The art of walking

There’s something about walking. Something soothing, something meditative about its repetitiveness. Something simple.

When the idea to journey from London to Rome started to take shape, people asked me what my mode of transport would be. I’ve got friends who have embarked on epic overland voyages by bike and on horseback. But I’ve always felt the pull of a journey that’s entirely stripped back. A journey that involves just me and my two feet.

Hiking in Patagonia, Argentina

Walking has long been something of a kind of therapy for me. When I get into my rhythm my body moves without thought or instruction. While my body works my mind can wander – sometimes I find myself mulling over a tough decision I have to make, sometimes I daydream of memories happy or sad, and sometimes I agonise over what I’m going to cook for dinner. And then there are those magic moments when my mind quietens and I get lost in the sights, smells, and sounds of my surroundings.

As I walk to Rome I’m certain I’ll have all manner of thoughts running through my head. There will be self doubt, and the temptation to throw in the towel. There will be thoughts of relaxing in the sun on a paradisiacal beach somewhere, and a fixation on the number of days left until I reach Rome. But there will also be plenty of opportunities to assess, to reflect, and to switch off.

Life threw me some curve balls a few years ago, and I found myself in a very bleak place that I wasn’t at all familiar with. I craved the therapy of walking and felt an overwhelming urge to return to Nepal, a country that I’d fallen in love with many years before. For me Nepal has healing properties, and my hope was that a return visit would help my journey to recovery. So I embarked on a 16 day trek to Everest Base Camp, and in the world’s highest mountains I walked my way back to me.

The view of Mount Everest and various other peaks from the top of Gokyo Ri, Nepal

My walk to Rome isn’t driven by the same need for therapy and healing. It is, however, driven by the deaths of two of my friends who took their own lives last year. As I walk to Rome I’ll spend some time thinking about mental health, and plan to share those thoughts with you. Mental health awareness plays a huge part in changing the way we perceive and respond to mental health problems, and it’s something we all need to engage with.

As you track my progress to Rome, maybe you’ll feel inspired to get out on your own two feet and go for a walk. You may have a dilemma that you need to think over, you may need to get some headspace and perspective. Maybe you want to go for a walk with a friend and have a chat about your mental health. Or maybe you just need your feet to carry you to a place where you tune into the birdsong and tune out of everything else.

Happy walking…