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Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 30: Staaken to Berlin Hauptbahnhof (final goal)

Distance: 17,5 km

Speed: 5,5 kmph

Time: 3h10m

Soundtrack: Did You Give the World some Love Today Baby by Doris

I AM DONE! There’ll no doubt be many afterthoughts in the next days or weeks that I hope to share with you, but I’d like to at least give a quick summation and my first thoughts to wrap up the “on the road” part of the project.

Today my plan was to meet J at Berlin Hauptbahnhof, and there were some mixed messages about his arrival time due to train confusion, which led me to have a long and leisurely lunch at a cafĂ© – eating lunch indoors, what a luxury! – and then basically running the last 3 km because he’d already arrived and I was so excited I tried to magic the traffic lights green (with mixed success…).

It was a rainy and stormy day but cleared up after the first few hours, and I found myself just walking around with a big smile on my face.

When I arrived at the hauptbahnhof, after the initial long hugs and PDAs the heady, giddy laughter bubbled up in me again and I walked around in kind of a dazed state, laughing maniacally. Trying to take in the enormity of what I had just done (again with mixed success), and trying to take in the enormity of Berlin and all the people. Guys, Berlin is huge.

And now, here I am, freshly bathed (though sadly not as nicely dressed as I would like as J didn’t manage to bring most of my normal people clothes – though I am wearing jeans for the first time in a month or so, and it feels pretty good) and in a beautiful hotel room (with a tub!) that I only have to leave in order to get food. Tomorrow I don’t have to walk anywhere unless I want to. Nor the day after, nor the day after.. I don’t have pack up all my belongings and try to remember where I’ve been and where I’m going. It’s been a wild ride and a crazy adventure, and I’m still sort of landing…

Some initial thoughts though, about my body. It is truly amazing. I mean I’ve proclaimed to be body positive for a good while, heck I even built a business on it – and I stand by that – but this experience has definitely taken that to another level for me. Like, I know myself so much better and so much more intimately than before. I know, I love, I respect every freaking millimetre. I really don’t think I could ever feel disappointed by my body again. So here’s to you, my incredible, soft, strong, tough, flexible body, for carrying me through all this. I love you.

Also, I am not a small woman. I have at times in my life been skinny (though that was sometimes also due to ED). I am fairly strong and fit, because I enjoy moving my body and testing its limits, but I have by no means always been this way. And I just want to say that you should never let anyone tell you you cannot do something because of the weight or the shape of your body. Or because of your gender, or any other seemingly limiting quality. Because if I can do this you sure as hell can go after those goals and dreams of yours, in your current, wonderful body, that doesn’t need to shrink or grow or become fitter or better – it just needs your love and respect. And it has earned it.

Don’t let your dreams be dreams. And don’t ever let anyone body shame you – least of all yourself.

And now it’s time for tapas. Peace out!

 

 

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Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 29: Nauen to Staaken (Berlin)

Distance: 22,5 km

Speed: 5,2 kmph

Time: 4h20m

Soundtrack: Berlin by Briskeby (for obvious reasons… )

So, I am in Berlin! I am still on the very outskirts and still have a final 17 km to go tomorrow to reach Berlin HBH and my final destination for this journey, but whatever happens now I can officially say I walked to Berlin.

I was a little concerned that I’d miss the sign, as I did when I crossed the border into Germany, while chasing paths through the pouring rain – but lo and behold, there it was:

A few more steps and I was officially there. I had to stifle a giddy, heady, almost mad laughter that started bubbling up in me. On the surface of it this project is kind of insane. Just another madcap idea I had. The difference being this time I actually followed through.

Many thoughts on the project, my experiences and what made me actually do it this time are yet to come. Once the dust has settled. Once I’ve taken my final walk (you know, for now, not for ever – that sounded a bit dark just there). Once I’ve had some time to rest, reflect and regroup.

As predicted there was pretty heavy rain today as well, but it didn’t bother me nearly as much as the previous two days. Today I walked with a kind of lightness, a joy (though yes the wet feet were icky) and a sense of absolute certainty that it would all be OK.

Even though I am in Berlin and even though I’ve walked more or less exactly the distance (635 km) I set out to when I first planned this project, I feel it’s still important to walk the last 17 tomorrow. And not only because my man should be waiting for me at the train station roughly when I arrive (though that does add to the feeling of anticlimax I’d experience if I were to say take the bus). Only then will I feel completely finished and like I have closure. Like I truly did the thing.

It’s supposed to be 11 mm of rain and winds of 40 kmph. But do you know what I say to that? COME AT ME, BRO!

(I’m probably going to want to eat those words come morning time, but just let me have this one, will you? I like just walked 635 km, mmmkay?)

