Until now, I've done almost all of this planning on my own. I've told most of my friends and family about the general outline, but figured it didn't make much sense to go into details that are extremely likely to change, or to blather on about things (equipment, food) that won't really affect anybody but me (I feel like I'm capable of blathering, even though others often say I don't talk much). But over the holiday weekend, I visited my family in Vermont, and I started sharing more of the details and getting more input.
I'm a pretty solitary person, and sometimes I forget just how far I can take something in my head without telling anybody else--when I finally did talk about the trip, I was surprised at how much planning I've already done, at least on paper, without telling anyone. I was also somewhat astonished that I hadn't mentioned the trip at all to a few of my close relatives (or that the rest of my family hadn't mentioned it to them). I think about it so much that I subconsciously assume that everyone else must hear the racket in my head. I'll have to get better at that.
I got a lot of encouragement, especially from friends and relatives who have made similarly long journeys (an aunt who bicycled across the United States, a friend's brother who took off to Tahoe to snowboard for a couple of years). I was especially encouraged when I shared the plan with my father's brother, Doug, who lives in Olympia and whose home I'm hoping to use as a sort of Pacific Northwest base camp. (This is yet another reason I need to be better at communicating--for about a month, I've been sitting on the idea of staying at my uncle's for some undefined length of time, and I hadn't even asked him yet! I need to make sure I don't show up at people's doorsteps with muddy boots and a week's worth of B.O. having neglected to ask if they mind me coming.) Doug and his wife Barb were enthusiastically welcoming, and I learned that Barb is an experienced backpacker with years and miles and probably lots of tips and advice under her belt. She's planning her own big trip around the circumference of Mt. Rainier for next year. They're laid-back folk, and happily invited me to hang around Seattle/Olympia for as long as I need or want to, and sounded interested in coming along for parts of the trip.
My dad is also excited about the journey, and definitely wants to take part in some form or other. I'd imagined he would like to come along for the PN, so that he, Doug, Barb, and I could all visit, but he also floated the idea of taking his motorcycle across the country to meet up with me at some other juncture. He and Doug have explored quite a bit of the Pacific Northwest together, and they both might like to go somewhere they haven't been before. Mom mentioned an old friend of theirs in San Francisco I might meet up with. A friend mentioned that an old schoolmate of ours is a guide with a Colorado Plateau rafting outfitter. Connections were made. New possibilities were opened.
Sharing more of my planning with my family has shown me the importance both of nailing down reassuring specifics and of keeping parts of the trip free-form and open-ended. I'd like to firm up my schedule so I can let my family know where I'll be and when, and also allow others who might like to come along to make their travel plans. But I also want to keep things open, since others might have less flexibility in their schedules than I do. If my friends say they plan to hit Vegas on New Year's, I don't want to miss out.
With all that in mind (okay, aside: gosh it sometimes feels weird to write this blog as though I'm addressing an audience even though I don't really have one yet), I'm publishing this blog more widely. Hi, readers! Please leave comments! In the spirit of irony, please enjoy this video about the folly of sharing your plans with others!
A note about equipment that I couldn't find a logical place to fit in the above: While in Vermont, I swung through an outdoors store. I was leery of getting things I couldn't return locally, so I wasn't looking to buy just yet. But I did check out a couple of tents, and they threw a little wrench into the guidelines I'd made for myself. I'd mostly settled on a buying one-person tent to cut down weight. But seeing the one-person tent in person made me doubt. It's so teeny! My current tent is a spacious two-person, and I'm so used to having, like, a living room in addition to a sleeping spot that the one-person took me aback. I'm not sure if I'll have to get over that and save myself the weight, or if it's an indication that I simply can't do without a bit more space. I hope things will become more clear once I've seen more options.