Body Positivity Walk 2019 Mental health and BoPo articles

Intermezzo: Intuitive Eating on the road

I wrote something about this on my previous rest day, but WordPress decided it was a good idea to delete the whole text, and frankly I haven’t had time or energy since to write a new version.

In the meantime I’m 5 days further in, so I also have 5 days more experience. ­čśë

I’m sitting here in my cosy quarters in Celle, looking at the rain falling against the window and enjoying the comforts of inside. Like heating, plumbing, comfy seats and shelter from the weather. It’s funny the things you take for granted when you don’t spend most of the day outside and on your feet.

So, intuitive eating is something I’ve been practicing and preaching for a while now – I was nevertheless curious to see how this journey would affect it and how I would feel both mentally and physically about what I’ve been eating.

Not surprisingly, I’ve been very hungry, and my body seems happy as long as it is getting enough food. I do probably have at least a slight energy deficit most days, but have generally felt both satisfied and nourished by my meals.

When I started out I was bracing myself for a lot of junk food and cheese sandwiches. On the latter front I was pretty spot on. I’ve been packing lunches from hotel breakfasts or similar almost every day, and cheese sandwiches are then one of the easiest things to take with me that are both vegetarian and relatively filling. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t crave a bit more variety, but peanut butter is not the staple food in Germany that it is in the Netherlands. Sometimes I throw a Nutella sandwich in the mix for those sweet cravings. And mostly I have an apple with me. And my stash of nuts and dried fruit.

Dinners have been very mixed – from the leftover slice of bread, chunk of cheese and tomato I had a few days ago when I was too tired to leave my room, to the culinary feast I had at an Italian restaurant last night. And there have been a couple of (delicious) pizzas.

I have not had a single salad since I started walking. That being said I do try to take care to get some vegetables with my meals and put for instance cucumber, tomato and pepper fruit on my sandwiches. Overall I’m probably eating a bit less veg than I would normally, but at the end of a long day of walking I just do not want a salad. If it’s on the side of a burger or some fish, that’s OK, but by itself, absolutely not. I crave warm, rich, comforting foods.

How am I feeling, physically and mentally about my food choices? Pretty good. If anything I would say that with this walk I am learning to eat even more intuitively and judge my choices less. Simply because the hunger is clear, the need is clear, the signals I am getting from my body about what it wants are unambiguous, and I just listen.

Normally in life we have a lot of interference in our relationship with food. From what others think of our choices, what we read and hear from so-called experts to what we can afford and what meets our moral and ethical standards, and so much more.

But the walking washes away all the bullshit and everything that is not important*, until only the essence is left. I feel every part of myself, physically and emotionally. I just am.

I am human. I need food, I need rest, I need shelter, I need movement, I need love and compassion. And when I tune in to these needs, respect them and meet them, I am OK. I am more than OK. I am whole.

*I don’t mean to imply that it’s wrong or indeed bullshit to make food choices based on morals, ethics, money, health, comfort etc., but what I mean to say is that it can be quite useful to get back to the basics of what food is, and just listen to what the body wants and what feels good and learn from that. Which is how I believe intuitive eating should start.

Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 17: Marklendorf to Celle

Distance: 27,5 km

Speed: 5,2 kmph

Time: 5h20m

Soundtrack: Stormy Weather by The Kooks

I sure can walk fast when I know a rest day is coming!

It wasn’t only that though, I opted for walking along the main road again as I didn’t have the patience nor the feet for detours, and there were few opportunities to sit down. Also, around 3 o’clock there was a scary amount of wind. A dust storm blew up from a field across from me and I had to walk with my sunglasses on, hood up and hands covering most of my face to not be blinded. I was a bit worried it was unsafe to walk, as I felt the wind tug at my pack and saw the trees nearly bending over. I considered hopping on a bus, but decided to risk it, just walk faster to get it over with, and I ended up being fine. It’s a reminder to look at wind strength when checking the forecast going forward – autumn is the season for strong winds, and if there are weather warnings I will have to try and find alternate transportation. Hopefully it won’t come to that.

I am glad I got to Celle early though, because guys… Getting here.. It has just been so amazing. Not only do I have a lovely, cozy and spaceous room here with a lovely host, but it has it’s own bathroom – with a tub! I was not expecting that. Another thing I was not expecting was that my host has puppies. 9 of them! They’re only 3,5 weeks old and soooo cute and soft and tiny and fluffy.. And well, all the good things. Here is some video evidence:

But wait… There’s more!

There’s also fresh laundry as got to borrow a washer and dryer instead of doing laundry in small and crappy hotel sinks.