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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 27: Rathenow to Liepe

Distance: 20,5 km

Speed: 5,6 kmph

Time: 3h40m

Soundtrack: Why Do You Love Me by Garbage*

*Because of the text “I get back up and I do it again, I get back up and I do it again… “

So I remember reading a while ago that rainy hikes are slower than non-rainy ones. Which on the one hand is surprising, because you’d assume people were more motivated to move and reach their destination if it’s raining, but on the other hand is also kinda understandable as it does feel heavier to walk in the rain and maybe you’re wearing more gear to protect yourself from the weather, etc.

Well, I always knew I was exceptional… 😉

Seriously though, today was basically just a wet slog and I was determined to get through it as quickly as I could. Which turned out to be very quickly indeed.

Today there was no stopping to admire the scenery or listen to unfamiliar bird calls. Today was only me, the road, the rain and Harry Potter (I actually have barely listened to audiobooks so far but today it was necessary). It was wet, clammy and uncomfortable.

I can’t say I wasn’t tempted to hop on the train again this morning and avoid another 12 km or so, but it seems silly to “cheat” at this stage, and I am still determined to see it through. And y’all should know by now that I can be pretty determined…

So the best thing I can say about today is that it was over quickly. I am warm, dry and clean once again, and have even had some veggie soup that my Airbnb hosts offered me. And I only have 3 days to go…

Which is a good thing, because I am getting so TIRED. I feel like I could go to sleep right now (17:30) and sleep till morning. I just sat here and zoned out for a good 30 minutes while writing up this blog. I wake up every morning feeling kinda hung over, even though I’ve not been drinking. I could be dehydrated I guess, but I’ve been pretty good at drinking lots of water. I think it’s just the accumulated effort of the last month that is getting to me. But I can totally get through the next 3 days. And then I might end up seeing more of the inside of a Berlin hotel room than the actual city, but that’s OK. Apparently you can get by train from Amsterdam to Berlin in only 6 hours. 😉

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Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPoWalk day 26: Schönhausen to Rathenow

Distance: 19,5 km

Speed: 5 kmph

Time: 3h53m

So today was another easy day (mostly), and my first hike under 20 km – even my hiking app defines this distance as intermediate, and not expert (like all the others have been).

I spent much of the morning walking along a path close to the train tracks, watching the ICE (intercity express) trains whizz by between Amsterdam, Berlin and god knows where, and questioning my life choices. ;-p

One thing I was curious about (one of the many) before this trip was how it would be to “walk into autumn”. Basically to spend so much time outdoors while the seasons were changing. Would it be a different experience than when you only go outside briefly each day, mainly to get to other places? Would it feel less sudden?

So far I have to say there hasn’t been much of an autumn vibe going on, besides the abundance of pumpkins. Perhaps especially with the unusually warm and sunny days we’ve been having lately, it’s felt more like late summer than autumn. But today it has descended – again rather suddenly. Although I miss that particular autumn crispness on the air, the leaves are changing and falling, and storms are brewing.

Though 25 degrees and sun is a bit much for a 20-30 km hike with Voldie in tow, I am still thankful for the relative clemency of the weather so far. Tomorrow’s predicted 15 mm of rain is – let’s say – not ideal, but I guess also sort of expected when autumn announces its presence. And in Norway we have a saying: there is no bad weather, only bad clothes (in Norwegian it rhymes), so tomorrow it is time to rain suit up and knuckle down, just keep moving..

And speaking of knuckling down – though the additional rest day no doubt did me good, my right foot is not having a good time, and even after as little as 5 km it started acting up. I’ve had a little chat with it though (what, you don’t talk with your body parts?? ) and given it some massage, and just let it know that we’re almost there.

I don’t enjoy pain. I enjoy comfort. I do respect pain though. I listen to it. And I believe in most cases it has a point. If only to say “hey, slow down, take it a bit easier”.* I think we can push through almost anything, and we are much less limited than we often believe. But I don’t think we necessarily *should* push through everything. Pain is a warning sign from the body, and it’s important to recognise what that warning is. Part of loving – or even just respecting – your body is listening carefully and lovingly to what it is saying.

Try not to be disappointed in your body, or get angry with it. Think about all the amazing things your body can do, and has done – all the million little things it does automatically every day to keep you alive. When your body signals that it needs a break or it is in pain, talk to it like a friend, send it love, touch it gently, and just keep checking in and listening. Let your body know that you hear it. Let it know that you appreciate how far it has let you come, and ask it if maybe you can go just a little bit further.

***

Dear body, dear right foot, dear hips, knees, left foot for that matter, back, shoulders, brain… Thank you for letting me come this far. I love you, I respect you, and I am grateful for everything you do. Can we go just a little bit further? I promise, we’re almost there.

*I’m talking here about the kind of pain you might experience from doing a project like this, or pushing your body to perform in sports, not the kind of pain of chronic illness or disability which is an entirely different kettle of fish, and which I as a healthy, able-bodied person will not presume to know anything about.

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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 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 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 11: QuakenbrĂŒck 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 QuakenbrĂŒck 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.