A cheeky cross post from The Yonder Way :
Offering walking retreats with my partner Viryanaga
Today I reflect a little on reaching a major milestone in setting up the business
Hi Vis Vests
Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles
Ideas, dreams, plans – they all start off as some sort of vague shape on the horizon, a point towards which you orient your life, energy, money, your hopes and your fears. Either slowly or quickly, depending on the view of time or notions of progress you are taking, you approach. That point, that shape, grows and grows in your vision, emerging in its detail and its brilliance.
Then one day, one strange day, it may occur to you that you have reached that somewhat arbitrary milestone and you are now moving forward through time without it as a marker ahead of you. It’s not so much behind you as having become a part of you and your journey, if you care to notice. Too often, though, we are fixated on the next waypoint and take no time to appreciate how far we have travelled, what that has taken and what we have gained in doing so. We miss the view entirely.
This little list at the beginning is just one of several buying and packing lists I’ve noted down in preparation for next week. I’ll be leading a six-day walking retreat for women, with Viryanaga providing transport, cooking and moral support. There’s a lot to prepare, with some of this evening spent getting devoured by an OS map that is, of course, folded the wrong way round for our purposes. Have you ever actually opened one in its entirety? And then tried convincing it to fold the other way? I also have two new pairs of walking leggings, having finally admitted I’m a size 12 not 10. Getting undressed seemed to be increasingly like one of those re-birthing ceremonies I had read about, and even Viryanaga had risked suggesting my smaller bamboo ones “weren’t the most flattering anymore.” The need for blood circulation in my 30s finally triumphed over the optimism and vanity of my 20s.
While all the buying of Compeed, packing of unruly maps and wearing of sensible 4-season leggings seems par for the course on a website dedicated to walking retreats, this particular one should not pass by unmentioned. It is, and will forever be, the first. The first walking retreat I have run with clients. I did it. We did it. With all of the planning and prep going on, it's easy to just plough forward into the walk itself and out the other end. But there was a moment today in Blacks when I looked around and realised I was shopping because I now have a business where I can run walking retreats for women, which means I sometimes get to be in Blacks buying leggings because that’s part of my job now. I desperately wanted to tell the shop assistant.
Ever since I went on my first solo hiking trip to New Zealand, walking really has become an inner as well as outer journey for me. This is particularly the case for multi-day thru-hikes that have some relative physical challenges in them. With the aid of simple mindfulness and reflection practices, you can easily become immersed in the flow of sensations through your body and the beauty around you. The discomfort and trials that will inevitably come up are something to actively engage with, instead of pushing through and ignoring. As the froth of your mind settles down, and the days pass by, the significance of your life, or certain events, have the chance to unfold. It can literally have you on your knees in tears of joy, forgiveness, anger, sorrow and love, so much love.
I can’t really remember when I first wanted to offer this process to other people. If you’ll forgive me for stretching out the outdoorsy metaphors a bit longer…. This dream didn’t begin as a seemingly achievable goal for me on the map of my life. When I’ve looked around thinking about where I might go, it sometimes appeared as a trig point that was just impossible to reach – either due to its height or the lack of bridges and footpaths along the way to it. Most of the time I forgot it was even around the area. Or I believed it didn’t belong on my map – which contained certain sorts of adventures but never this one. I fully believed I “wasn’t the sort of person who…..” and that this kind of life and work were for other people.
But here we now are, and I'm enjoying a moment to reflect.
Only seven months ago I was still living in London on my own in a full-time job as a Programme Manager for a brilliant not-for-profit. I now live full-time in the van that Viryanaga has converted, with him, building a business I love. It has been one of the most challenging periods of my life, not least because of all the self-doubt I had, and some days I’m so tired from the effort I don’t want to get out of bed. I generally feel more alive and more me, though, than I ever have.
Here’s to all the adventures that have come before, all the ones yet to be revealed and all my fellow travelling companions along the way.