Time has passed so quickly since I arrived home from Italy and yet the trip seems a lifetime ago. I know I’ve already discussed the subject of time earlier in my blogging year, and it continues to be a seriously a tricky beast. I have regaled my adventure many times over in the past weeks, relishing the chance to tell funny and tragic tales to the exhaustion of my family. So why has it taken me so long to write again? Could be I fear boring people to death although I believe it is something more than just that.
I recently met with a friend of the family who took a similar walk and after 15 years he still loves to chat about it. It’s obvious that he has thought a lot about the outcomes for himself but it was one particular thing he said over our cuppa that resonated and has remained with me. It was that an adventure like this has three stages – the excitement of the planning, the reality of the walk and the reflection on your return. I had no trouble sharing the first two on this blog but it would seem that I have struggled to put into words my reflections since I returned.
There were some very practical things that will no doubt influence me for years to come, particularly when I go back to complete the walk from Assisi to Rome. Don’t know when but I will! Along the way there were many now obvious lessons such as drink plenty of water, always hike with two walking sticks, drink more water, don’t necessarily believe the author of the book you are following, take your rest days as planned, drink lots of water, always pack your clothes in the wet pack even if the sun is shining in the morning, a needle and thread is the answer to blisters, stretch more and yes, drink drink drink that water. The most important lesson though was to always walk at your own pace.
Walking at my own pace meant that I was most often walking alone. There were people on the same trail in front and behind me, but rarely within eye or earshot. There were those who marched past me and occasionally those that I overtook. As I arrived in each village they would all be there, some having arrived well ahead, all showered and having a beer and those who had just made it and collapsed into a chair at the same bar to recover before they searched for a bed. What was so wonderful was that every time you saw a familiar face there was a smile, a well done and an unspoken understanding that the day had been hard and no matter how long it took, how hot it was, how high the climb we had all arrived at the same place. There was ongoing gentle advice and encouragement. Never once was there a sense of competition or a look of criticism for perhaps not being the greatest hiker. Just a sincere well done, you made it.
So finally I have stopped to reflect and it is that I will continue to walk at my own pace. Whatever you or others are doing, don’t try to outrun people or criticise those who can’t keep up. It isn’t going to help anyone. Some of us will be faster, better prepared and experienced and some of us just won’t. We are all travelling the same road with different abilities and loads to carry. As long as we all keep learning as we travel along, we will arrive at the same place just at a different time.
A simple well done, you made it, might just be the thing that will turn a bad day into a great one.