All that remains
This years holiday was and epic walk across England, from Whitley Bay just above Newcastle to Bowness on Solway. It was not quite Hadrian’s Wall all the way as we detoured occasionally, it was also more than the wall. We covered a total of 102 miles in 8 days. I knew the walk was going to be more than just a walk and for weeks before hand felt like I was on the precipice of something amazing but didn't know what. We've been back a week now and I'm slowly seeing just what it is that was more than a walk. I journaled my whole walk. On day one we were due to walk 15.5 miles from Whitley Bay to Newburn. This would all be urban walking as we toured the outskirts of Newcastle rather than start at Wallsend and walk through the bustling centre of Newcastle. I never realised how hard this would be - with heavy fully loaded backpacks and a warm day we were soon feeling a bit over cooked. Despite having good walking boots reasonably worn in and some nice fitting bamboo walking socks, my feet sweated and blistered and I took a taxi the last three miles so I could soak my feet and nurse what looked like horrendous blisters. Being a therapist and first aider I was well equipped to deal with the feet. I just wasn't expecting problems so early. The next day saw a shorter walk of 5.5 miles to our third bed and breakfast. This was achieved in flip flops and my feet were at least comfortable. The rest of our walk consisted of much the same, get up, eat, walk, eat, sleep, repeat. . . So what made the walk epic? Obviously there was the scenery and the history, there was the challenge and adventure which were all amazing aspects. What really made it epic was “all that remained”. When you walk every day with no other intention but to get to the next stop (without more blisters) and when you've done that, to eat and sleep enough to repeat it the next day. You begin a process of stripping away. With no other purpose than walking and no physical way of dealing with any worries that might surface about business the mind slows and you get to enjoy what you see more. As you worry less and see more, mentally you are leaving work and every day life behind in much the same way that you walk away from the civility of a bed and breakfast into the wild for however long it takes you to reach civilisation again. The more removed you are from “this reality”, the more engaged you can be with the far nicer alternative of Northumbrian or Cumbrian scenery. This creates a strangely meditative state and a deep rooted connection with the nature around you. You see far more beauty and life even in remote and windswept spots. Mosses which have the tenacity to grow on the coldest, hardest stone leap into view. Animals seem to want to talk to you and trees wave for attention in the breeze. It becomes like seeing for the first time. Each days walking becomes an opportunity to leave another part of everyday life behind and engage in internal dialogue and external dialogue with nature. Each step taken roots you more deeply to the land you are walking. Of course my journal hold almost 50 pages of written notes for me to review over and over and glean every bit of learning from the walk that I can - far more than here. But I can tell you that throughout my 10 day adventure, each day really was an opportunity to start anew, new steps, new walk, new path, new choices. It was also an opportunity to assess and leave behind things that no longer serve. So despite having eaten for both England and Scotland and having lost no weight regardless of how far I walked, I have come home feeling lighter, brighter, lifted, more connected to the natural world and ready to make sure each day stays an opportunity to start anew. All that remained at the end of my walk??? Me, my thoughts and I.