Hi there, I’m Saf.
This summer I’m walking from my house in London to Rome. Yes, actual Rome. The city that wasn’t built in a day. The place that all roads lead to. Rome, Italy.
Why, I hear you ask, when I could get an easyJet flight for £27.99. Well…why not?
Seriously though, why?
In 2018 two of my friends took their own lives. They were both young, in their mid-thirties, with so many years ahead of them. Although life wasn’t always easy for Jenny and Troy, no-one knew they had reached the point where they didn’t want to be here anymore.
It was heartbreaking to hear about each of Jenny and Troy’s deaths. It was the kind of news that makes you stop in your tracks, and you always remember where you were when you heard it. And I think it will always be difficult to contemplate the suffering they experienced on a daily basis and which, in the end, they decided they didn’t want to face any more.
So I’m walking to Rome to raise money for the mental health charity Mind, to help them continue their work of supporting, providing advice to, and campaigning for people who experience mental health problems. You can read more about Mind’s work here.
So why walk to Rome, why not run a marathon?
Well I’ve been there and done that, and to be honest it wasn’t much fun. If Jenny and Troy were here, they would both tell me to go on an adventure and do something that makes me happy. So that’s what I’m going to do.
Travel has always been a huge part of my life, and it was the foundation of my bond with each of Jenny and Troy. Jenny and I were at university together. I remember when we first met, sharing tales of our pre-university travels in Africa and South America. We would sit in Jenny’s room and look at photos of our adventures, wondering if we should pack in our studies in favour of jetting off into the sunset. Troy and I met later in life, when we were both taking time out from our jobs to explore Central America. For months we lived in a slice of paradise on the Nicaraguan coast, and shared many a sundowner gazing out over the Pacific Ocean.
So it seems fitting that the challenge I have set myself is one that will take me across borders, where I’ll explore different places and cultures, and struggle with local languages. I think that’s the kind of adventure that Jenny and Troy would have wanted to join me on.
OK, but why Rome?
Some of my earliest travel memories are of family holidays in Italy. My mum is Italian, and growing up I spent my summers in northern Lazio in the area where she was born. I remember long days splashing about in the inflatable dinghy, balmy evenings where I was allowed to stay up well past my bedtime, and the noise and commotion that dinner with our Italian relatives entailed.
Like travel, Italy is in my blood. So there’s something poetic about walking from my home in London to my other “mother country”. It will be a journey into my family’s history, retracing the steps my grandparents took in 1948 when they emigrated to the UK. Not literally though, they had the good sense not to walk. So it will, in many ways, be a journey of self discovery. I’ll learn a lot about myself and will have time to reflect, something we often don’t make time for in our busy lives.
In particular I’ll have time to reflect on the topic of mental health, and I want to share those reflections with you. Starting a conversation about mental health is a crucial part of raising awareness and better understanding something that has long been brushed under the carpet. I’d love you to join in the conversation with me and to also start your own, and in doing so help to create a world where people are able to talk openly about their mental health without fear of judgement.
You can read more about mental health awareness here.
As they say, life’s about the journey not the destination. Thank you for joining me on my journey.