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Step This Way

A short story about one small step and one huge leap of faith into the adventure of your life. Okay, slightly over the top! Actually, it is simply a story about my lead up to embarking on a 7 day hike with my trusted friend, walking guide and hiking coach, Lita.

When we were an army family, our welfare team used to organise adventure weekends for the wives, to gain a small insight into what their spouses experienced! I never signed up for those weekends, the thought of wearing combat uniforms and boots, and camping outside did not appeal to me. It still doesn’t appeal to me, maybe cause I like to do things on my own terms.

As times have changed, I now have developed a real sense of adventure, a greater appreciation for the outdoors and stepping out of my comfort zone to experience something that challenges me physically, mentally and spiritually. I am a creature of comfort and value my safety and security. My husband, Eddie knows this all too well! I have had to convince him I will be okay. And, there's so much to gain from being out in wide open green spaces, and I want to take advantage of it. And that's the paradox we live in today. We strive continuously to create our own bubbles in our homes without realising that there's so much more freedom out there! Eddie, he‘s just glad that he doesn’t have to relive his army days, and its it’s Lita and not him going (lol)!

I think being confined to my own home over the past year or the lack of freedom to travel has contributed to this desire to explore the outdoors more. Or any excuse to take a break will do!

I remember camping as a family, one of my fondest memories of my childhood. We used to go camping with my best friend’s family, and I can’t recall any horror stories or discomfort. We took everything but the kitchen sink! This was the era before social media and mobile phones. And swimming all day was bliss!

Fast forward 30 years, camping has become a big industry and fuelled our love for nature. And consequently, wanting to experience wild camping has grown on me. I don’t watch a lot of Bear Grylls vids or aspire to be Bear Grylls. But I wanted that wild camping experience. Yes, the opposite of glamping! No electric pitches and running water. And pack your own TP and trowel. Where the Wi-Fi is literally weak, or does not exist. Eddie had to check I knew what to do with the trowel. Seriously?! He must think I’m crazy!

Thankfully, I have a friend who fits the description or held the same crazy ideas. She had an epic hiking adventure in the planning. I jumped at the opportunity to join her, for a segment of her walk. It was meant to be a solo trek and as always I usually join her either at the beginning or end. It was an ideal win-win situation.

I had a month to plan for this trek. Getting the right hiking kit together is a challenge in itself. Lightweight and waterproof – essential for any backpacking kit. I was fortunate enough to get it all together in time. Lots of last minute research, online shopping and next day delivery did the trick. The biggest investment was my sleeping bag, sleeping mat, backpack and hiking boots.

I took her advice and got a size bigger than my usual shoe size for my new boots, and it made a significant difference. She emphasised the importance of taking care of my feet. My First Aid kit was made up of tape, foot powder, foot cream, and more tape! My feet were going to get my undivided attention, it was going to cover so much distance. I packed more socks than any clean clothing or undergarments! I got to break my new boots in, and they gave me some comfort and peace of mind. It felt better than my old ones.

Apart from shoes and feet, what does one pack for a week of hiking and camping? The resounding advice is pack what you need to take you from point A to point B to point C. etc. The added dilemma is also the 4 seasons we always have to take into consideration when packing for a holiday, here in the UK. So there are numerous essential itemised lists to reference and then some! Everyone's idea of ‘essentials’ varies (lol). That might be a simple straightforward question, but its it’s almost a spiritual one. What do I need to complete the journey? Thats a tough one to unpack until you physically address it.

So here's an idea of what to pack and not to pack. Clothes were kept to a bare minimum, one pair of clean change. The essentials include items like batteries, solar panel chargers, water purification tablets, camping cooking stove, gas canister and utensils, toiletries and yep, toilet paper and trowel! There's so much you can take to make it comfortable, e.g a blowup cushion, extra packet of wipes, a scarf, a beanie, a jumper and hairbrush, etc etc but the problem is you'll have to carry it all. Having gathered everything and packed it all up, I had to reassess each item. Again. And again. Literally, go through every item and ask myself - do I really need this to get me from point A to point B?!

I was reminded of Eddie when he was preparing for exercise or deployment. All his kit would be neatly laid out somewhere in the house and he’d spend hours checking each item, making sure it worked and in good condition. I used to think to myself, well, isn’t that a bit OCD? I guess stepping into a battle zone, preparation is key. And relying on someone else for kit is not recommended at all. That’s probably why he’s getting nervous for me!

My food supply carried a lot of weight. Ration packs are not light, unfortunately. Especially the military grade type. I heard some good and bad reviews. Apparently, they have improved over the years, held some real nutritional value and did wonders or horrors for your bowels. It was designed with the soldier in mind, I realised! Some looked really tasty, I guess after a whole day of trekking - it will be the best thing since sliced bread and will taste like gourmet cuisine! I found a week’s worth was too bulky. So I had to improvise and pack instant noodles. A decision that was not easy to make and I hope I don’t regret it. By this point, Eddie has a worried look on his face. In the end, I felt I had packed enough supplies for a week, including snacks to sustain me during the day. I had to carb load during the week leading up to the trek, just for good measure. I know the backpack will get lighter as the days go by. Lita and I cross checked our kit, just to make sure we had everything we needed. We laughed at what we had packed and unpacked, following our husbands’ advice! We can listen after all!

As for the physical side, I had done minimal training and was going to have to rely a lot on muscle memory and true grit to get me through each day! I am not attempting to test my physical strength or endurance here. Those days of proving myself are behind me. This week away was going to be a time of solitude and refreshing my soul. I know physically it is going to be tough. But I believe taking time out to seek God, in nature is not only rewarding but is a challenge in itself. There are so many things that need your attention and/or personal barriers that prevent you from experiencing God in a new way. And so I am humbled that I am able to take a trip such as this one. I thank God for making a way for me to experience healing and restoration. My intention is not about ticking off something off my bucket list. It is a journey of self-discovery, drawing closer to God and just finding strength in solace.

My backpack is finally packed - after repacking several times. I found that it’s so much lighter. I had to really adjust my focus and train myself to learn to keep it to bare essentials and to do without my 'nice to haves'. Sometimes your character is revealed when the decisions you make are the ones where there are no choices and you just get thrown into the deep end. You switch to survival mode and that's, perhaps, when you are truly alive! This quote comes to mind, you are not meant to carry the mountain, but to climb it! I am not carrying the weight of this world. And I’ve let go of the things that no longer serve God or me. I have what I need. I will remind myself that His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness.

As a side joke, Lita and I have spoken about doing our own Duke of Edinburgh Award on past walks. We can safely say that we have surpassed the Bronze, Silver or Gold standard– but made up our own, the Platinum award standard. You are never too old or too young to try something new! And we are not doing it for the recognition or accolades. For me personally, I am doing this because I don't know what lies ahead and if I can try something I have always wanted to do - then why not?!

Ethan thought I was serious about DofE and when I told him it was a joke, he replied - you’re never too old for DofE! Aww, must be my son!

So here we go…in a few hours we meet up and set off.  I am in God’s hands and Lita’s good company. I am so relieved she is in charge. She has organised our entire itinerary and helped me with my packing list. This will be a wonderful opportunity for her to share her passion and also to develop her walking guide skills. Who knows, it might not be free to walk with her, next time!

I am so proud of her. And I am thankful that I get to walk with her. I can't wait to hear what this walk will uncover or reveal, what will come out of it. I believe we are in for a real adventure.

I hope you find inspiration in stepping out of your comfort zones - if you do, then step this way :)

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