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Body Positivity Walk 2019

Sarah and the accidental rest day

So, today I was going to take the train across the river and only have to walk about 7-8 km, however through a misunderstanding I got picked up by my hosts at the train station. Either they didn’t understand that my intention was to walk (it’s kind of hard to explain without additional context why I’d choose to walk with Voldie in the rain when they can drive me in a few minutes – actually even with context it’s a bit hard to grasp for some), or they just thought I was being overly polite when I said that I would walk from the station, because there they were. And then it quite frankly seemed rather rude and unnecessary to decline. So I skipped another 7 km and gave mister blister some more time to calm the eff down. And they let me use their washing machine, so I once again have clean clothes. I’m not exactly complaining…

However, I do fully intend to walk the last 100 km or so over the next 5 days. This is not the preamble to me taking public transport the rest of the way, I assure you. I am admittedly getting rather sick of walking and being on the move every day, and I’m not looking forward to the rain that’s predicted for the remaining time (I have been very fortunate with the weather so far though), but I am very motivated to see it through. “I wanted to walk to Berlin but then I sort of walked to Stendal and couldn’t be bothered anymore” doesn’t really have the same ring to it.. 😉

But through the kindness of strangers I am dry, clean and relatively well rested for one more day. Which is not a bad thing…

I’ve actually wanted to say something about the kindness of strangers and about human contact for a while, but I’ve been too tired to do writing outside of daily updates.

I have of course alluded to my loneliness and how nice it has been to stay with certain people and be welcomed into their homes, but I have more to say on this subject.

I thought it was going to be easy to be mostly alone. Actually, at first I thought I maybe wasn’t going to be mostly alone – because as you may remember I started this whole project encouraging others to come and walk with me. And while I hadn’t expected that to be a daily occurrence I was sort of hoping it would last more than the very first day.

Regardless, as an introvert and HSP who enjoys quiet and her own company, I thought even if people don’t come along I’ll be fine. And I am, kinda. I mean I’m definitely talking to myself more than before, and to bugs and cows and trees and such (still totally normal, right?). And it’s coming up on 4 o’clock in my current flat now with just me and my tinnitus and not another sound of voices, cars, church bells or even birds (maybe because of the rain?) and it does feel ever so slightly weird.

In my normal life, back home – that seems to have taken place in a time and galaxy far, far away by now – I spend quite a lot of time at home, and don’t go out and do things very often. And that’s just fine and dandy, because I need and like a lot of alone time/downtime. But I do always have 3 cats around, and of course J is usually not far off (upstairs, in front of his computer.. ), so I still get my basic social needs met quite easily.

Because we are all social animals – even us introverts. I’m definitely not longing for a party, but a proper face to face chat with a good friend (and a hug) would be nice. Even when I stay in cities, and am not wandering through the woods alone, my interactions are usually limited to buying food or checking in and out of places I’m staying.

I noticed many years ago already how meaningful and important just small interactions with other human beings who are kind and friendly can be. I was super stressed at the airport for one reason or other, but every person I met, at the check-in, at security, at the kiosk etc., were just nice, and smiled and helped me. And by the time I was ready to board my flight I felt completely fine again, even happy.

Because of this I also realised what kind of impact me and my mood potentially have on others, and what kind of impact I’d like to have. I started making more of an effort to always be friendly and smile to anyone I was dealing with, be it in shops or at my work. In fact I once had an evaluation at work where my boss said it was so great to work with me because no matter what was going on I was always friendly and cheerful. Believe me, that’s really NOT the case. However, I do strive to be positive and friendly in professional interactions and in interactions with strangers (family and friends too of course, but they do get to see behind the mask for better or for worse), because I know how important it can be. That doesn’t mean you can never have a bad day. But I recommend as much as possible to not take it out on others (novel idea, I know).

So, now that I’m quite done patting myself on the back for my positive influence on others, let’s talk about others positive influence on me.

I’ve talked already about my lovely stays in Quakenbrück, at the farm in the tiny house, and in Celle, where I was welcomed into the homes of strangers and made wonderful connections and had interesting conversations about life, dreams and passions. But even small interactions like a chat with a man walking his dog who thought it was really cool that I was walking to Berlin, or this older cycling couple I met in the woods that complimented me on my German (yes, really!.. ), have a big impact on my mood and my sanity during a long day of solitary walking.

So, I notice over and over again how important connection and kindness is. Exactly how this will play a role in my future I am not sure, but I must share more of myself with others and open myself to connecting with them.

And, as they say – you never know what someone else is going through, so be kind – always.

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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 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. 😉

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.

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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.

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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.