The cold dawn, sky more blue than black. A fingernail of moon. The promise of light on the horizon. The pinks and oranges of a late sunrise reflected on the surface of the pond. The silhouettes of four honking Canadian geese flying towards me. A gull glides silently on a higher wind. Songbirds dart between the trees on the shore. These are the rewards of taking action. I had to put in a lot more effort than I would lying in bed scrolling through the sunrise hashtag on Instagram but it’s worth more than any number of likes.
There is no reality except in action. With this in mind, I know that I’m not going to become capable of carrying half my body weight strapped to my back by thinking about it. I have to start walking, bearing the load. Doing the work. It doesn’t matter if it’s boring, repetitive. It matters only that I do it and keep doing it. The same straight lines to work and back, the roundabout circuits to the pond, down the canal and home. Early or late, light or dark, rain or shine.
I have started to put the work into my legs, distance on consecutive days. I went back to Box Hill to get some climbs in. I pushed myself to do distances beyond what I’ve achieved until now. I walked almost the length of the Purbeck Way in one hit, surprising myself of what I’m capable of. Since I decided that I had to cover more ground I’ve been slowly pushing the distance up. What I haven’t been doing is carrying much weight. I’ve carried a little here and there, building myself up to it but so far failing to pull on all of my gear. I tell myself that it’ll be ok, I’ve joked with family and friends about tackling the stairs in my apartment after work fully loaded with gear until it dawned on me that this isn’t a joke but another opportunity to be better prepared.
There have been more choices I’ve needed to make. When I first started planning, I was going alone. Now I’m going with my friend Mike. It will have been almost 10 years since we first met, in a hostel in Stockholm. Since then we’ve visited each other in our home countries, and soon we’ll be walking one of the world’s best hikes together. There is often a debate about the best number of people to travel with. There are times when I will stand by a decision to go alone. Then there are times like these. I could tell before we began that having someone to share those spectacular views after a day on the trail is going to make it all the more memorable. After all, sharing is caring.
The other significant choice I had to make was what to do about the language barrier. In reality this probably isn’t going to be a problem. One of the best thing about living in the Endtimes is that everyone speaks English. I always feel like an ignorant British tourist whenever I go to a country where English isn’t the first language (and sometimes when it is). I tell myself that languages are hard, or that they’re not for me but I decided to change that narrative. I started Spanish lessons and one of the most important thing I’ve learned is that I barely understand how English works, let alone another language. That said, I have learned a couple of important phrases. Donde esta le bar? Yo quiero dos cerveza por favor. Gracias. Maybe I’ll never have to use it, but if I do I won’t feel the usual levels of helpless ignorance.
There are plenty of other choices to make when planning a trip. Where to go, what to do when you get there, what to eat, how long to stay, how many beers are too many. Making time to do and then doing. The best possible outcome of a choice? Action. Something by which to be defined by. All too often it’s easier to fill the time with not doing. Distractions and excuses. It can wait until tomorrow, I’ll do it next weekend, I’ll do it one evening after work knowing full well I won’t. This is one of the many reasons why I’ve remained interested in travelling, it forces action. You can’t sit on your sofa browsing Instagram when you’ve booked 5 nights of accommodation on the other side of the world. You can’t put off training when you’ve got to cover 80km across six days in what promises to be some of the toughest, most beautiful terrain I’ve encountered. So I tell myself, as I’m trying to tell you; stop thinking, start doing.