The journey before the walk.
On paper, this project is one of the most simple and clear that I have ever attempted: to put one foot in front of the other until I get to Sydney.
So why has it taken me two years just to get to this point?
I’ve quickly discovered that planning and mapping the route is deceptively time consuming.
And of course, there is the training, which demands a lot of time. Going to the gym and running are quick alternatives, but if I am to do long walks on the road with weight, well…
I need to do long walks on roads while carrying weight.
I’ve done +30km day walks carrying full gear with overnight camping to test my stamina and gear. My spirits were high, but my tent got flooded (the wind and rain were phenomenal). Not ideal, but better than a dry tent with a bad mood.
Paging Dr. Sock
The practicalities of this walk are an endless list of tasks and research.
I’ve learnt about rucking, and spent more time than I thought possible reading reviews of tents, head torches and socks. The research, materials and technology dedicated to socks is impressive, and so are their qualifications. The socks I will be wearing have a PhD, ‘a doctorate in performance and comfort’. So it seems my feet will be in good hands.
I have also been reflecting on other walks that put the amount of gear I am taking to shame. Werner Herzog grabbed “a jacket, a compass, and a duffel bag with the necessities” and set out on foot from Munich to Paris. Mildred L. Norman, AKA Peace Pilgrim, walked across the US for 28 years (more than 40,000 km) wearing a blue tunic and carrying only a pen, a comb, and a toothbrush.
I suspect I’ll be envying the lightness of their loads as the days progress. Wish I could walk as light as David Banner (music included).
The road less traveled. But it has been traveled before.
61 year old Cliff Young won the Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon (875 km) in just over five days in overalls and gumboots. Robyn Davidson walked 2,700 km across the Australian desert from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean at 27. What I am attempting to do has been done better and grander before. And without PhD Socks. But, as Esther Nunn found out when she recreated Robyn’s walk in 2009 with the advantages of modern technology, the walk still needs to be walked.
There are inherent physical risks and challenges in this walk that need to be identified, respected and managed. And it is yet to be seen if I can pull it off, but there is (some very tiny) comfort in knowing it is achievable.
The known unknowns
A tent, boots and headlamp might help me get to Sydney, but they don’t do much for the purpose of the walk. For this, I need another type of gear altogether. In this case, a philosophical sock-equivalent: logic.
Paraphrasing Descartes’ Principles of Philosophy, not the kind of logic that teaches us to explain what we already know, but the kind which allows us to direct our reason with a view to discovering the truths of which we are ignorant.
And that is what this walk is all about.
Paradoxically, what has taken the biggest chunk of time out of the last two years was not the things I did, but the ones I needed to stop doing.
I needed to stop making excuses.
And I also needed to stop looking for courage as an item I could add to my shopping trolley along with the equipment.
There are many witty quotes about courage. Personally, I prefer the humble dictionary definition: “the ability to do something that frightens one.” Interestingly, the use of the word courage is in decline. Are we getting close to Nietzsche’s Last Man? One that is tired of life, take no risks, and seeks only comfort and security?
The ability to overcome my fears will be key throughout this walk –I hope it follows me along the way.
In Homo Prospectus, Prof. Seligman, the father of positive psychology, wrote “Our species is misnamed. Though sapiens defines human beings as ‘wise’ what humans do especially well is to prospect the future. We are homo prospectus.”
This project is indeed the product of a Homo Prospectus. It is not based on what would be considered to be wise, but on what one hopes.