But wait… There’s more!

After a bubble bath and some puppy cuddles I was in desperate need of dinner, and planned to go to a cheap Greek place up the street. But it was closed. So was the second nearest restaurant. And the only other one that was close had an Italian name so I figured it was a pizzeria (German’s are big on pizza, and actually they do make pretty good ones), so I thought fine I’ll have pizza. But when I got there I realised it was a fancy-pants high class restaurant. But I just could not face any more walking. And considering the microwave dinner I had last night and the leftover bread and cheese in my lonely hotel room the night before, I decided I could splurge. I even had a little bit of wine with my food for the first time since I started this walk. And it was soo good (the food and the wine), and I just felt amazing. And I realised I have already changed.

Not that long ago I would not have considered going into a place like that by myself, let alone in leggings, bright pink sneakers and a long sleeve t-shirt (no makeup, hair in disarray…). But now I could not give two figs. I wanted food. They had it. It was delicious. I felt comfy and happy. The end.

And guys, I just feel so… Good. Happy. And it’s such a relief after struggling quite a bit most of this journey.

I know there will still be challenges ahead, including but not limited to a few more long days with blisters and all the mental mind games that come with this insane venture. But right now I am happy. Tonight I am victorious. And tomorrow I can rest.

Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 16: Steimbke to Marklendorf

Distance: 25 km

Speed: 5 kmph

Time: 5 h

It’s funny, every night when I sit down to write, I have to think: where am I again now? Where was I this morning? I wonder, does one ever get used to this?

Today, instead of EOTD Sarah you get Bath Sarah. And Bath Sarah is
definitely one of the superior Sarahs.

There is something magical about a hot bath, especially when you’ve been outside doing physical activity all day.

I feel soft and clean and warm, and like everything is going to be OK.

I am still a bit worried about my feet and I have some disturbing pictures of them that I’m not posting because I don’t want you all to vomit. But I’m hoping the fact that I got here quite early so my feet get some more rest, combined with a hot bath (and maybe another before bed or in the morning.. ) and another night of Farmer Oliver’s herb compress will help.

Tomorrow I do have almost 30 km again, but then I get my next rest day in a town called Celle. Huzzah! I’ll be staying in somebody’s house there, so hopefully there’ll be some more interesting people to chat with.

Right now I have a big-ass house to myself, which is also nice in a different way. It’s also slightly unsettling to be alone in a big and unfamiliar house. There’s all sorts of sounds you’re not used to, clicking and humming.

Today was honestly kind of uneventful. It rained in the morning for a couple hours, but only a light rain, which spurred me on. There were few places that were convenient to sit down so I just kept walking most of the time. Basically along the same road 95% of the way here. Dull, but quick.

And now I’ve just had a prefab chili that I bought because I didn’t feel like making a meal and there’s nothing nearby. It did the trick. That’s the kind of day it has been I guess – a medium day. A utility day. Except for the bath, which was glorious. And so was eating chocolate in the bath. Would recommend.

I’m interested to see what Celle will be like, and hope I have some energy the day after tomorrow to have a poke about.

Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 15: Balge to Steimbke

Distance: 24 km

Time: 5h18m

Speed: 4,5kmph

Soundtrack: Highway to Hell by AC/DC

On paper today was an easy day (it was even supposed to be 23km but the app fucked with me again and since I was in no mood to go crashing through the forest ├á la recherche de chemins perdus I decided to backtrack a bit instead). Though of course with the toll of the previous two long days, it wasn’t really.

I started feeling the pain in my feet from quite early on, and though I prefer 23 degrees and sun over rain, for walking along the dusty highways of who-gives-a-fuck, Germany with Voldie on my back, it was a little much. Also my very fetching, bright red Media Markt cap was gone with the wind about 5 km in.

And at the end of a long day I reached an empty hotel with a closed restaurant, and had to be given instructions over the phone for how to let myself in. Have just had a – if I say so myself – rather sad dinner of leftover bread and cheese and tomato from my lunch, with a few nuts, because I simply cannot face putting on shoes and going outside again tonight.

At this point I’d like to point out, dear readers, that you always get End-of-the-day-Sarah, who is always tired, often disillusioned and has just had enough of this shit already. Beginning-of-the-day-Sarah and even Middle-of-the-day-Sarah are a lot more positive and cheerful. BOTD Sarah had an amazing breakfast out of things made or grown on the farm, then she got a tour of the crops, got to see a goat being milked (manually), and had a very inspiring and uplifting conversation with Oliver the Farmer. Oliver the Farmer was not born into the farming life. No, he is trained as a locksmith, and worked as one for 25 years before deciding there must be more to life than a boring job in the city day in and day out, so he bought a farm and left his job, and lives happily, quietly, modestly, ever after. I WANT ME SOME OF THAT. And it gives me hope that this kind of radical life change and career change can lead to the happier and more fulfilled life that I am longing for, working for. Traipsing through Germany for.

