So……I’ve stopped my walk. What follows is a pretty honest account and the raw feelings I’ve felt.
On Monday the 8th August I was walking from Inverarnan to somewhere passed Glencoe with the plan to wild camp along the way. At some point, the weather taking a bad turn, soaked through and probably bordering on early stage hypothermia, I decided to stop and jump on a train from Bridge of Orchy to Fort William.
I’d been pushing myself for a while to get from point A to point B on a map without any thought for my own safety. I wanted to finish the walk and just get on with my life. For a few weeks I’d had nagging doubts about why I was still walking and what I was trying to achieve.
Last year I was in a hole. Some things are too personal to write about but I was crippled with anxiety, stress and near depression. I found myself living a hollow life and it got to the point where I needed to talk to someone other than my friends and family.
The counsellor I spoke to made me realise I was trapped in an endless loop, I had to take control and focus on something to break the cycle. Climbing out the hole would prove to be a slow process but I eventually found myself pulling through.
I started by spending my time planning some long distance walks including LEJOG. I got out more. Once where I dreaded the weekend I found myself looking forward to it. I started climbing. I took various outdoor courses. I was planning to get my Mountain Leader qualifications. I knew I wanted a change of direction and started moving towards it.
When the time came to actually “shit or get off the pot” regarding LEJOG I thought about it, handed my notice in at work and finalised the details. It was a hard decision as I’d worked my entire life but I wanted to escape for a bit and have an adventure.
This also meant stopping a life I’d slowly built back up. I’d made friends in London, met someone and started to live again. It felt I was giving that all up to spend 2-3 months walking alone up the country.
This was the basis of the nagging doubts I started feeling.
However, I started the walk and it was tough at first but I was enjoying it. Seeing parts of the country I never thought I would and meeting people along the way. I was off and really wanted to see it through.
A few weeks before I got to Scotland my mindset was changing and by the time I got to Fort William I’d had enough. I took a few days to assess things, prepare for the next stage up to Cape Wrath and try to find the enthusiasm I’d lost.
I talked myself into carrying on. The walk up to Cape Wrath would be tough. Going over rough harsh remote terrain. Unmarked tracks, boggy moors and many river crossings. The weather forecast didn’t look great for the West Highlands but I was determined to get on with it.
I set off on Wednesday 10th but after an hour the same nagging doubts came back. My pack was too heavy because of the extra food I needed, my ankle ached again, my shoulders sore and mentally I’d hit a wall.
I walked for another 3 hours in the pouring rain trying to get through the wall. “Just keep going to Laggan” I told myself and “take it from there”. Then I stopped by a road and sat down. For 30 minutes I sat in the rain thinking, willing myself to go on but I was done. The walk back to Fort William was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Since I started the whole walk, getting to Scotland had been my goal so I could have a proper wilderness adventure but I just couldn’t muster the energy or enthusiasm. It had disappeared. I was tired and sick of being alone.
Though I have kept in touch with people and met people along the way I’ve not been able to shake off the loneliness. It was the same state I found myself in last year and it was grinding me down. I was heartbroken I finished where I did. So close to the end. Three weeks.
I don’t regret the decision as I like to live by experiences, and in the months I spent planning the walk and actually walking I learnt a lot about what I’m actually capable of. It’s been invaluable.
I know people have been willing me on and supporting me, and I will be forever grateful for that, but I missed the familiar, my family and friends, having a life and the fledgling relationship I was in. My head and heart weren’t in it anymore.
The feelings I have are pretty raw but over time I’ll get over it. Sometime in the future I know I’ll go back up and finish it. But for now I want to get back to life, find a job, move on and look at what I need to do to get my Mountain Leader qualifications.
I stepped out of my comfort zone in a big way and I’m glad I did. I would encourage everyone to try it as you can learn so much about yourself. While, right now, I have no immediate plans for adventure I know the next year will see me hopefully finish this and go on more life changing adventures.