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Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 21: Ehra to Neuferchau

Distance: 23 km

Speed: 4,6 kmph

Time: 5h3m

Soundtrack: Symphony No 9 by Ludwig van Beethoven

Ladies and gentlemen, today was a walk in the park!

Not literally, it was still 23 km and took me through some fields, some woods, along some roads, etc., before I reached my destination. But, it was EASY.

I was saying to people yesterday that the distance doesn’t really matter because at some point the legs are all just too long and the last part sucks regardless. I’d like to amend that statement… It’s true, to an extent. But knowing I have 23 km instead of almost 10 km more definitely helps keep me motivated. There’s a myriad of other factors at play too – like weather, scenery, and mood, but distance matters too.

Today was warm and sunny (a bit too much almost without my cap), I walked through the woods a good bit, and I felt calm and present with little to no anxiety. And for the second day in a row, all the paths were where they’re supposed to be.

Another thing that definitely helps is having fewer blisters. I only have one big fat one left now, that’s been invading territory left and right like a greedy little dictator on the inside of my heel. But this morning I put a Compeed bandaid over it, and it’s honestly a world of difference from generic store brand ones. I’m not being paid to say this (but Compeed if you’re reading this, feel free to contact me for an endorsement ;-), it’s just fact. I won’t say it’s pain free but it is SO MUCH BETTER.

And… I don’t think I could have had today without yesterday. There’s been this anxiety that’s been building up that I have had to try and control a little bit in order to be able to go on at all, but I think maybe the dam needed to burst. It was like a cleansing, a katharsis, and today I woke up and was ready to move on. So yesterday was hard, but perhaps necessary.

I’m not saying it’s all sunshine and rainbows from hereon out, and I have two slightly longer days ahead of me again now, but I definitely feel much more optimistic. And I am once again comforted by the fact that my last 6 days are all under 25 km.

And guys, it’s day 21, meaning I’m over 2/3rds of the way there. Two days ago I saw my first road sign for Berlin. 9 more days, one of which is rest, and 6 of which are less than 25 km. I can totally do this!

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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 à 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 café 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.

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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.

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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.

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Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 10: Herzlake to Quakenbrück (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?

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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. 😉

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… 😉

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Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 7: Geesbrug to Wieteveen

Distance: 27 km

Time: 5h 54m

Speed: 4.6 kmph

Soundtrack: Give it all up by The Corrs

So, the first big pack day is done, and the first crisis is averted.

It’s funny how even though I’m a big planner and kind of a control freak, there’s always something I end up missing. And.. It’s funny how it always works out somehow anyway. I feel like I got several clear signs today that things will be fine and I should trust in the universe.

The most recent one was that I discovered I’d forgotten the part of the charger (for my phone, watch, kindle… ) that plugs into the wall. Meaning basically I couldn’t charge anything, and tomorrow is Sunday and I’m in the middle of nowhere… My lovely man, J, offered to spend 2+ hours each way on public transport to bring it to me. Fortunately he didn’t have to, and here’s where all that trust in the universe stuff comes in. Firstly, the fact that I decided to unpack all of my things before going to the shop, which meant I was able to discover I was missing the charger in the first place, and I got to the store just a few minutes before it closed, AND they had them for sale at this small-town grocery store. Incredible.

Well, that was a little detour.. Let’s circle back to this morning when J followed me to Lelystad to see me off, and I got on the train between sniffles and tears. It only really hit me, minutes before I left, that I would not be coming back for almost a month, an that I was about to leave everything and everyone familiar behind. It was kind of intense. And the urge to just not go was very strong.

But I went… And I had a lovely start to the walk when I met a very happy and enthusiastic puppy that insisted on coming over to say hi to me – as if it knew I really needed that. And after that encouraging start I quite happily strolled through the Dutch countryside for a while.

And when it started raining, I received another sign. I was just thinking about looking for somewhere to use the toilet when I was about to cross over a bridge. It simultaneously started raining and the bridge was opened for a boat to pass through. There were bells and blinking red lights basically screaming at me to look around. And when I did I saw the van Gogh house. To those who know me, the significance of this probably does not escape you. Van Gogh is my favourite artist and I feel a very special and emotional connection to his work. So in I went, and the lady working there told me that Van Gogh came to live in this house for a while just before he started pursuing painting, and by walking along the canal leading up to that house, I’d literally been walking in his footsteps. Amazing. I had no idea.

