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Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 28: Liepe to Nauen

Distance: 22 km

Speed: 5,2 kmph

Time: 4h10m

Soundtrack: Radio Ga Ga by Queen

Today was harder than expected. Partly because I expected it to be dry. It was not. I wouldn’t be surprised if it rained just as much as yesterday, just in shorter and more intense bursts. So there was some running and hiding under trees. And some being grateful that the rain cover of my pack seems to work well.

At one point I could look in one direction and see a clear, sunny day, and turn my head about 90 degrees and see a storm brewing.

I also ran into a couple of “path does not exist” issues again, one of which lengthened my walk by 1,5 km. After the app had sort of regained my trust by guiding me without fault through several forests, it’s starting to get unreliable again.

I also saw a dead raccoon, and I saw one yesterday too and a beaver the day before that. I have yet to see live versions of either animal, and now that I’m in an urban area again I suspect I probably won’t.

Aaand now that I have finally defeated mister blister in combat (he was a worthy adversary and put up quite a fight), my other foot is starting to hurt all over the place. I suspect walking for two days in wet shoes and socks hasn’t helped the foot situation much.

BUT, I made it through another day, and I only have about 40 very rainy and windy kms to go to Berlin – which I could probably even do in one day if I was keen on really killing my feet before I get there. But I’m not, so though I’m impatient, I’m still thankful it’s split in two. But I’m so close now I can taste it.

What does Berlin taste like, you ask? It tastes like joy, pride, humility and gratitude.

And now I think it’s time for me to go see what the Asian food in the restaurant downstairs tastes like, as I feel like it’s calling to me… Laters!

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Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 21-22: Neuferchau to Kalbe to Stendal

Distance (total): 52 km (28+24)

Soundtrack: I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by the Proclaimers

OK, so it’s kilometres, not miles, but who’s counting? (I am, I am!)

I actually breached the 500 barrier yesterday and am now at a total of 551,5 km walked, which means I have about 100 to go. Peanuts, right?!

As my Facebook friends know, I didn’t post anything last night because I pretty much didn’t have Internet for the first time during the trip. Seems Kalbe is a bit of a mobile Internet dead zone. It did make me reflect on how much I use the Internet on the road. I do have backups in my printed maps and list of contact details for all my accommodations, but I had to forego my usual blogging (probably just as well as I got there late and was dead tired), double checking of the weather forecast, next days route, details of the place I was staying etc. But a night off never hurt anyone and at least it was an excuse to go to bed even earlier. These days I find 10 o’clock is really pushing it.

So I spent most of yesterday walking through a large forest, started by seeing a deer and ended by seeing an otter – which was pretty cool (I actually said “YES!” out loud to myself after the otter and I had a moment both frozen in time on either side of the small canal before it scampered off into the water). I did have some moments of anxiety again, but when I got over it I had a nice time in the forest and could feel the calm and the timelessness of it all. Of just being, and putting one foot in front of the other.

And I encountered something I’ve not been able to train for: hills! Not mountains or anything, but still most definitely hills. But Voldie and I tackled them. And it was actually kind of nice though it made me a bit out of breath. Nice to get some cardio training, get those endorphins flowing, get a bit of a challenge for once, you know? 😉

My feet were very weary towards the end of the day though, and today they have been kicking up a right fuss again.

It’s been a bit of a day and I’ve had to grit my teeth when taking a step, partly because mister blister has been acting up and partly just from sore feet and getting dirt and grime in my shoes. And may I say dirt and grime abso-fucking-lutely everywhere? I miss the luxury of actually remaining dirt free for a full day.

Today was once again a day of dry and desert like aesthetic. Walking alon a lot of dirt roads next to barren fields in the glaring sun. I had a day like that maybe a week ago as well and it just feels tougher because you feel so dry and dusty – like the dirt gets inside of you.

So, today was always going to be a day where I was going to take the train for one stop, as it otherwise planned out to 40+ km, which was 5 more than I bargained for with my original planning, and I just couldn’t risk that. So I cut it down to 28 with one stop on the train. I’ll need to take the train one stop in a few days anyway to get across a river, as the water is too low for the ferry to cross. And one of the things I need to learn from this journey is to let go of perfectionism and accept that life is messy, and to be a little bit flexible. It was never going to be one neat straight line from Amsterdam to Berlin, and things happen.

However.. I ended up taking the train for 2 stops instead, cutting down today from about a total of 29 to 24. I was just so miserable and dirty and in pain, and I walked right past the train station. And yes, I could have done it. I could have toughed it out. But I’ve done that. I’ve done that on another dusty, dry day like today. I’ve done that when I thought anxiety was going to overpower me. I’ve done that with 36+ km days, and two 30+ days after each other. I’ve done that in the pouring rain along the highways of Flevoland. And frankly I know I can do it and have nothing left to prove. There is a time for being tough and powering through, and there’s a time for being soft and forgiving. And I have chosen to let the soft animal of my body get a tiny bit more rest, instead of breaking it before the final stretch.

It was dizzying to be on a train after having literally only moved by the power of my own feet for over two weeks, but I won’t pretend it wasn’t also a bit of a relief.

Tomorrow I get to have my last day of rest before the very final stretch of 6 days begins. The first one should be very easy because of aforementioned train necessity, making it only about 8km, and the rest are no more than 23,5. Berlin, here I come!

