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February 2020 Issue
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Colour the trail

Kiwi videographer Elina Osborne
When she completed the Pacific Crest Trail in 2019, Kiwi tramper Elina Osborne dealt with her post-trail blues by documenting her journey in a film. 

After 137 days of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Kiwi videographer Elina Osborne took off her pack, unlaced her boots, and simply stopped.

She’d traversed 4270km of the USA from the Mexican border to Canada and now, for the first time in four and a half months, she had no more walking to do.

She returned home to life in Auckland in a state “almost like grief”.

“You’ve lost this life you had where you would feel present in everything.

You felt yourself, and you had no external pressures of the real world to impact your decisions,” she says.

“I think it’s natural for anyone coming back from travel – or any experience that gets you out of your regular routine of normal life – to come back and feel a sense of loss.”

This feeling of post-trail blues was not unexpected for Osborne, who had been preparing for the inevitable emotions of the end long before she set foot on the track.

“I realised before I started that I had to have a plan and be active when I finished,” she says.

A film documenting her journey was the perfect remedy, so with two video cameras stowed in her pack, she set off on the trail.

Osborne describes thru-hiking as “privileged homelessness with intention”, and she quickly adjusted to the routine: wake, eat, walk, eat, sleep, repeat.

“It becomes your lifestyle, and it doesn’t feel like you’re on a long hike, as your brain just can’t grasp how big it is,” she says.

Juggling filming with trail life was difficult at first, Osborne says, but it improved with the passing kilometres.

“At the beginning, I was struggling. I was trying to capture everything, my mind was racing and I was stressed out thinking I couldn’t miss moments,” she says.

This pressure was short-lived, however, as she reminded herself of her priorities.

Other hiking and trail videos, focus on nature. But people colour the trail, and without them, it’s just another nature walk

“First and foremost, I was out there to hike, not to make a video, and once I reminded myself of that, I was able to chill out a bit more,” she says.

“I figured I would be out there for a long time, so if I saw something cool, if I was inspired, or if there was a moment, I would get out the camera.”

Osborne returned home last December with 386GB of footage to sift through, and eventually, after days of reviewing and editing, a finished product emerged.

She named her film It is the people, after the Māori proverb: He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata (What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people).

The 16-minute documentary details Osborne’s PCT journey, with a focus on the people she met along the way – her ‘trail family’.

“I’ve seen many other hiking and trail videos, and the focus is on nature,” she says.

“People colour the trail, and without them, it’s just another nature walk.

“I had no plan of what my film was going to be, but I knew there was going to be some really interesting people out there, and everybody’s reasons for walking would be different.”

Editing the film was a therapeutic exercise for Osborne, bringing painful nostalgia, but also a way forward.

“Going back through it all, I was tearing up when I was making cuts thinking I really do miss this, and I miss these people,” she says. “But as I progressed, it made me appreciate it for what it was – I feel like now I can take everything I learned and grow and move forward.

“It’s easy to romanticise anything with film, when you have a nice soundtrack and pretty pictures, but it wasn’t all easy –- some days were really tough and challenging.”

Osborne’s film received “overwhelming” feedback online and has been viewed nearly 200,000 times on YouTube, earning her a following of more than 13,000 subscribers.

“It was surprising how quickly people responded to it – it’s not often something you make really connects,” she says.

Osborne has followed up the film with weekly chapters, documenting sections of the trail.

Watch Elina’s video, It is the people