Also, alpacas!

So, the pack… I actually managed to cut out another kilo, so it’s 17, but that’s still pretty heavy. I’m definitely feeling it in my legs, back and shoulders now, though it was OK for the first half or so. I’m not feeling too bad though, and not hobbling or anything. So walking in my running shoes was probably a good idea. I don’t think my body is going to be super enthusiastic tomorrow when I tell it we have to put the pack on again and do the whole thing over again. And again. And again. But.. I think/hope I’ll get used to it a little more. And the nice thing about carrying the big pack is that people I meet automatically understand that I’m on a longer trip and ask me where I’m headed, so I’ve had a few nice conversations with people I met today about what I am doing and why.

All in all it’s been a pretty good first “real” day, though it definitely feels weird to sit here by myself in my BnB, typing up a blog post on my phone, with my Bluetooth keyboard, instead of at home on the sofa with my laptop, man and cats. For someone who really enjoys her own company, I’m feeling oddly lonely.

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Body Positivity Walk 2019

Day 5: An experiment leads to enlightenment

OK, so today was… Different. In a good way!

Firstly, I have a confession. I was supposed to walk to Slagharen today, but I didn’t. When I looked more closely at the map last night I saw that Google again wanted me to walk on roads with no bike paths or sidewalks, and planning around it added 7 km to my route. And guys, I needed an easy day. The last two days have been rough.

There would have been a small gap in my route from today to Saturday anyway because of public transport/logistical reasons, so I decided I’d find somewhere to walk that had better walking roads and was roughly the same distance and right direction. So, I walked to Zuidwolde. And I had an amazing time.

I walked through farmland and cute little villages, talking to the goats and dogs and a particularly chatty horse I saw, I breathed in the smell of the trees and the grass, I let my eyes rest on the quiet of the countryside.

bike path drentheflower gardenhorseymore goats

Today I came home the rosy-cheeked outdoors-woman of my dreams and visions. The one who is tired after a long day on the road, but in a good way – not a “please chop off my feet so they can’t hurt me” way. And it was everything I hoped it would be.

more days like this.jpeg

It was supposed to be 18 km, so shortest distance so far, though it turned into 19, which was still very doable. How did it turn into 19, you ask? Well, much like the people of Troy, I was distracted by a big wooden horse. And I’m not horsing around!

trojan horse.jpeg

Anyway, a true testament to the difference in how I felt today and how I felt yesterday is shown in my reaction when I realised I missed a turn. I laughed at myself and went the 0,5km back up again. Yesterday, when I thought I had 5 km left and it turned out it was 5,8 I very nearly cried.

Another factor in today’s walk were my shoes. I decided, as an experiment, I was going to try to walk a leg in my running shoes. I had my hiking shoes with me just in case. My feet did get sore in the way that they were tired from walking all day, but not painful in the same way, they are not throbbing and blistery. Admittedly it was a shorter distance than most of my other walks, though kinda comparable to day 2.

So this is going to sound a bit silly maybe, but I think I *just* realised that my hiking shoes are too small/narrow. The thing is, they don’t feel uncomfortable to put on. It’s a snug fit, but not too tight and the material is flexible. But at the end of the day my feet have become lumps of pain. So, something isn’t right there, and I don’t think I can “blame” it on walking in the shoes after over a month of wear. So, I have decided that I’m going to do the rest of the hike in my running shoes. After all, I’m not going to be climbing any mountains. And my running shoes have insoles shaped specifically after my own feet, which probably helps (and they’re too large to fit into my hiking shoes). I’m a little concerned about the lack of ankle support (though some hiking websites claim ankle support is a myth, I still kinda feel like it would be a good thing), but I can work around that.

So, armed with the knowledge that I picked a route that goes mostly through the countryside, and with the hope that my feet will hurt less from now on, I feel positively giddy, and way more optimistic than I have any cause to be. But I’m going anyway, so why not be optimistic for a change?

Tomorrow is a much needed day of rest, and finishing up a few last errands, packing etc., before I set off for real, bright and early Saturday morning by public transport to Geesbrug, and then I start walking towards Berlin – like, for real. And I will not see home for almost a month. Which for some free spirits may be no big deal, but for me it is huge.