Taking risks and walking the walk

For reasons I cannot remember I decided to walk the South West Coast Path. I decided to do it by the time I was 40. I can trick myself it had something to do with nostalgic feelings about my family heritage, or the challenge of the longest national trail. Truth is, I can’t remember. By 35, I’d completed 50 miles of it. It’s 630 miles long. I was more than a little behind. Clocks were ticking and I was increasingly aware of my impending failure.

A change in approach

And then on day in summer 2015, I went, unexpectedly , and without much thought to an event about adventure. A rowing oceans, running cross continent kind of adventure raising money for a guy who was about to embark of a five year long journey to cycle around the world. Dressed as superman. (http://supercyclingman.com)

These things usually have for me, a mixture of inspriation and jealousy. The opportunity to dream big. And then, the comparison of your own perceived mediocrity against the bravery and dedication of others. Something happened there though. Maybe it was the encouragement of Eva Woods, the positive force that took me along. Maybe the inspiration of Al Humphreys and his mission to encourage micro-adventure. (http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/microadventures-3/)

But nonetheless, from it, a determination to address my ‘failure’ emerged. I could try and cram lots of long walking weekends into the next 5 years, or…I could go and do the whole thing in one go.

Getting ready

And so here I am. A month to go. I’ve had a few things to contend with before starting — a puppy companion that needed to grow up a bit, a broken arm that needed to heal, and an English winter that needed to pass. And, in the most part, an awful lot of learning about camping, having never really done that before.

On 21st May I depart. A dog, A woman and a tent. The South West Coast Path is 630 miles of continuous national trail. I’m not really sure what it will be like. I’m not really sure how I will fare. The only thing I’m really sure of is that I’m doing it.

Why?

Since telling people I’m going I have had a lots of questions. Aren’t you worried about your safety? Aren’t you afraid to go alone? How are you going to cope without a shower? Maybe the answer to all of these questions is ‘yes’. Any maybe, just maybe when people ask them with that tone of voice that tells your mental competence is in question, I have considered whether or not I should go.

But heres the thing…

  • I talk to other women a lot about taking more risks and being braver with their goals. I believe that being comfortable with risk is a key way to close gender gaps. And that learning how to do it is one way for women to empower themselves to make their own choices. (https://www.ted.com/talks/reshma_saujani_teach_girls_bravery_not_perfection)
  • With 90% of assaults taking place by men that women know, I reject the premise that women are safer at home. And, I refuse to live within the limitations of ‘safety’ placed upon my gender. (http://rapecrisis.org.uk/statistics.php)
  • And as for the shower….I’m certain there are worse things in life to live without (feel free to remind me of this after the first few days!)

I’m here today, preparing to leave and I’m grateful for these questions of doubt. One thing is clear. Every time I have been asked them, it has galvanised my desire to go.

Ready for the off

So, from an unclear beginning, and a change in approach based on ‘failure’, I have found a determination to head into the unknown and take my own risks. I’ve had to learn a lot already. And have much much much more left to learn. I have overcome the doubts about going (well, most of them) and the excitement about setting off is starting to build.

And with some luck, and good boots, I intend to reach Poole around early July. Probably a little lighter, with a few more tales of trial and error, perhaps a little stronger, and certainly a little less connected to conventional ideas of good personal hygiene. More to come…

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