I’m going to walk 800 km in thirty days.
That’s not something you hear a person say every day. Well, if we convert it to the US system, the Proclaimers did say they would walk 500 miles—which just so happens to be the length of my trip.
But they said they would.
For dramatic effect more than anything.
Well, and for a great effing song.
I’m actually doing it.
And it’s not something you hear a person (other than The Proclaimers) say every day.
Not a sane person at least.
And you’re right, it’s not a completely sane person that takes a month off from their life, from their jobs, their families, the comfort of their own bed and welcomes blisters, aching legs and communal bathrooms.
You gotta be a little crazy to do it.
But the thing is, in my humble opinion, you’ve gotta be a little crazy to enjoy life. Like truly and utterly enjoy the shit out of it. You can’t take it all so seriously. And sane people tend to take things seriously.
And sure, there are things to take seriously, like credit card bills, a scary lump, your heath, the way you treat the people you love (including especially yourself), the fact that Ross and Rachel totally weren’t on a break.
But life, as a whole?
If you met me, took me on face value—which you most certainly will, we’re all guilty of this—then you will surmise that I am not a woman who will wear a backpack containing three outfits, no makeup and sleep in dormitories for thirty days.
I wear heels.
I spend far too much money on overpriced handbags.
My makeup collection could fill a suitcase.
I get my hair done every eight weeks.
I like a good manicure.
My closet is overflowing with things I ‘had to have’ but definitely didn’t need.
You get the picture.
But that’s it, the picture. The surface. The cover that I designed to portray me to the world. That’s not my whole book. Or even a chapter. It’s a sentence in not who I am, but who I want to look like.
I could go on about the complexities of my personality, how there’s more to me than too much makeup and impractical shoes. But that’s not the point. And honestly, I don’t feel the need to. I don’t need to explain myself, because I know myself. I’m happy with myself.
Or that’s what I used to tell myself.
Enter the me deciding to finally embarking on this spiritual pilgrimage I’d promised myself I’d go on ‘one day’.
Well, first, you’re gonna have to rewind.
When I was in my early twenties, I dropped out of fashion school to backpack around Europe.
I was lost.
Because something that I’d dreamed would be my career, something that was a central part of my identity didn’t work out.
I’m not a person who fails.
In my eyes—at the time at least—I failed.
So I was lost.
And the only way I could see to find myself was to get even more lost. Like literally. So I booked a one way ticket, four days accommodation in a hostel in Portugal and that’s it.
And it worked.
I had a lot of experiences, a lot of adventures, and a breakthrough in learning about myself and what I was capable of. You know the drill, you’ve read Eat Pray Love. Or at least seen the movie. This was my trip, sans the praying and the loving part.
But it worked for me.
Along the way, I was working in a hostel in the middle of Spain. I met all kinds of people who touched my life in different ways and who have become lifelong friends.
This guy is not a lifelong friend but he is the reason—kind of—I’m even going on this trip. Honestly I don’t even remember his name. And no, get your mind out of the gutter, I only talked to him.
He had just finished the Camino de Santiago.
I had no idea what this was.
But there was something about him…something about his entire energy that felt different. Special. Calm. He looked exhausted. Unkempt. He was carrying a huge pack, his tee shirt was stained and his shoes were all but falling apart but he looked relieved. Peaceful.
Which led him to lend me a book on the Camino De Santiago.
I read it and decided that I too, needed to go on this spiritual journey. I decided I would.
Fast forward four years.
I have kept that decision in the back of my mind, telling myself ‘one day’ it’s gonna happen. I’ll do it.
And I’m doing it.
I leave tomorrow.
I decided I was doing this approximately two weeks and four days ago.
Not much preparation. Especially since this was in the middle of moving to a new country and finishing two books.
But I decided that I could wait until ‘one day’ or I could do it ‘today’.
I’m not going to sugar coat my reasons for doing this. I think sugar coating things is extremely dangerous, especially when you’ve got some kind of platform. And I’m not talking about this book, blog post, or whatever I decide to turn this into. Your platform could be the conversation you have with your friend, when you tell her your life is amazing and great and you’ve got a fabulous new boyfriend and job.
