Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Why on Earth? Part Two

So why am I hiking the length of a river in England? Well, to give you the full story I have to go back to the end of my last blog  from the three months I spent living in Kathmandu in 2010.

At that point I had no real idea where my life was going, I knew I was going to return home and that my experience out there had not been all that I’d hoped, so I wanted to do something big to make up for it. So I decided to walk from John O’Groats to Lands End. It was a grand idea and one I thought doable. Of course, it took about 20 minutes research to discover that it would take about three months and cost a fortune in food and accommodation. Given I’d basically not earned a penny in the previous six months the idea quickly went out the window and I focussed instead on finding a job.

A year later with the job going fairly well I began to think of the walk again. Clearly I knew that getting the time off would be impossible, so I scaled the idea own a little and came up with the River Thames. It is England’s lifeblood after all. A little research told me that the path itself is 186 miles long and that most sensible people hike it in 12-14 days. Sounded rather pleasant. Then work told me I was going to Afghanistan for a month and after that Pakistan for three weeks. The idea was shelved again.

Another 18 months passed and I went to something called the “Night of Adventure” which is hosted by a chap called Al Humphries who has made a bit of a name for himself with his idea of the “Micro Adventure”. This is the guy who walked a lap of the M25 just for the hell of it. The evening was full of people talking about the random things they’d done – many of which were within the UK, and the idea of walking the Thames returned.

Of course, I wanted it to be a challenge. I wanted it to be hard. I wanted people to say to me: “You’re bloody bonkers” and so I decided to do it in seven days – which means I will be tackling a marathon every day for a week. Careful what you wish for!

Then I decided I should make it even harder by being self-sufficient all the way; camping by the banks, carrying my tent, cooker, food and clothes. That, I have to admit, was a really dumb idea and I have since decided that while I will still carry all that gear, should there be people willing to open their doors and give me a bed and a bath at the end of a long day, I will be more than grateful to accept!

It has been funny how many people have really understood then idea and said how great it is, while others have looked at me with complete bemusement. “Why not go abroad and do something” has been a common response. To which my answer is that I have been lucky with my job to see quite a lot of the world, yet I have seen practically nothing of the UK. This is my chance.

As much as anything else I hope to inspire people. Walking is something that the vast majority of us do every day, but we take for granted. It is a simple pleasure that you do not have to be an athlete to take part in – which is why it suits me rather well! I am a pretty ordinary bloke who lives a pretty ordinary life – but I do like an adventure. I also firmly believe that adventure can be many different things to many different people, but what it all really boils down to is just the opportunity to really feel alive.

I suspect that by the end of this walk I will probably feel closer to death…but in pushing myself through it I know I’ll have something to look back on 2013 at and remember that this was a year when I did something cool, and not just another that passed me by.

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