I wanted to walk around the world. I fell short of that by 6 years and many tens of thousands of kilometers, after starting in Harrogate, UK, and stopping in Pitesti, Romania.
I’ve been thinking on and off the last four years about whether or not to keep writing here and what would I write in this first post. Yes, four years of thinking about oneself and the world around. I won’t expose it all in this article. I cannot. It would be a very long piece. This is the first part of it, so there’s more coming.
How could I explain myself for having stopped walking and all, how could I describe it – like I would have to apologize or feel ashamed – is something that I caught myself thinking about a lot of times. Thing is, I ain’t gonna do any of that now or ever.
What I will do though, is share how I stopped walking and what happened ever since.
A lot of people ask me if I prepared a lot before walking, like going to marathons or stuff. I can but smile, because I know why I stopped, and it had nothing to do with my body. Before starting to walk, once I came to the idea of doing so, I only took two practice walks around Harrogate in the Yorkshire Dales. Physically, I encountered no surprise limitations of my body, apart from natural effects of fatigue from actually pushing it to walk a lot, sometimes even 100 km in a day. Which is why I took long breaks at points.
But preparing mentally for what was about to come is something that if I would have done, it would have been entirely stupid, for it would for sure have kept me away from all the beauty of possibilities to explore, it would have kept me away from myself. Maybe I would be walking still. However, let’s just say I was taken by surprise in the sense that there were moments when I was doubting my sanity, especially towards the end of the 10 months. And there still are such moments. Not as often as when I was walking, but they are still there, like a nice token of my walking. That is one of my fridge magnets. I don’t mind these moments (pun intended), as I came around to find them a good measure of myself and a useful counterpoint to have at hand – yes, doubting, questioning – especially when I am getting too much of myself.
I was running away from it all. Then it was more than enough.
I remember my walk experience as amazing as I remember it cruel. I said many times I would stop walking once I would die or fall in love. The latter did happen, but there is an underlining to it. Another important reason for why I stopped walking is the feeling that it wasn’t my walk anymore. The more I was into it, the more I was changing from the person that started walking. That is what I treasure about it, the change it brought me.
I began walking when the life until then brought me to what I now see as a desperate point of wanting to escape the reality of having to deal with disappointment from loved ones, may them be friends or significant others. I felt humiliated and could not stand it anymore. Yes, I was running away, I wanted to shut my eyes – actually to open them to other things that I knew this world has for me. What walking offered me though was much more. The more time I spent walking, the more time I had for myself and my thoughts. I was cleaning, I was making order, I was arranging and re-arranging, adjusting and coming to terms with how others happened to me and with how I happened to them. All the while enjoying the liberty of traveling with no end in sight.
What being alone does to your brain
I was constructing myself. Every day, each kilometer. There are intimacies of that time, when I was walking alone, that I still cannot put in words nor completely share. I was on pills or high or drunk many times in those 10 months, but never when walking. And it was while walking that I had the most intense moments of bliss and feeling connected to this world in a way in which when I think of now, I am still fascinated by it.
I cannot express the beauty of the world as I saw it then, I can only crave for it. I saw a world with no borders. On this I will get back in another article. It’s still mind-boggling to me what solitude and the chance of silence, of not having to speak to someone, does to one’s (my) brain. Once I managed to make something out of the mess that I was, I changed. Or so I think. But I sure changed from the one that started to walk. That became more and more obvious to me, so much to the point that I realized that I don’t need to walk anymore. I could not bear to keep being alone walking and having these intense moments just for myself all the while as my life changed so much already. And while I enjoyed all the attention – I must say, it was cool, but limiting in a way (people generally asking questions about the past and about money and whatnot), I knew I wanted to stop.
From a walking cliché to another
Having the chance to shut up and to think so much – I really cannot stress this aspect enough! – started to do things to me. From day to day, from second to second, from thought to thought, I had but me to question everything about the way I think and about the way I see the world and others. I became addicted and it served me well until I became aware that it wasn’t stopping when I was not walking. And then, the kind of change I was beginning to experience was only circumstantial. For me, for others, I was a walking cliché: the traveling spiritual type for almost all, the hippie of today for many, the strong just doing it person for others, the obvious choice for a one night stand for some, a hypocrite for a few, including me.
I could not have that anymore, I saw myself reacting pavlovian to the outside while actually knowing that I am not there anymore. It was easy and it was hard to do. I enjoyed it and hated it, to the point when I began to notice I was dedoubling: the one for others and the one that I came to know. I wanted to be at peace with myself, with my faults and with my hopes. I wasn’t helping the world in any way that I liked. Moreover, I fell in love head over heels with the person I am happy to have shared my life with ever since.
I am as wise and as stupid as you think of me
I still appreciate change, especially when it is favourable. I still enjoy being alone, thinking, thinking, thinking. That constant stream of thoughts that started on my walk is still flowing and it is growing stronger and faster. Sometimes I lose, sometimes I find myself in it. In a way I am still walking. Sometimes I share it, sometimes I share it wrong or too much. And while I know this might be seen as yet another article advocating the solution to all worlds problems, this realization cannot stop me from sharing.
Knowing this sounds like a lot like me, me, me, it is also about us, about how and what we communicate. I am no visionary or whatever. But I do feel a lot of alienation in this world. I see the happiest of people crumbling down in fragments of despair over things that could have been easily avoided. I see people going around wearing masks, hiding, lying, cheating, all because they cannot say openly what it is that they want and stand by that, openly. I’ve been one of them. I still am sometimes. As I see it, this reaches deep within our society as a whole. It is this difference between what we actually think and want and how we misrepresent that at the external pressure of how we are expected to be that causes a lot of harm around here. Ever felt trapped at a job, with a person or with a group? Take it from a dysfunctioning relationship or a shitty job to sexual oppression and unexpressed desires, add lack of education and genuine honest information sources and it is easy to see the kind of fraud the world seems to be at times. And to think that people engage in wars because sometimes they cannot come to terms with each others, that is truly sad.
The story continues and that is nice
It is important to know what you want. It is also important to know how what you want might affect others, from close ones to society at large. And then to follow through or not. That is why it is important to just shut up sometimes and think it through. Give yourself time and take it easy. Doubt, question. Like this, one can be kind and honest to oneself and others. Me? I am still struggling with it at points, but that is ok. I still have time.
Since I stopped walking, I lived in Hamburg for three years and recently moved to Lisbon. Me and Fritzi wanted more sun. We travelled like addicts and continue to do so, and there are tons of stories and photos yet to be shared. We have intense conversations about everything, from the latest internet cat sensation to the effect of religion on society, from how was your day? to the degree to which people might find different technologies as intrusive. We are highly critical of each other and of the world. We like to think we are normal and there is nothing at all wrong with us. But that is not always the case.