When in reality, your boyfriend’s an asshole, your job sucks and you don’t fit your jeans anymore because of the stress eating about what an utter mess your life is.
But of course, you don’t want to tell your friend that, because her life seems so great and even if we don’t admit it, we’re all competing a teeny tiny bit to make our lives match up to people who we love and respect. Like that friend we put on the brave face to.
When in reality, she’s struggling, drowning, trying to put on a brave face because everyone else in her life is doing so well that she can’t face being the one fuckup who can’t get her life together.
Do you see where this is going?
We live in a world of images. Of covers. Splashed on social media are skinny, tanned, beautiful girls on beaches who don’t seem to work but have enough designer handbags to fund a house renovation. Men with huge muscles drive around in cars that are worth people’s yearly salaries.
They have their life together, right? That’s what their platform says.
But in reality, that girl is always hungry, maybe battling an eating disorder, and is lonely, lost and cries herself to sleep every night. That man is in hideous amounts of debt and on steroids that make his junk shrink.
These people have their problems—because they’re human—but problems don’t get ‘likes’. They’re not interesting, they’re a coffee stain on that cover of our book that must look perfect and make people want to buy it, read it, display it on their coffee table, whatever.
I’m not perfect. So fucking far from it it’s comical.
I swear far too fucking much.
I drink too much coffee.
I’m one of the worst procrastinators around.
I forget people’s birthdays. All the time.
I forget people’s names the second I meet them.
I can never say no to dessert.
My mind always takes me to the worst possible scenario and I dwell on that until I make myself sick.
I have an unhealthy relationship with my body.
The list goes on. And on.
But take a look at my social media. You don’t see my sleepless nights, my breakdowns, the days I struggle to get out of bed.
I want my cover to stay pristine.
But that’s sugar-coating it.
And it’s kind of starting this whole journey off completely and utterly fucking wrong.
So let’s go sugar free. Not literally, of course, I just finished a salted caramel crème brulee, but for the sake of the metaphor.
I booked my tickets to France, where I’m starting this trip, because I was lost. And not in the way that I was lost four years ago.
This has been one of the lowest, scariest, and hardest points in my life. There was no clear catalyst. Yeah, I’ve gone through some shit this year, but it’s not one thing. Because some crazy amazing and exciting happened for me too.
It’s like my soul was a backpack and the straps finally broke ‘cause I tried to cram too much inside it.
Stuff I didn’t need.
Thoughts I didn’t need.
All of it.
And I’ve been low.
With anxiety so bad that I couldn’t breathe around it low.
I can’t describe it right now.
Because I’m still close to it.
I’m still in it.
I’m still clutched by this overarching and consuming sense of hopelessness, I can’t quite seem to figure it out. And if you looked at my ‘cover’, my filtered, smiling face on social media, the jokes about food, about wine, snaps of my ‘oh so fab’ life, of course you can’t see this.
It’s the point.
But it’s also my breaking point.
So this is the ‘something’s gotta give’ moment. And I felt drawn to do this. Something is pulling me to do it. And I’m answering that. Because I’ve got to.
Something’s gotta give, people.
I was exhilarated when I booked my ticket. Full of life and energy and positivity that this was gong to be great. I was going to have a spiritual awakening, I’m adventurous and awesome to be doing this on my own and I’ll be a new person on the other side.
But like the effects of a strong tequila shot—or ten tequila shots—that feeling eventually faded and I was left with that spiritual hangover I’m currently in.
What if I break my leg?
What if I happen upon a serial killer on an abandoned patch of trail and he murders me and my family never hear from me again?
What if I hate it so much that I can’t stand it, have to quit and fail and hate myself forever?
What if it doesn’t fix me?
This is the point where it’s real. Where my head is trying to stop me because I’m doing something that threatens my survival. Not literally—though I’m sure I have a risk of dying, but waking up carries that same risk—but it is threatening the survival of the person I am now.