MOTD Sarah often thinks of inspiring and uplifting things she’s going to write later in her blog, but EOTD Sarah just isn’t having it.

MOTD Sarah finds joy in unexpected ice cream (or, surpricecream as she likes to call it), when not 10 minutes ago she’d been thinking “if only there was somewhere here seemingly in the middle of nowhere that sold ice cream”. And then like a mirage in the desert, a caf├ę appears. But unlike a mirage it stays put.

EOTD Sarah grudgingly admits it was handy she found that ice cream so she had some leftovers over her lunch to eat for dinner, but she is no longer full of the miracle that is finding ice cream in the middle of the desert of the mind.

So, hopefully this PSA will help you feel a little bit better about where I am and what I’m doing. Please have patience with and kindness for EOTD Sarah, she’s just so very tired. And her feet are so very sore.

Oh and one additional cheery announcement: today is half-way day! It’s day 15 out of 30 which means I’m officially (time wise) half way to Berlin. And distance wise I should be over half way already as I have 4 30+ days behind me, only 2 ahead, and my last 6 days are all under 25. Take heart, followers, take heart EOTD Sarah – it will be OK.

Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 14: Ehrenburg to Balge

Distance 33,5km

Time: 6h54m

Speed: 4,8kmph

Soundtrack: Waiting for an Invitation by Benji Hughes

I think it’s going to be another short one as it’s been another long day. But I made it through! The first 8-10 km were even fairly easy, even though last night I thought I would barely be able to walk. After that it got quite challenging though, and in addition to blisters I now have a mild swelling on one foot.

Farmer Oliver is concerned about my feet and my blisters, saying it will get worse if I continue walking without letting it heal. I am hoping that blister bandaids and a good night’s rest will get me through, plus a shorter (but still 23 km) day tomorrow. I don’t have the time to take unscheduled rest days and it’s not like they’re going to go away after one day anyway. I’ve also gotten a herb compress from said farmer, made from a mysterious herb that Google translates as banana. It’s definitely not banana. But whatever it is I hope it helps! I’m pretty sure it can’t hurt.

So I am now positioned in the tiny house that’s about the same size total as our kitchen at home. It’s in the back garden of the farmhouse and it has a shower that needs to be heated by actually lighting a fire, a composting toilet and no sink. It’s quaint.

And I just had a lovely meal with farmer Oliver, his wife and a neighbour, made with fresh farm produce. Tomorrow there will be yoghurt and cheese that’s also farm made. It’s interesting to get a glimpse into a different life like this. So quiet and in a way simple, natural. I bet it’s a lot of hard work and probably not easy to make ends meet. But it’s nice to see that people still live so “close to the earth” and to the food on their tables. They seem quite content, and I get that.

Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 13: Vechta to Ehrenburg

Distance: 36,5 km

Time: 7h47m

Speed: 4,7kmph

OK, it’s going to be a short one guys, because I’m honestly way too bloody tired for any “triumf of the human spirit” nonsense. But I made it. And I’m still able to walk – well, hobble at least.

It was pretty rough though. Not just because it was long, but my app led me astray a few times as well and I persisted a bit too long in fighting my way through nettles and small trees in hope that the path would become more pathy, because I was starting to panic about what the hell I’d do if there was in fact no path there. Fortunately only a small stretch of the route seemed to be missing.

But yes, this has been the longest day with Voldie by quite a bit (7-8 km), and though there was only a light drizzle of rain in the morning it was still a looooong day, with achy feet and shoulders and having to deal with my period on top of all that. Thankfully that seems to be winding down now.

I’m not quite sure how I’m supposed to be able to get through another 33 km tomorrow, but when I do, I get to stay in a tiny house (which I think has a bath tub) on a farm, and I’ve been looking forward to that. And since there’s no shops or restaurants nearby my host has offered for me to share meals with them, based on what they produce on the farm which sounds like a cosy and authentic experience. So maybe I can get through the 33 km just thinking of that… And knowing that the day after I only have 23,5. Fingers crossed!

The homesickness was real when I saw this. If I’d seen anyone at home there I’d probably have rung the doorbell and talked Norwegian at them.

Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 11: Quakenbr├╝ck to Vechta

(Yesterday’s post, as WordPress didn’t publish when scheduled)

Distance: 27,5 km

Time: 5h20m

Speed: 5,1 kmph (yeah, that’s right!)

