and I’ve made some great contacts, both spiritually and professionally.
So you’ve quit your job?
What about returning to your job when you get back?
No. Ultimately, my goal is—and that’s one of the things I need to do today; I have a phone interview with a non-profit group—my goal is to go to a third world country, a remote place in India or somewhere where people are living well below poverty level and help those people get an economy started. There are organizations that do something called micro-funding; it’s a big thing that has been successful. So hopefully, when I finish my trip I will have a job lined up there.
What have you done with all your stuff?
That is one of the most rewarding parts—I gave everything away.
When you say gave everything away, you mean …
I mean everything. I ended up with my backpack and a box of clothes. That’s it. At first—it was kind of cool—I went through making a list of what I was going to give away and to whom. I wasn’t going to get rid of some things like my bike, my skateboard and my pool cue. Then I woke up one day and thought that was kind of silly. I was giving away everything but those few things. So I ended up giving those things away too—to my favorite people. It was cool to think of other people … and get in the habit of thinking about other people. I needed to get out of my head, over myself and over my ego.
How have friends and family responded to these actions?
Some people in the beginning were like, “Wow, what an awesome adventure,” and they’ve stuck to that. My Mom’s first words might have been something like, “Are you crazy?” She didn’t take it well at first because she couldn’t understand my motives. After a couple of weeks, she began to understand why I was doing it. She gradually got behind me and has been supportive. Last week she called me up and said, “I think it’s really awesome what you’re doing and I’m really excited for you. You are going to see some of the most beautiful things on earth. I’m really proud of you.” It seems the whole experience has changed people. I’ve gotten e-mails from people who are in a funk with life and now they feel inspired to go on a trip or look for a new job. I think we all have that inner struggle; it’s just a matter of waking up and realizing we can pursue our dreams.
Can you think of any one thing that inspired you to do this?
I’ve got to put that on God. And I don’t believe there is this one guy, in a white robe, with a white beard, in the clouds waiting for his chariot or something like that. That’s not my image of what God is. I look at God as more of this energy that controls all of existence. I feel I had a set of circumstances that worked to get me to a certain point, and then I woke up and had this awareness. Before, I had a feeling of emptiness that a lot of people describe. Even the people who end up with the most toys in the end can have this emptiness. I didn’t like it. I realized—for me—there was a different path in life; there was more for me to get out of life and more for me to do for other people. I have to look at God as being that catalyst that woke me up one day.
What are you expecting from this trip?
My biggest expectation is to create more love. I really feel that—based on the things I’ve learned over the past few months planning for this trip—that when you let go of all the attachment and live life as it is meant to live, all of sudden it easier to love people—you can love everything around you and you appreciate it more. My ultimate goal is to live a life filled with love, peace and compassion—and then that it becomes contagious.
It seems ironic that you would want to isolate yourself to create this love.
Yeah, it is kind of funny. I didn’t understand why I was going to go on this trip in the beginning. I felt like it was what I was being led to do. As it all started unfolding—and even last night I was thinking of this when I had some quiet time—I realized this trip has taken on a life of its own. And although there will be times when I am all alone, they’ll be great times because I plan to write a couple of books. I’ll need the time for the books; and I’ve also started a blog. I don’t think people need me face to face, or even need me at all really. But maybe some day down the road, they’ll read one line I wrote or hear a word I said and it will move them … give them some positive energy. It’s the story itself that is important, not necessarily me.
If the trip becomes too much will you quit?
Quitting is not an option, especially with the amount of support I have. There is no excuse. If I need anything I can pick up the phone and call people; and I know they will help.
So you’re not pulling a Christopher McCandless from Into the Wild?
No, I have no anger in my heart. I’m not running from anything or even searching for anything. I really just feel fortunate to have found what I’ve been looking for all along inside myself. It’s empowering because now I can go do anything that I want to do.
Are you worried about injury, illness or death?
I decided—as part as my awakening—to look at my fears. I realized that my fears were the things that were really controlling my life. When I look at my fear, I’ve started to look at it from a different viewpoint. Like does it help me—A? And B where is it coming from? Does it serve a purpose? There are safety issues and wild animals and I think it’s normal to fear some of these things. I just need to take the fear and turn it into a positive and say, “OK, am I prepared as much as I can be?”
Are you bringing a camera?
Yes, I love to take pictures. I’ve got a really big memory card that is blank and ready to go.
Are you bringing any pictures with you?
No. I thought about it and was going to, but there is a good possibility my backpack will get wet at some point in this journey. And I want to take as little as possible.
And what about that beard?
You know, I’ve never had a beard this long before. It’s staying … as long as doesn’t get too hot. But if it does, I’ll shave it off. [Laughs]
Nearly two months after David left, I finally got around to transcribing this interview. Before posting it on my site, I checked out David’s blog to see how he was doing. He is in Big Bear City, California getting pounded by snow. I e-mailed him the following interview to him expecting no reply. To my surprise, he quickly wrote this back:
Awesome! Thank you for sending this to me. It was great to go back two months in time and read those questions and answers. The trip has been an amazing journey so far. I haven’t included a lot of really cool things in the blog because I have started my book. It is difficult not to put everything on the blog because I would love to share it. Stay in touch.
David “Forager” Green
To keep up with David’s journey visit: http://hemmingwayadventure.blogspot.com.
*Interview Date 4/3/08