The person filled with anxiety, fear, doubt, depression, a sadness so visceral she’s scared it’s imprinted on her bones.
It’s not a pretty person.
It’s not who I am meant to be.
But it’s who I am now.
And that trip is endangering this. Because it’s unknown. It could make me worse.
But it could make me better.
It’s worth the risk of course. Because things are so hard right now. Getting out of bed is so fucking hard right now. And that’s not okay. Not normal. But it’s okay to think walking 25 km a day is hard. That’s acceptable.
I want to do it because it’s going to be hard.
This is also the first time in three and half years, since this whole crazy journey has started that I’ll have a month off.
An entire month.
No social media.
No waking up at 2 a.m. in a cold sweat because I’m full of self-doubt that this book I used to love in that warm light of day feels like a pile of shit in the shadows of the night.
Because I’ve not been ‘off’ since this started.
Now I need to clarify, this isn’t me complaining about my life.
Publishing Making the Cut those years ago was the best thing I’ve ever done. My life has gone in directions I’ve never expected. I’ve met some extraordinary people. My readers are the top of that list. It’s those beautiful people who’ve changed my life.
But it’s also introduced constant motion in my life.
I was a full-time student and got a Bachelor’s Degree in the same amount of time I wrote fourteen books.
I developed anxiety so bad I ended up in the emergency room.
I’ve had countless nights crying over essays, over whether I actually was going to get a book done, or over whether that person who one starred my book was right, I am a terrible writer and a shitty person.
For the last three (fucking horrific) months of my degree, I averaged three hours of sleep a night. And this is not exaggerating. I would be lucky to fall asleep at my laptop around three. My alaram went off at six.
I lost 10kg in a month because I was too stressed to eat. I’m not a person who gets too anything to eat. I’d figure out a way to polish off a block of chocolate with my jaw wired shut.
I fall asleep with my laptop. Every night.
Even when I’m ‘on holiday’, I’m on. I’m replying to messages. Posting photos. Reading reviews. Emails.
And I love it. I thrive off it. To a point that isn’t healthy.
To a point I make myself sick.
Physically sick with crippling migraines that have too landed me in the emergency room. With nerve problems in my shoulder because I write in bed too often.
I’ve found ways to manage all of this. Learning the hard way, of course, which is the only way to learn.
And it’s what has led me here. I know that to protect my peace, to save it, something’s gotta give.
The most important person I’m ever going to have a relationship with is myself. And I haven’t been taking good care of her. Haven’t been keeping promises I made to myself in the lowest points in my life. To nurture myself. To be kind to myself. To give myself a break, a day off without feeling sick with guilt.
So this is it.
So I want to take a little moment to ask you, oh beautiful reader—even if it’s just you, mum—to please not break promises to yourself. And if you have, find a way to make new ones.
That doesn’t mean you need to walk 800 km in a month like me. I’m crazy, remember?
It does mean that you do that thing—or those collection of things—that you’ve been promising yourself you’ll do one day.
Make one day today.
Even if it’s just one hour a week where you take a bath, finish a bottle of wine and listen to your favourite music while wearing a Korean face mask.
Or if it’s learning a new language.
Starting a cupcake business.
Going to India to study under a famous yogi.
Quitting the job you hate.
Divorcing the husband you hate.
Treasuring the husband you love.
Going back to school and study witchcraft and wizardry.
Whatever calls to your beautiful soul, please, please do it.
Because life isn’t short. It’s long as fuck. And don’t you want to spend as long as possible loving life? Loving yourself? Being more than just a glossy cover?
I have no idea how I’m going to come back from this trip.
I have no clue what it’s going to do for me.
But I know it’s going to do something.
And I know it’s going to put dirty footprints over that oh so pristine and oh so faux glossy cover of mine.
And I can’t fucking wait.
While I’m gone, here’s my challenge to you. Take one moment, one hour, one week, one month for you. Without worrying about what the rest of the world is doing, without worrying what the rest of the world is thinking.
Be a little crazy.
I dare you.