This trip has several themes to it:
One – the physical challenge
Two – England and all thing English
Three – personal exploration
Four – learning something about photography and film and creating a text from it.
The physical challenge is more difficult than I expected. I began ‘training’ just before christmas last year and have barely lost any weight. My aim was to lose 8kg by the time I leave (8 June – two months away). I’ve been doing some cycling on the machine, walking around the village with a 7kg pack on my back on the weekends and some yoga. My preferred method of exercise – running – is no longer possible because of a dodgy back and arthritis in my knee (which doesn’t really seem that bad). So I walk and listen to music and think about things that might or might not matter and in that way I’ve developed some muscle and lost a bit of flab.
The body/mind connection has always been bleedin’obvious to me. When I’m fit my brain works better. And when I’m depressed my body stops working. Last week was a fine example of the latter. It’s been a horrendously long term at school (I am a high school english teacher for those just arriving now) and everyone is exhausted. I experienced a minor stomach upset and then a major slowdown in activity so that I took one day off work and could have taken three. Spring break is around the corner so my energy levels are already picking up.
Age does weary us. I am now 48 years old and I cannot physically do what I found easy at 28. My genetic makeup allowed me the good fortune of excelling at most sports. If things had panned out in a boring manner (ie. if the depression never hit like a brick in the head at sixteen) I probably would have been one step below elite athlete level. During my teens I won a state level athletics event (800m) and was beginning training at one of the top level of football clubs in Australia. Whether I could have gone further than that is doubtful because I didn’t have the body strength for contact sport and I was not quite quick enough to stay competitive at 800. Anyway, it didn’t matter. The depression literally stopped me on the track and the challenges disappeared into the morass of a melted mind. But, now the challenge is entirely different. The depression is not the obstacle it once was, but I no longer have the capacity to walk 20km a day without training, or run (at all). One of the greatest joys of my life is running madly around a football pitch till I’m exhausted. I can’t do that now. This walk, partially, is a test of what I can do now.
Sometimes on my walks around the village (I live an expat lifestyle in Manila, Philippines) my thoughts boil down to nothing more than noticing my movement. And at times like that I wonder if that is the only real meaning in life – motion. When all is lost blood is still flowing through veins.
So the challenge of this trip is to force my body (busted and worn out from too much footy, too much booze, junk food and sleeping) to walk up hill and down dale for 110 miles. That alone is reason enough to enjoy it.