Lao Tzu once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Such an inspirational quote. For a few moments, I thought that my journey of 630 miles might have ended with one step…
It was my first day of walking. I wasn’t even on the true path yet. I was leaving my first bed-and-breakfast on my way to start walking the actual path, when I slipped. On the wet stone steps. Word of warning: stone steps are slippery after a rain. My foot suddenly slid out from under me. Fortunately I caught myself before falling flat on my rucksack, utilizing the railing of the steps that was obviously strategically placed for me to finally use. Yet I felt a twinge in my right thigh. “Great,” I thought. Eight months of planning for a three-month 630-mile walk gone in an instant. I hadn’t even walked a foot yet on the South West Coast Path.
I really thought for a few moments that all the time that I spent figuring out an itinerary of how many miles per day I wanted to walk, reserving nearly 50 bed-and-breakfasts, buying guide books with maps and booklets with directions, carefully packing what I would need, would all possibly be for naught. I nearly cried, and felt my breathing get a bit erratic.
After looking around to make sure no one saw my embarrassing slip, I took a deep breath, and walked slowly and carefully down the rest of the steps and off the bed-and-breakfast property, testing out the thigh and seeing how it would react to walking. So far so good. I breathed a bit easier. I walked down the road, around a hair-pin turn and headed downhill, as I was instructed to do by the proprietors of the B&B in order to find the bronze monument of hands holding a map, marking the beginning of the South West Coast Path.
As it turns out, there were actually two hair-pin turns that I was supposed to be taking from this B&B, before heading downhill. I started pacing up and down the street a couple of times looking for where I should to be going, searching to see if I could see the monument below in the distance. “Great,” I thought. I’m not even on the South West Coast Path yet, and I’m already lost.
Fortunately there was a couple sitting romantically on a little park bench, and I asked them politely. “Excuse me, can you please tell me where the beginning monument of the South West Coast Path is located?” They kindly advised me where to go, and with my right thigh seeming to be just fine, I found the monument!
It was official. I was there! I was really there! Months and months of planning. Weeks and weeks of looking forward to this day. Days and days of anticipation. Hours and hours of traveling to get here – as I literally just flew in that morning, went through passport control at the airport, was questioned as to why I would be in England for 89 days, took a train and then a bus, and checked into my bed-and-breakfast. Deciding I would like to walk to fend off the jet lag today, as originally I was not going to walk today, I was here. I was really here! In Minehead, England – the start of the South West Coast Path walk. Or the end of the walk if you walk in the opposite direction.
I had a photo shoot with the monument. Some photos of just the monument. Some photos with me after I asked someone passing by to kindly take my picture, as I was wearing my rucksack and holding the first of four Nationals Trail Guide books that I would be using for my walk. I took photos of different angles of the monument. Close-ups, far away shots. I took photos of the words faded on the ground saying, “South West Coast Path National Trail,” complete with an arrow pointing me in the right direction, and an acorn, the important symbol of National Trails in England, including the South West Coast Path. I took photos of another sign showing me that I was even about to walk “part of the England Coast Path!”
Since my “home-base” for three nights was in Minehead, I returned to the monument a couple days later to take a few pictures with my purple shoes and the monument – the shoes that I would wear most of my walk.
When the photo shoot was complete for today, it was time. Time to walk. Time to start this path. This journey. This adventure. My right thigh was fortunately doing alright. Was I nervous? Was I excited? A bit of both at the moment. “Just put one foot in front of the other. And walk. Don’t think.” That’s what I told myself. One step at a time. After all, the journey of 630 miles begins with one step.
I was off. At exactly 3:00 pm on Sunday the 4th of June, 2017, England time, I started my 630-mile walk along the South West Coast Path.
And then I was hungry…