2016 was when I really started to challenge myself adventure wise. I started small. I knew I loved cycling but wanted to add other disciplines on top so I came up with the Cam Triathlon: source to sea 3 times. Once by bicycle, once by foot and once by Stand Up Paddle board (SUP).
It was great fun. Discovering the river from three different angles and having various friends, new and old, join me for sections along the way. But it was only 70 miles in length. It was too easy. It didn’t feel hard, at all. Yes, I camped out for the first time solo, but it was somewhere I’d been before. For most of the Triathlon, the weather was fairly kind and for the SUP is was down right gorgeous.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved it. I made my second adventure video and enjoyed overcoming my fear of getting on the water thanks to the support of 9 friends and a dog who joined me. But I wanted more.
So 8 weeks later I set off for a bigger challenge. 1000 miles, 3 weeks and 1 bicycle. From the generosity of strangers providing me with places to stay and discovering the beautiful country we call home, to really starting to understand what a hard challenge feels like, this was a proper adventure.
There were tears. Wailing into the rain as I was frozen to the bone and all alone in the Cairngorms, 30 miles from the nearest town.
There were national parks, beautiful coastlines and the rugged wilderness, all new and inviting me to linger far longer than my schedule allowed.
There were friends, and new friends waiting to happen. Life for me is all about how we spend our time, because it’s our experiences and the people we meet that have the biggest impact on us, not the stuff we buy.
I bet you don’t remember those 8 hours trawling around the shops on Friday 30th October last year. But I remember the 8 hour cycle from Sticklepath on Dartmoor to West Monkton some 55 miles later, the friendliness of the locals at the West Monkton Inn where I stopped for dinner and the wonderful kindness of the landlord who not only let me camp in his garden, but also gave me the key to his pub, just in case I needed anything in the night.
So I’m heading back out there, because I know there’s still so much more to discover.
To challenge myself more, pushing myself to go further than my legs have ever taken me before. To camp out for nights on end by myself in wild locations I’ve only ever seen on screen. To meet new friends and find the wonderful people who make life a fun and exciting journey. And to share this all with you, in the hope that you’ll spend a little more of your time living adventurously too.
And to answer the initial question of why walking; because the slower pace offers a harder challenge, mentally and physically. It offers more time to connect with the landscape I’ll travel through and the people I’ll meet. And it opens up my world to discover what I hadn’t even thought possible before.
When I was walking 70 miles along the Cam last year, it never occurred to me that I might walk the length of the country. I wonder where this adventure will propel me to next?