It has been exactly seven years since I first started thinking seriously about going for a walk. In early January 2007, I had bought a guide book in preparation for a six to seven week walk to Santiago de Compostela along the Camino and was still deliberating whether to take the low road via Burgos or, my preference, the high coastal road. I was compiling check lists and mentally packing my 45 litre backpack and debating whether or not my 20 year old leather boots were still up to a 600 mile walk, imagining myself in the May sun tramping across the Catalan coast and plotting my entrepreneurial future, whilst dipping my feet in the cold Atlantic miles away from home in Munich. All I needed to do – and I had this mapped out in detail – was see one large, final refinancing project to a successful close, disclose to my erstwhile partner that I would be leaving the business and selling him my 50% shareholding at an unrefusable price, set my secretary up in a small office, with instructions to tidy up and keep the books straight until my return at the end of June and I would restart, suitably refreshed and spiritually renewed for the next chapter of my life. Of course, it didn’t work out anything like that. The first wave of the FMC (Financial Market Crisis) hit us hard in April 2007. The big refinancing never happened, we went into crisis mode in May, I ended up taking over my partner’s share of the business for €1 and spending the next three years trying to stop a crisis turning into a disaster, very nearly went under in 2009 and dismantled the entire operation except for one small business in 2009. I then spent 2010 to 2012 looking for a way back in to the game, all the while fending off a vicious revenue investigation and pouring precious resources into mounting legal and accounting fees and the inevitable tax demands. Standard entrepreneurial war stories, I suppose, but new, frightening and horribly unwelcome to me at the time. So against that background, it was all but impossible to take those eight weeks of reflective time off, to walk from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago.
In retrospect, of course, there were plenty of two months periods in which my absence from home would have probably been a blessing for all concerned and in which no useful progress was made on any front. And, of course, in retrospect, taking those eight weeks off from the stress and worry, might well, no, would have, definitely assisted me in gaining some perspective and seeing the world, my rapidly changing little corner of the universe, in a more nuanced way, which in turn would undoubtedly have led to better, less stressed decisions. But I didn’t take them or the road less travelled by and seven years passed, in which my dream of putting on my walking boots and tramping off along an historic route remained a daytime fantasy, filed away under ‘Someday/maybe’.
Yesterday, the first day of the New Year, I woke up and asked Britta if she would mind terribly, if I were to disappear for two weeks to walk the Thames Trail from the source of the river in Kemble to the mouth east of the City in Woolwich. Oh and by the way, I would quite like to start on Sunday morning after Bunny’s birthday party. She gave me a long hard stare and said ‘Yes, that sounds like a good idea’. Which is one of the reasons I love her as much as I do. Where the idea came from, I have no idea. I must have read about the Trail or the National Trails website (http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/) online or in a post or in the weekend FT, but wherever the hook was taken, it stayed fast and has been occupying my daytime fantasies for the best part of two months. My business is now very much back on track, the last seven years have, again in retrospect (a wonderful thing) proved a boon, allowing me to shed truck loads of personal and structural baggage and I can sense that if I don’t grab these two weeks now, it will be another seven years before I find the time (for which read ‘allow myself the luxury’) to do it. And secretly (well, not so secretly now that I have posted it),
I am hoping to set a precedent that will make it easier to do it again (and again and again) in future. My flight is booked, my first night’s stay at the Thames Head Inn (www.thamesheadinn.co.uk) is booked and apart from the fact that a friend has told me that due to the recent storms, the footpaths are all underwater, I am ready to pack and get cracking on Sunday. I cant wait.