Lao Tzu once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” My journey of 630 miles ends with one step. Or so I thought.
It was my first day of walking. I wasn’t even on the actual 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 were 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.
Figuring out an itinerary of how many miles per day I wanted to walk, reserving nearly 50 bed-and-breakfasts, carrying guide books with maps and booklets with directions, carefully packing what I would need, all possibly gone. 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. So far so good. 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.
But there were supposedly two hair-pin turns I was supposed to take, before heading downhill. I started pacing up and down the street for a couple of times looking for where I was supposed to be going. “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. I was here. I was really here! In Minehead, England – the start of the walk, or the end of the walk if you walk in the opposite direction, of the South West Coast Path.
I had a photo shoot with the monument. Some photos of just the monument. Some with my purple shoes and the monument – the shoes that I would wear most of my walk. Some photos with me after I asked someone 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!”
When the photo shoot was complete, it was time. Time to walk. Time to start this path. 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.