The human mind works in strange ways. It tells us what to do and how to do it, but we don’t always understand why.
When I set up this blog four years ago, I didn’t call it Five Foot Traveller at first. A few of you will remember that I used to call this blog ‘Walk, Don’t Run’ in an attempt to allude to my love for slow travel. I have never been interested in whirlwind seven-countries-in-ten-days tours, so by walking I meant taking one’s time.
Somewhere in the name was the reference to my feet, which, because they are completely flat, prevent me from running, or walking for too long. I can run, but it hurts after a few minutes. Hence, walk (even though it’ll hurt eventually), but don’t run. Slow down and enjoy the experience.
About a month or two of reading travel blogs it occurred to me that perhaps ‘Walk, Don’t Run’ was rather vague and didn’t represent what I was. Everyone else was something something. Bloggers were either Nomadic Someone, Adventurous Someone or Something Vagabond. Oh no, I thought, all the cool words have been taken up. How terrible! What a tragedy!
No, not really. I didn’t say that at all.
I wasn’t about to call myself something I was not. I was neither nomadic, adventurous nor *shudder* a globetrotter, and even if I were, I would never dream of describing myself as such. So I began with the most basic description: I am five foot tall, and I happen to be a traveller. The blog description wasn’t difficult: ‘Exploring the world one step at a time’. Which was true, I thought. We all walk, right? One step at a time.
I didn’t think much of it then but once again, there was that reference to feet and walking, which I had automatically thought of without understanding why.
My first long walk was in New Zealand in 2003, way before this blog happened. I was walking by the coast in the South Island in Kaikoura, wandering in the true sense of the word without a plan until it occurred to me that I had been walking for over two hours. Kaikoura isn’t a big town. In 2003, it took me 10 minutes to walk straight through. After two hours of walking, I realised that my feet were hurting. I stopped and turned around and saw how far away the town was.
I was alone, it was winter and slowly getting dark, and I thought, I’ve walked that far? How can that be possible?
But I had, and it was.
The following year, I went to China alone. I wanted to squeeze in a walk somewhere so I joined a walking group to the Great Wall to what is regarded as the most challenging section, the stretch between Jinshanling and Simatai.
It was eleven kilometres of pure agony. Eleven kilometres of climbing steep hills, and clambering up and down rough, centuries-old steps. I was unfit and unprepared, but I didn’t regret it one bit.
Fast forward to right now, this very moment.
Sometimes our brain makes us do things without us realising it or understanding why. Sometimes we only begin to understand much later.
Thirteen years ago, I walked along the Kaikoura coast and almost forgot to head home. That was my first real taste of a free, unfettered wandering, and I must have subconsciously remembered that day when I called my blog ‘Walk, Don’t Run’ and later added ‘Exploring the world one step at a time’, four years ago.
Now, the thought of walking eleven kilometres on rocky terrain no longer scares me- in fact, it excites me although I know my feet will be sore by the end of the day. The farthest I’ve walked in a day is 24kms. Your goals are defined by what you have done in the past- two years ago, the thought of having to walk 15kms would have freaked me out. Now I tell myself honestly, “If I’ve done twenty-four in one day, I’m sure I can manage fifteen”.
My travels are now defined by walks. I have stopped ticking countries off a list or counting how many I’ve done- forty-three countries on five continents, since you asked. I now go to places where I can walk for many days and over long distances. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been there before.
By the end of this year, I’ll have a new personal daily record. In about a week from now, I’ll be leaving for another long walk, this time in Scotland. The 155km-West Highland Way worries me a little, but I think I can manage it. If I’m lucky, I’ll get lost along the way, fumble around with my map and clock up 160kms. That’s a rather nice number.
The name of the blog has changed but I’ve kept the sub-heading. Somehow, without planning to but because I was pulled in that direction, in between all those train rides and traipses here and there, I’ve returned to my love for walking, in spite of my feet. Somewhere along the way, my inner voice kept me on track.
Where is your inner voice telling you to go?
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