There are a lot of things that I could tell you which would dash any hopes of me gaining a rugged adventurer type reputation. I miss wearing lipstick, I prefer tea and cake to slaying bears, I’m never going to be able to grow a beard and – and here comes the big confession – I haven’t pitched my tent yet.
The decision to camp was largely financially driven as I knew I couldn’t afford ten months of hotels and hostels. It was also a decision made in the midst of a summer love affair with wild camping, when I was looking at the world through bivvy-tinted glasses. But just as everybody said I would, I have been blown away by how hospitable and wonderful and kind people are. Between my best friends, friends of friends, strangers from the internet and a scattering of lovely hoteliers, I’ve been offered a warm bed every night so far. Accepting these offers, not to mention the occasions on which I have sought them, has been an ongoing mental battle. Am I cheating? Should I be suffering more?
This adventure was never meant to be a camping adventure though; it was never a challenge to sleep under canvas for 300 nights. It’s a running adventure and I’m slowly realising that miles ran aren’t mysteriously negated by having a hot shower at the end of the day. It’s about using my own two legs and a little bit of my own initiative to circumnavigate a country. It’s about doing things which propel me from my comfort zone and one of those things is, undoubtedly, putting my trust in other people, saying yes to them and just seeing what happens. It’s about letting other people help rather than stubbornly battling through alone.
I’m excited for the pivotal role that camping will play in later chapters of this journey, when I’m navigating the remote Welsh coastal path and working my way around the jagged edges and endless peninsulas of the Highlands. I’m excited to be alone and to face the challenge of looking after myself, without the immediate safety net of a quick call to my dad to rescue me. Right now though, pitching my tent in a questionable spot too close to civilisation and spending the night shivering in it alone isn’t at all in keeping with what I want to get out of this trip. Staying with people means meeting them, talking to them, asking them questions. It means learning about the places I’m staying and sharing my journey.
I worried about asking for help in case people would feel obliged but I’m realising that it’s perhaps rather patronising to think that. People don’t do things they don’t want to. If somebody wants to say no, they will simply say no. They might dress it up with a ‘sorry but…’ or an ‘I wish I could but…’ but they’ll find a way. And that’s fine; taking in a rather grubby runner for the night isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. A lot of people will say yes though – not because they feel pressured to but because people are inherently helpful and generous – and it’s because of those ‘yeses’ that this adventure has, so far, been a lot more comfortable than I expected, and a lot more interesting too.
Now the cat’s out of the bag, I guess it’s time to stop giving myself a hard time, go for a run and, erm, eat some more cake.