A couple of months ago, I sent a Snapchat to two of my best friends saying, “I’ve had a bit of a mad idea. You either need to talk me out of it or make me do it.”
It says quite a lot about my choice of friends that I now find myself preparing to walk a thousand miles around the perimeter of Wales.
Now I should say right off the bat: I’ve never been ‘the outdoorsy one’. I’m the one with outdoorsy friends. I like being warm and dry. I’m not very organized. I usually pack too much going anywhere. I’m pretty terrible at directions. Not to mention I’m a massive extrovert.
In short, if you had to imagine a person that would take off for two months of solo walking in the wilderness with a backpack, it would not be me.
But then I found out that my lovely little country is the first in the world to have a walking path around its whole perimeter. Which to me sounded like an invitation. What I lack in knowing what I’m doing, I make up for in saying, “sure, why not?”
The idea wouldn’t leave me alone, but at this point it was just an idea.
Then my college got in touch (I have the best college at the best university in the world by the way, in my unbiased opinion). I’d applied for some money to try to make this thing happen, hoping to buy a backpack and shoes that wouldn’t leak. They gave me twice what I had asked for.
And suddenly it became very possible. And very real.
Not knowing anything is fine when it’s just a vague idea. It’s another thing when you’re pretty much committed. Welcome onto the scene the outdoorsy friends mentioned earlier, kind enough to point me in the direction of the nearest Cotswolds.
I went in, had a chat with a girl called Mel and explained my situation, which was something along the lines of “I want to leave in a few weeks, can you help me get everything ready?” She arranged for me to come back one evening after the store closed and said we’d sort everything out then.
She wasn’t kidding.
On Monday I got the train up to Carmarthen, and like everything at the moment, the beautiful scenery on that route got me so excited to get going. I spent the evening with Mel and Carrie at the Carmarthen store, and within a few hours I went from feeling totally unprepared to “I can do this and I can’t wait.” To be completely honest I was worried that they’d just try to sell me the most expensive gear and I’d leave overwhelmed and out of money. It was nothing like that. They were as concerned with the success of the trip as I was. They were honest about where the extra money is worth it, and where you can get away with spending less and still be fine. They didn’t mind spending ages finding boots and insoles to fit my awkwardly high-arched feet.
So, thanks to the fund from college and Cotswolds Carmarthen, I can set off with more than just a cagoule and a camping stove. The new kit is really exciting. Like, really exciting. I now see why people get so enamoured by new kit. But actually I came away from Monday night with more than just shiny kit. Mel and Carrie gave me so many insights and tid-bits of personal experience. Carrie even taught me my new favourite Welsh word; sofach. I think it means your ultimate comfort food or guilty pleasure (if you know a better way to translate it please enlighten me). Her point had been to make sure I have some with me.
Mel had so many tips that by the end of the night we were calling them Marvellous Mel’s Top Tips, some favourites being:
- If you’re miserable, eatsomething. You’re probably hungry.
- Put tomorrow’s clothes in the bottom of your sleeping bag, along with the water bottle the doubles as a hot water bottle (which I forgot to buy, but definitely will).
- Have as many accessible pockets as possible. Fill them with food.
- Save your mental breakdown for at least week three.
So friends, there you have it. I’m planning on leaving for this adventure in about two weeks. I absolutely can’t wait. The best thing leading up to this point has been the way people have just jumped on board with the idea; asking if they can walk sections with me, offering places to stay, encouraging and praying for me, and asking what charity they should donate to. I’ve decided to use the trip to raise money for the Costa Foundation. They build schools in some of the poorest coffee growing communities in the world. And as someone whose pay-slip has been dependent on the coffee they produce for three years, it’s the least I can do. You can find out more here. There’ll be more on this sometime soon.
If you, dear reader, would like to also get involved or stay updated, the follow button is below and has never been more appropriately named; you can get my blog posts straight to your inbox as I make my way round. Comments are more than welcome (particularly if you can translate sofach better than me) and you can follow me on the social media found below.