In 2007 I faced the welcome challenge of deciding between six PhD programs. Each involved slightly different combinations of disciplines, funding and time to completion, and the promise of alternate lives in the US, UK and Canada. I was obsessed with mulling over the details, saying aloud that I understood it was all about making the best of wherever I landed, while still putting all my energy into determining the ‘right’ choice.
A sunny spring visit to UC San Diego from the depths of a Toronto winter. A department full of incredibly welcoming, bright (and tanned) humans committed to social justice, top scholarship, and drinking wine at the beach. The chance to work with the academic advisor equivalent of Yoda. Saying no was too difficult, so I said yes. Still unsure I had made the ‘best’ choice, I told myself that the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail was only an hour away. If graduate school didn’t work out, I joked, I could always just walk home.
Eight years later, I am proud to report that the PhD did work out (Communication & Science Studies – my scholarly website is here). The PCT however, has continued to haunt my life. For years I have walked or biked to campus from the wrong side of the I5, passing almost daily over the wide river of traffic. At first I took strange comfort in this direct path to my family due north; increasingly though I found myself obsessed with the much narrower, unpaved and far more winding path that runs parallel just on the other side of the distant hills. With degree in hand, but my future still flexible, I am leaving San Diego on foot and you are invited to follow along.