Success! I’ve walked from corner-to-corner, coast-to-coast, across a country. It only took about three weeks, and it’s gratifying. I haven’t been in a car, bus, or plane since I started walking from Stranraer in the southeast. (Of course, I know of someone who didn’t use a car for a year. That’s a good story too.)
Walking a land, or bicycling it, is not a normal vacation. It makes sense to me, but on a percentage basis, it probably doesn’t show up on any top ten list. Very few people do such things. After my bicycle ride across America, I estimated that fewer than a thousand people a year do the same. To put that in perspective, Mt. Rainier is summited by thousands each year. More people climb a 14,410 foot volcano, than bicycle along.
Most vacations, and most adventures, have a different goal. Vacations are usually more about leisure, sitting still or spectating. Some, like ski trips, are more active, but few of them do more than end each day where they started. I like vacations. I want to take more of them. Adventures are usually more dramatic. Climbing mountains, challenging rapids, being chased by bulls, are intense experiences that heighten the hormones and produce great stories – as long as everyone comes home safe.
The greatest dangers I faced were avoiding traffic and finding lodging. There were some hormone spikes in there, but nothing like dropping into a crevase. There was actually a lot of sitting. The days were defined by the walking, but my joints negotiated me down to only about 4-6 hours of travel each day. The muscles were fine, but a 51 year old body has more issues than endurance and lactic acid. Each day was a unique discussion amongst various body parts, and no, you don’t want to know all of the details.
The appeal of such a stroll, is external and internal.
Externally, it is a fine way to get to know a land and its people. I wasn’t cocooned away from them, unless they were the ones in cars and such. The way the houses sit, the gardens grow, the fields are laid; the care or decay was apparent. Marvelous old buildings constantly tended were paired with ivy covered crumbling walls collecting litter. The faces, stoic as they walk along the sidewalk, open and lighten in the pub, or a few sentences into any request for help.
Internally, a self-propelled vacation can be peaceful. I only find there, what I brought along. If I wanted quiet, it tended to build on itself. If I brought worry, it ramped up and had to be contained. The constant low-level effort helped to calm me. The repitition gentled my motions and then my thoughts. If I was tiring early, I’d usually notice bad posture, or a mis-adjusted pack, or inefficient movement. Walk quiet and I became quiet. It was moving meditation for hours each day.
Of course, the tales to be told will be the ones most likely to have photos included, a bit of slapstick, or involve other people. The first one that comes to mind is about the tendency of dairy cattle to follow me as a herd if I sang as I walked by their pasture, an audience captured by barbed wire with nothing else to do.
The real consequence of any such trip is less direct. My subconscious osmotically filled, elements and influences will seep back out into insights and attitudes unnoticed. Travel can affect more than the days and weeks of the trip. This one will affect the rest of my life.
As for this blog, it’s time for it to return to other aspects of balancing life and money. The trip has some loose ends I’d like to capture so, I’ve decided to put together a web site with more details, partly for the curious, partly as a resource for other tourists. But first, a train ride to Glasgow, a plane ride to Seattle, the trip home, and then the overlooked details of everyday life: laundry, food shopping, and lots of emails.
(And thanks to the staff of Jury’s Inn in Aberdeen for letting me finish this blog on a quiet and lonely computer. It cost them nothing and got them a bit of advertising.)