I made a decision last week. I’m not planning any more long-distance backpacking routes. It turns out that I love the idea of them – love the prospect of walking for days completely self-supported, but when it actually comes down to doing it, I hate it. It’s hard to admit, but I’m just not cut out for this thing that I think I want to do.

As I wrote earlier this year (Looking Ahead into 2019), the Cape Wrath Trail was likely to be a watershed walk for me – a make or break walk. It turns out it broke me. Not physically, but it certainly broke my rather tenuous hold over any hope I had of pushing through into a new mindset around multi-day backpacking trips.

Wild camp in Cona Glen

The plan had been to push beyond my usual 2 or 3 day limit on backpacking trips. This is the point at which I usually lose interest, enthusiasm and any will to continue. Until now I’d always been able to pull out fairly easily; when you’re in the Lakes or the Dales you’re never far from a bus stop or train station. That’s not the case on the CWT and I was hoping the lack of exit options would encourage me to push on and enjoy it. It didn’t. I found a way to quit.

I will probably still do the occasional overnight trip, perhaps even a couple of nights, but that’s my limit. No more making plans for week-long excursions and then abandoning them after a couple of nights, much to my own disappointment and the inevitable frustration of my long-suffering walking partner, Chris.

If I’m honest, this comes as something of a relief. Not the outcome itself, that’s quite disappointing really, but the fact that I’ve made the decision, that I’ve drawn a line in the sand and I don’t feel the need to cross it again.

Update

Just to clarify, this isn’t an end to my long distance walks, it’s just an end to multi-day backpacking (camping) trips. I’m still looking forward to many long walks, just with a B&B at the end of each day, instead of a tent.

I’ll be heading out on the Ravenber Way in five weeks, which will be six days along the middle section of the route from Appleby to Morpeth. Expectations are high for that walk and I expect to be blogging as I go, all being well.

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17 thoughts on “The End of the Road”

  1. A relief for you that’s for sure Stuart! It’s always difficult to realise some dreams are not always the ideal they seem, but understanding what makes you happy and what you think makes you happy is an enlightening moment.
    I look forward to hopefully many more hikes with you and, knowing you are finally hiking your own hike and not the hike you thought you want to hike, will finally put an end to those ‘should I, shouldn’t I’ conversations we often have 🙂 and instead you’ll feel more relaxed.
    And, as you enjoy the planning process of long-distance backpacking hikes, but not necessarily executing them, then I can help there. You can plan mine instead lol. After all, I hate planning 😉

  2. What an interesting post. I can really understand this. Sometimes it’s the planning that’s the best bit. I can’t camp for more than 2-3 days without a B&B as respite. Sensible to recognise that and take the pressure off. Sometimes seeing other people doing things that you ‘think’ you’d like to do makes you put pressure on yourself. A really good post 👍

    1. Your words echo that of my wife – who keeps scolding me for putting too much pressure on myself. It’s time to relax into my preferred method of covering multiple days

      1. Ha ha! My husband says the same of me. Half the problem is hearing about what other people are doing, or seeing routes that look great and imagining doing them. The reality is often far less comfortable. And I like travelling light so camping comfort is compromised. And B&Bs every couple of days are so appreciated!

  3. Sounds like a real epiphany and a great relief. A freeing moment. To be honest, I have just about had it with backpacking on this trip.
    I really have! I think I completely get how you feel Stuart.
    It’s all about the journey as the cliche goes and, actually, it is. Cheers! Tim

    1. Thanks Tim – the reality is that a walk like LEJOG is not really practical unless one is prepared to wildcamp for several days (even weeks) at a time – which essentially puts an end to any lingering hope I may have to undertake that walk. I can live with that I think. Keep going mate, I hope the weather improves!

      1. Thanks Stuart. One more day to go on the Scotland leg. As for the LEJOG, I am sure it’s possible without a tent but one would end up routing for accomodation and it would be very costly!
        Cheers! Tim

        1. I can vouch for the fact that doing the LEJOG without the use of a tent as the primary accommodation option is very costly! I had some good support and used all my savings. Had I done more than a few days with my tent I doubt I would’ve completed it. It’s your walk – walk it your way.

  4. At the end of the day you need to remind yourself that you’re not doing these multi-day walks because you’re being forced to – you’re doing them for (supposedly) fun. So if it’s not fun, then you’re best doing something that is fun instead, and save yourself the anguish.

    1. That’s the thing Matt, it’s been me who’s been forcing myself to do these walks – on the mis-guided basis that I should be enjoying them, when clearly I’ve not been. Don’t get me wrong, the one/two night trips I’ve done to date have been great, but the one’s that were supposed to be 4/5/6+ days have all ended in ‘failure’ and internal rebuke – I won’t be sorry to see the back of that feeling!

  5. That must have been a hard decision, Stuart, but I can understand the relief you must feel now that you’ve made it. At the end of the day, everyone is free to walk their own walk – which is as it should be – and I hope you will continue to enjoy the hills in whatever way you wish, without giving yourself any stress to do something you don’t really enjoy.

    1. One of the easiest hard decisions I’ve ever made 🙂 I know in my heart it’s the right move and I’m not closing the door completely to the odd overnight trip – I’ve really enjoyed some of them, but no pressure on me now!

  6. Janet Donnelly

    I totally get it! I’m happy to do the odd overnight wildcamp but I decided long ago that long walks with no prospect of a bit of comfort at the end of the day wasn’t for me. Now I look forward to multi day trips with a bnb or a hostel to lay my head down on. If I’d tried to do the PW with a tent I never would have finished it.

  7. Well done for pushing yourself but then having the courage to admit it’s not for you. Life is for living and enjoying as and how you can, so onwards and upwards. Lots more of your experiences please – I need all the motivation available!

  8. It takes a lot of courage to be completely honest with yourself, and to go for the types of walking that you truly enjoy in the future- not the ones you feel you should be doing. I have yet to wildcamp and am really unsure whether I will like it or not… perhaps not! I do like the comfort of a shower and a bed after a day’s walking. Sounds as though you have been doing a lot of thinking and soul-searching on your trip… I would still love to read about the parts of the CWT that you completed though if you are thinking of writing it up?

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