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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 20: Hohne to Ehra

Distance: 32 km

Speed: 4,7 kmph

Time: 6h44m

Soundtrack: Fix You by Coldplay

I’m kinda liking this aesthetic I have going with beautiful idyllic pictures of nature juxtaposed with me whining about my feet and how lonely I am. Aren’t you? No? Well too bad, it’s my project and I’ll whine if I want to…

I actually did have quite a bit of woodsy quiet bits today and I think every single forest path my app indicated I should take existed. Which is good, otherwise I would have been in trouble. So I guess I was right to trust the universe.

And right to trust my body too, because I’m here, I’m alive, and while not exactly kicking can still sort of hobble a little bit.

Today’s first challenge was dealing with anxiety. My already existing anxiety regarding if the map would be correct, and the added anxiety of various incidents that kind of compounded it. It’s been a bit of a weird day and I cried a lot (anyone who knows me well knows that I cry a lot normally, so this in itself is not alarming, though I’ve cried unusually little during this trip so I guess I had some saved up… )

I’ve not written in that much detail about travelling solo for this long with anxiety, and I don’t want to go into too much detail now either, as I still have 10 days left to go – and writing about it gives power to it.

But let’s just say that when you have some anxiety and a vivid imagination you may find yourself walking through the woods, heart hammering, cold sweat, needing the toilet, because somewhere in the distance you hear what you believe is rifles going off, and there was a roped off piece of path nearby. Nevermind the fact that you with your bright pink coat can not be easily mistaken for say a deer or a bird, particularly not when insistently humming to yourself – there could be an accident. And let’s not forget about that one episode of Criminal Minds (or actually, let’s.. ) – maybe someone out there in the woods *wants* to shoot me? And then you may find yourself going past a creepy (abandoned?) building enclosed by a tall barbed wire fence with a hole in it, and you may construct a story about an escaped criminally insane lunatic roaming the woods. You know, normal, soothing stuff like that.

It probably doesn’t help that I haven’t felt completely in myself today. It actually started last night when I thought I was getting sick. And I’ve been feeling this heavy fog in my head, a dizzyness, lack of presence, startled by insects, creaking doors, let alone the thought of escaped mental patients. You’d think the walking would help bring the presence back, but it just didn’t really. I also did some energy tapping under way (as I often do) to try and centre myself, but it also didn’t have as much of an effect as it usually does.

And I just kept seeing weird things. Like this cage/shed with a lock on it and a weird machine inside, a statue of a bear (yes I’m sure it was a statue) in front of a hanging canvas in the middle of nowhere, these eerie looking trees…

It was just not a day conducive to good mental health. So I sat down under a tree and bawled into my bag of baby carrots, as I’m sure we’ve all done at some point in our lives.

And then I cried some more on the bathroom floor and in the shower. I think I’m just exhausted. And starting to miss my man and my cats (and my house) terribly.

The thing is, the walking is painful and it’s hard, but I’ve been doing it so long now that I’m almost convinced I can just continue doing it. It’s everything around it that’s doing my head in.

That being said I did still find moments of joy in the stillness and beauty of the forest and the smell of the pine trees (or as J would have said: “oooh, Christmas trees!” – I really miss you, man… ). But maybe not as much as I would have with 25 km less to walk, a smaller pack and a companion.

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Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 19: Celle to Hohne

Distance: 24 km

Speed: 4,9 kmph

Time: 4h55m

Soundtrack: Pack Up by Eliza Dolittle

I had a pretty good start to the day today, though I was reluctant to leave Celle and the puppies. Nevertheless, adventure beckoned.

Weather conditions were quite perfect for walking, really. About 15 degrees and partly sunny.

I took a chance on a forest path again and it paid off, as the path did actually for the most part exist, and there was a good long stretch of me just walking through the forest, lots of green, interesting bird calls and soft ground. This, basically:

And a little of this:

Peaceful and idyllic, and smelled great too. So after I got over the fear of being completely alone in the middle of nowhere, I got on pretty well for a while.

The rest day has definitely done both my feet and my spirits some good, though after the usual 10-12 km it once again started to get hard. And even though it was a shorter day I was almost limping at the end, still kind of am.

So the truth is, while my stay in Celle was incredibly lovely, and in a way quite motivating, there’s also a part of me that feels like if I was going to quit before the end, this would be the time. I’ve already gone a really long distance and people (myself included) seem sufficiently impressed. I feel like I have changed and have achieved some of what I was looking for. Why should I continue to torture my poor feet and knees and hips like this?

Of course I shouldn’t even let myself entertain these thoughts, I shouldn’t let them in. But when you’re walking, on the road all day, you tend to let all the thoughts in, to some extent.

I don’t really want to quit. I want to finish. And I think that maybe I can.

I think that maybe I would have managed to walk further today if I knew that I had to, and it only felt so bad and I only felt so tired because I knew I was almost done for the day.

But truthfully, tomorrow scares me. Not just because of the distance (somewhere in the neighbourhood of 32-34 km), but because it sort of goes through nowhere. I don’t really pass through any towns after the first 10 km, and if the path ceases to exist it could end up being a very long way around indeed. There is seemingly an option to bus the first 10 km or so, but that is a bit of a cop-out (towards the end though there is no such option…). I guess it’s time to trust the universe again, and trust that my incredible body can get me through this one too.

Fortunately it’ll be my second to last 30+ day, and this time they’re not right after each other, so that should help.

Wish me luck!

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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 Ă  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 cafĂ© 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 QuakenbrĂŒck (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 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. 😉

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 HĂ€selunne, 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