It was only 8pm, but already totally dark. I was camping on my own, and the temperature was dropping rapidly. Johnny had offered me company, but I wasn’t sure. Maybe he wasn’t serious, and I would be foisting myself on him. Or maybe he was serious and had an ulterior motive. Maybe he was a raging axe-murderer who targeted lone female campers. Should I take the risk?
I was two weeks and 165 miles into my 630-mile South West Coast Path adventure. Although it was a ‘solo’ trip, I had already walked with my husband Mike, my friend Hazel and one of Mike’s old school friends Phil, as well as having days on my own. This pattern continued throughout – I walked, stayed and/or dined with friends old and new, people I barely knew and total strangers. I enjoyed the time I spent on my own, particularly camping and wild camping, but also appreciated the company of others when I had it.
All sorts of people told me their stories, more experienced long-distance walkers gave me useful hints and tips, and lots of people encouraged me along the way.
Walking every day for 52 days gave me a lot of time to ponder life. The experience has taught me a lot about planning, managing goals, the pursuit of happiness and the importance of self-talk. I have also learnt about the practicalities of long-distance hiking, including solo camping and wild camping. And I have gained confidence in my own abilities. I no longer feel that I need to have someone else with me when I’m out in the wild; I know that I can cope on my own.
And Johnny? The temptation of company and somewhere warm, dry and comfortable to spend the evening won out over the fear of embarrassment or worse. I took the plunge, and I’m glad I did. Johnny was a delight. I sat near the open door of his living quarters, drank tea and listened to his stories of how he found his place in the universe. He talked about being miserable trying to keep up with the Jones’, his road to redemption in India (including the importance of a lost sock), how he discovered that everything is love, and David Icke. It was slightly surreal, but so much better than spending the evening in my tent, sitting alone in the dark, and just the sort of encounter I had been hoping for on my adventures. Thank you Johnny.
Sunset over the campsite lake
Johnny and me