Soundtrack: Superman by Deluxe

So I already knew yesterday that I wasn’t going to give up – because I didn’t start this whole project just to give up the first time things got really hard. What I *didn’t* know was how much better I was going to do/feel today. The miracle of human contact, indeed. I must give some credit to my couchsurfing hosts for the lovely evening and conversation we had, and of course to Emmy the dog!

Other factors that probably contributed were my motivation to make it to Vechta before it started raining (I almost made it in time, the rain was early – but so was I), and to get to a place I didn’t have to leave again the very next morning.

But I really did move at an astounding pace for being me, so I think there was some magic involved somewhere. Or that I’m secretly superwoman. Maybe it was exactly that I had felt the low, the struggle, the dread yesterday and had come out the other side determined to fight again that spurred me on.

I also had a day of walking on an asphalt bike path along the road almost the whole way, but I was actually fine with it because I just wanted to get on with the walking and it meant I didn’t have to think about where I needed to go very often, and my feet didn’t get wet.

I did see some beautiful buildings on my way out of Quakenbr├╝ck though, which according to my hosts are a tourist draw and I can understand why.

And tomorrow there is absolutely nothing that I have to do. I don’t have to pack, I don’t have to set an alarm, I don’t have to mount Voldie (as I’ve lovingly/hatingly named my pack) on my back. I may go out and have a look around and get some postcards, if there’s anything to see in Vechta. Then again I may also stay in bed all day and watch Netflix on my phone or read LotR. What luxury!

Friday I have to walk 36,5 km, and Saturday 34. But that’s future Sarah’s problem. And if I can do that and not fall down, I am pretty sure I’m going to make it to Berlin.

Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 10: Herzlake to Quakenbr├╝ck (take 2)

What follows is a more or less faithful (memory permitting) recap of yesterday’s post and feeling – that WordPress mysteriously erased:

Distance: 26 km

Today I wanted to quit. For the first time for real. The rainy highways of Flevoland may have temporarliy broken my spirit, but it wasn’t real then – I still went home at the end of the day. It is real now. And I felt the hopelessness and desperation in my soul and in my bones. I collapsed on a bench in front of a train station and started crying.

And the funny thing is, it hadn’t been a bad day – not really. When I called J in tears saying I didn’t want to do this anymore, he said “but I thought you had a nice day based on the pictures you sent me”. And I did, kind of. I walked for a long time through a lovely bit of quiet forest and I saw lots of animals.

But my feet were wet most of the day from the dewey grass, and I have a blister on the side of my foot where the insole meets the shoe that has been gradually growing. And my left shoulder has been really sore. General aches and pains pretty much throughout my feet, legs and back. I am just so tired, and every day it seems a little harder. And the thought of doing it again tomorrow, and then after a short break again and again and again.. Just sort of broke me.

After some stretching and venting and talking myself down off the ledge I – at J’s suggestion – went to have some Thai food across the street which provided some instant comfort.

And then my lovely couch surfing host came by on her way home from work and picked me up, so I didn’t have to walk the last 500 meters. Bliss.

And then… I was welcomed into the home of two beautiful souls, and we spent the evening chatting about life, adventures and travelling, until I started to feel like a human being again. I was hesitant about the fact that I was going to stay with strangers, given the frame of mind I was in, but almost as soon as I entered I felt like a welcome friend. And I think the miracle of human contact was exactly what I needed tonight. The road can get awfully lonely.

Also, they have the happiest little doggie on earth, who gave me a very enthusiastic greeting – and if that doesn’t warm the cockles of your heart you either have a severe dog allergy or you’re dead inside.

I’m still not feeling ready or able for tomorrow, but tons better than a few hours ago. One day at a time, eh?

Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 9: Meppen to Herzlake

Distance: 26,5 km

Time: 6h

Speed: 4,4 km

Soundtrack: Sonne by Rammstein

So yes it’s been a sunny day, not a drop of rain. It’s been a bit of a mixed bag as usual, with some lovely bits in the woods towards the beginning, some less lovely bits along the highway, and some getting lost and some wading through a sea of nettles. And also: ice cream.

