I want to set something straight.
I am living the dream.
No, really! I’m currently summering in Switzerland and next week I will be spending a few days in France with work. I’m working for a great family, eating excellent food, and have the freedom to explore all Geneva has to offer, both on the clock and off the clock. Come September I am moving to the UK which is a lifelong dream of mine. I have enough savings to live off of for at least 2 months before I need to start working again. Which means, I can do WHATEVER I PLEASE from September-November.
Coming from someone who has been in some sort of structured environment or tied down to a contract for the past 10 years of her life, this is pretty fucking exciting.
I have the freedom to do as my heart desires. Spend 2 months hiking across Ireland or Wales? Sure, why not?! Move to the Scottish Highlands and find a farm to work on? Yes can do. Take a vow of silence and spend 2 months finding my inner peace? Not fucking likely, but definitely a possibility.
The world is my oyster and I fully plan on enjoying it.
So why is it making me so anxious?
You see, the unknown is mildly terrifying. I enjoy having a plan, a set schedule, contacts to rely on in case of emergency, I like having all possible knowledge on an adventure before I embark on it. The “known” is my comfort zone. Which is why I’m so determined to venture out into the wild….ish.
Last year I pushed myself to the limit. With only 6 weeks of planning and little to no experience (leaning heavily towards the no), I decided to hike 1200km across the Southwest Coast Path of England. I’d never hiked on my own before. I had absolutely ZERO knowledge on how to pitch a tent, and I knew no one along my route. But once I got the idea in my head I knew I had to go through with it. So I did and was continuously surprised by myself along the way.
First day on the trail, my pack broke. There was nary a camping shop in sight, so drenched in rain, covered in mud, with my own personal cloud of gloom and anxiety hanging over my head I found the nearest pub to seek assistance. I sat on the bar quietly, trying my hardest not to appear too miserable in the hopes that someone would approach and start a conversation. Being the conversation starter has never been my strong side. Luckily, the bartender was all too happy to oblige. I found myself warming up, both physically and mentally. Before I knew it I was engaged in conversation with the bartender, the locals and the family visiting on vacation from London sitting at the table behind me. Turns out, with a little bit of prodding and a minimum of two pints in me, I am a natural people person.
From that day everything changed. At the end of each long day of hiking I’d limp my way into whichever local pub was closest and befriend absolutely anyone and everyone. Old folks, young folks, staff – the friends I made along the way truly made this hike spectacular. And everyone seemed so eager to share their stories with me. I camped in the garden of the parents of an Iraqi war vet who had to move back home while he was struggling with PTSD. A mum with 3 sons around my age, one a Royal Marine who had just proposed to his girlfriend, one a social worker, and one who suffered from bipolar disorder. The youngest, who struggled with mental illness, was just moving out of an in-patient facility and into his own housing, and as his mum was telling me these stories about her incredible sons you could see the pride on her face. I stayed with a bartender and her husband who took pity on me camping in the pub parking lot in the midst of a thunder storm. They had a stripper pole in their living room, and I found a whip in the guest bedroom, but they allowed to me do my laundry and take a hot shower, so who am I to judge what they do in the privacy of their own home?! My favourite (and probably most questionable decision) was the blacked-out white van I accepted a ride from. I proceeded to accept an offer to sleep at the drivers house (he was a guy around my age and seemed to be normal) and ended up going out and getting so spectacularly drunk that I forgot about the fact that I was a dirty hiker with two missing toenails and hadn’t showered in 3 days.
Hiking the Southwest Coast Path was an eye-opener. I proved to myself that I was indeed capable of venturing out into the world on my own.
Immediately upon my return to civilization I began planning for my next big challenge however when I accepted the offer to spend the summer in Geneva I had to push those plans back to next year. I’ve spent the past few weeks convincing myself that I don’t need to start my UK visa with a hike – I should settle down, find a job, a nice flat, and then hike. Yesterday I realized how silly that is.
I WANT to hike. I want to lose myself in the wild (ish) and become a dirty hiker again. So I’ve decided to spend September and October hiking The Ireland Way.
As the website brags: “40 Days, 14 Counties, 900Km, 560 miles and 1000+ Sheep.”
I mean…it just sounds so spectacularly perfect. And I won’t be doing it just for the fun of pushing my limits. I want to have a goal, a reason to be out on the trail. So I’ve decided to find an Irish charity that supports mental health/mental illness and align myself with them. Along the way I will raise awareness and funds and hopefully start a conversation. In all honesty, I think I need to do something big, something that will remind me that I can do ANYTHING.
So, prepare yourselves for lot’s of posts about hiking and camping and regretting making this decision public. By making it public, I officially commit to it. I look forward to hearing any and all advice on Irish hiking!
This anxious adventurer can’t wait to embark on her next big (mildly insane) journey.