Traveler Petar Vanev: Everything starts with the first step

Petar Vanev was the first Bulgarian to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) starting from the US border with Mexico and finishing at the border with Canada, as well as the Appalachian Trail. Vanev’s passion for traveling has been provoked by the book "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail" by Cheryl Strayed, which tells the story of a woman who walked the trail to find herself again. Inspired by the experiences described in the book, the Bulgarian started gathering information and in 2017 he decided he was ready to start the4240-km hike. "If I had not done this, I would have regretted," he says and adds that the experience he had before was negligible, but the preparation was as appropriate as possible. Shortly after his return, the book "Trail through Fire and Ice", in which he describes his experiences in detail, became a fact.

Today, it is a guide for all those brave dreamers who want to walk in his footsteps. The PCTtrail crosses deserts, high mountains, forests, and elevation at places reaches 4000 m. It passes through areas with different climatic conditions and great temperature differences. Therefore, the traveler advises us that it was good "to have two types of equipment - for hot and cold weather":

"Rain in the Appalachian Mountains was a problem. There you have to know how to keep your things dry. Abrupt changes in altitude with continuous ascents and descents, steep paths covered with wet and slippery stones offer a risk at every step."

Planning the whole journey is "a difficult and almost impossible task" as there is always "some unpredictability". It is good for the traveler to have a "rough plan that is also flexible". That is why Peter Vanev cannot say exactly how many kilometers he walked on a daily basis. He says he walked between 25 and 30 kilometers a day on the PCT and 30 to 32 kilometers on the Appalachian Trail. Being thousands of kilometers away from his relatives, he had his fears to cope with.

“As an inexperienced traveler I had great fears. Basically, it was fear from the unknown. But I did not allow that to stop me from starting the trip. From then on, every step moved me forward. It all starts with the first step.”

During the hike Vanev met "young people aged 18 and elderly people aged 70 or even 80 years old". Meeting these people has renewed his belief that “there are good people who are willing to help without expecting anything in return." The traveler had to overcome various obstacles:

"Such a trail is a huge challenge for body and mind. And the more challenges we face, the better we become in what we do and we also become a better version of ourselves. Every new challenge gives us a new experience that we can use in the future," Vanev says. "The body adapts and then the challenge is only for the psyche. And one must be strong and confident in themselves and in the ability to motivate themselves in moments of despair and doubt. One must deal with the dangers that could prevent them from realizing their dream."

He is sure that in addition to strength and motivation a traveler must have "specific sources from which he draws inspiration and confidence to move forward". These may be photos of relatives, family, friends. Vanev says that the link with nature created during such a hike allows "consciousness to contemplate on things we don’t usually have the time to think about. This makes us appreciate much more everything we have."

Vanev financed the PCT hike himself but found sponsors for the second trail.

"Finding and persuading them is the harder part of the project." What follows next in addition to a book about the Appalachian Trail?

"I am looking forward to the Triple Crown of Hiking, which includes the PCT, the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. The total length of the three is about 12700 km. The longest trail is the Continental Divide Trail and I hope to find out if it would be the most challenging and dangerous one in 2019.The Triple Crown of Hiking is not a material reward, but an assessment of human abilities. If I can do it, others can do it too, but motivation is important.”

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: courtesy of Petar Vanev

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