I finally got into a bit of proper forest today, which was wonderful. Because of my anxiety I always kind of need to get over the fact that I’m in the woods by myself and if something should happen to me there’s no one around to help, but I usually settle in after a while, and I finally started to feel some of that peace and that belonging, and just being, which I have been looking forward to. And then I got lost. ­čśë

The hiking app is good for leading you through bits of woods instead of all along the highways which may be the shortest route but also the most soul-killing. What it’s not so good at is actually knowing where there are paths. Unless path is code for “crash haphazardly through the undebrush and get twigs stuck everywhere”. The app is also responsible for the sea of nettles. But by the time the path started to disappear and become nettles I’d already invested kilometres and was way too tired to go back and find a way to circle around. Fortunately my relatively thick leggings took the brunt of it and I got through with only a couple of stings.

I also walked through a cute little village called H├Ąselunne, where I got an ice cream cone, which was very delicious. I’m very into sweets the last few days and devoured a snickers yesterday too. I wonder if it’s the quick energy my body is responding to or if it’s the onset of my period (yes, that’ll be an extra fun thing to deal with over the next few days – but it does come around about once a month, so might as well get it over with!)

Now I’m in an odd sort of place, called Herzlake. It seems to consist of a hotel, a bakery, a garden centre, a church and a pizzeria. And there’s nice looking houses with well tended gardens wall to wall with abandoned buildings with broken windows. I don’t know quite what to make of it. It’s quite pretty though, when you’re *not* wading through nettles (and also when you’ve had a shower and some pizza). And quiet, which is a nice change again from yesterday. Tomorrow I will be having my first (and only, at least on this trip) couch surfing experience, so looking forward to seeing what that will be like. I’ve messaged a bit with the hosts and they seem like lovely people.

And now it’s time to give these weary feet, and head, some proper rest. Xx

Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 8: Wieteveen to Meppen, DE

Distance: 25 km

Time: 5h 30m

Speed: 4,5kmph

Soundtrack: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Day 8 started off beautifully with a walk through a nature area, following a shepherd.

After about 5 km of this I reached the German border and things took a turn for the worse. Not *because* I reached the border, mind, I’m sure that was coincidental… Right, Germany?

And it wasn’t bad per se, just kinda boring, walking almost the entire way on bike paths next to trafficated roads, seeing mostly fields and nothingness. And this was even though I was using my hiking app.

I decided to eschew Google maps in favour of a dedicated hiking/cycling app, as I trust that they actually know where you’re allowed to walk AND when you pay for it it allows you to store maps offline, which is of course very handy should I find myself without a clue where to go and without Internet coverage. The trouble is it adds 1-5 km to EVERY segment of my route… Including adding a whole extra 5 km to my longest one, making it 40,5. So I think I’ll probably hop on a train for one stop to make that leg somewhat manageable. We’ll see..

I do feel that it’s a bit tougher to walk today probably just because I did a full day yesterday too with my pack, but it was still doable.

Anyway, I made it to Meppen in one piece, and have had the opportunity to practice my very bad German on the receptionist who didn’t speak English or Dutch. I planned to practice more before I left, but there was so much else to do. I did have German in school but that was over 20 years ago now (I switched to French in high school, thus helpfully ensuring I only know a very little bit of two languages rather than slightly more of one… ). Fortunately I seem to be able to make myself understood. And I’m hoping the more time I spend here the more it comes back to me.

I’m also hoping it will go better than the last time I spent a month in Germany, which was when I was 14 or 15. I was fighting a lot with my mum so she banished me to Germany to live with a family who were, as we put it where I grew up – very Steinerised. They didn’t have a TV or a CD player and all they seemed to eat was chikory. I did not have a good time. But.. I did come home a lot more appreciative of what I had, so maybe that was her cunning plan all along. ­čśë

This time I have of course chosen to spend time here, and am doing things in very much my own way. And I’ve wanted to go to Berlin for a long time.

I also learned some cool stuff about Germany recently, like they are the country in the west with the highest percentage of vegetarians. And they don’t have a lot of Google Street View because of privacy legislation, which I actually think is a good thing, but it’s inconvenient when planning a hiking trip and trying to find out where you are allowed to walk and not (another reason I’m now using the hiking app).

Today’s crisis was of a different nature than yesterday’s missing charger, but also kind of a biggie. Checking my email I saw that one of my Airbnb hosts had cancelled on me. That’s a risk when using the platform I guess, and normally you’d just find something else, but when you’re on foot, in the countryside, staying for only one night and with a specific route you cannot deviate from much, it becomes a lot trickier. Fortunately, with the help of J, I managed to find a different place – and if I understand it correctly it’s an entire house (at least access to an entire house) with a bathtub and a fireplace. Oh joy! I only wish I were staying more than one night.. So I guess it’s actually a better deal, though 15 euro more expensive.

I wonder what tomorrow’s crisis will be.. Or maybe there won’t be one. That would be nice, for a change. A quiet evening, imagine that… ­čśë