Or: How to do a really long walk, which is quite a scary thing to do when you (over)think about it
Anxiety is a fairly loaded word these days and I’m reluctant to use it here. If you’ve ever suffered with it, you’ll know that it’s pervasive; it’s the fear our ancestors would have had when they knew a predator could sneak up on them at any moment, but somehow your mind has convinced you that you need to feel the same way at 10am on a Tuesday morning when you’re just trying to get a spreadsheet done. This isn’t a post about anxiety, but it is a post about worry. Maybe you’ll know what I’m talking about.
I’d describe myself as an anxious person, it’s just who I am. When I was about 7 years old, my dad called me ‘his little worrit’ and it was prophetic. I worry about everything. Literally everything. I check the door three times when I go to bed. I plan relentlessly. I obsess over trivial things. Have you ever spent six weeks deciding which wallet was the best to buy having done a spreadsheet with a scoring system? I have. I bought the Bellroy Slim Sleeve, by the way. I did the same when I bought my first camera, walking boots and phone. I also do it for things like deciding which email service or current account I’m going to use (I use iCloud and Monzo, respectively). It’s annoying, even to me. Those are just the trivial day-to-day things that nobody else gives a second thought to, so imagine what it’s like having recently decided that I’m going to tackle the Pennine Way.
I’ve never done a multi-day trek before. I’ve been on plenty of walking holidays where almost every day has had a walk planned, but I’ve always had a base to do the walks from and a car nearby with everything I might need in it. I’ve never done a trail where everything I need has to go into one backpack and where it’s just going to be me. Alone. In the hills. Alone.
So I may not have done a 268 mile multi-day trail before, but I’ve done walks. I’ve done loads of walks. I know I can do those, so I just need to string an awful lot of them together and pretend it’s just a camping trip in between, right?
I don’t know why I decided this was a good idea, but I did and now it’s a thing. Work are fully behind me taking the time off, I’ve decided (more or less) which charity I’m going to support and I’ve already put untold hours into figuring out the route, the waypoints, where I can sleep, where I can get water, and which kit I’ll need. I need a lot of kit. I had no idea this was going to cost me so much money.
I’m glad it’s still six months away because, despite me knowing almost exactly what I’m doing, where I’m going and what I need to make it happen, I still don’t feel like I can do it. It’s the known unknowns that cause me worry. What if I have to wild camp and a farmer yells “Get off my land!” at me? I’ve only ever heard that shouted in my native Gloucestershire accent before, will it sound different the further north I go? What if there’s no room at a campsite or if I run out of water, food, batteries, motivation, or energy? What if I don’t sleep well or eat enough or fall over and hurt myself?
It sounds like I’m talking myself out of this, but I’m not. I’m consciously aware of this background hum of worry in a lot of the things I do every week. Getting on a train, heading to work, going to meet customers, driving somewhere new, meeting new people, going to busy places, not knowing where my exits are. And you know what? I’m bloody good at all those things. I have nailed picking up train tickets and getting on trains hundreds of times. Last time I went to the theatre, I had four exits committed to memory in seconds. So I can probably do this as well. No, not probably. I can do this as well.
If you see me doubting myself on social media in one or more of the places I tend to air my stream of consciousness (like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram), please feel free to send me an encouraging word. If you’ve done something like this before and you can offer some advice, I’d love to hear it. If you have any idea how to fund something like this or raise money for charity, I’d love to hear that as well.
I’ll keep you up to date here and in those places as my planning progresses. If you’re lucky, I might even share my spreadsheet. It has a pivot table.