Pilgrimage: 500 or 1000 miles (could use advice)

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Regular Contributor

Pilgrimage: 500 or 1000 miles (could use advice)

Today, I was struck by an idea, and I could use general comments (I'll end with a couple of questions).

 

First up - context.  When I was 15 years old, I left home.  I walked from Brisbane to Sydney.  You see my mother was a heroin addict, and the situation .. it wasn't good.  It was a case of leave, or die - even if death meant a slow withering on the vine).

 

Anyway, everything was broken, and that long walk (took about a month, 27 days if I remember correctly, along the eastern coastline, actually ending in Gloucester where I used fifty cents I found to ring my grandmother - my shoes were tatters, I was covered in blisters, and was covered in road dust, sunburn, a real mess).  Anyway, she organised a train ticket the rest of the way from there, and I spent the next few years living with her in western sydney - a very happy time, until she died of bladder cancer.

 

That walk, it helped to define my young life, in a way it was my first big Quest.

 

So I come to this point in my life, 48 years old, cancer survivor (stage 4 head & neck 2016, was given 6 months to live, 50%ish shot at successful treatment - maybe in the clear now, maybe living on borrowed time).  In many ways I'm a shipwreck of a once seaworthy vessel, if that makes sense.  Too many problems to list, any one of them solvable, but all together sometimes they feel insurmountable.

 

So ...

 

With everything broken, I feel, a strong drive, to do it again.  A pilgrimage.  A kind of physical and spiritual reboot.  Take the dog and a light backpack and ... just walk.  maybe just 500 miles (Sydney) or possibly even 1000 (more toward Melbourne).  Try and live up to that Proclaimers song, eh ?

 

I haven't decided for sure, but I'm pretty firm on doing it.  I'm actually also (surprisingly) pretty confident that I CAN do it.

 

It would mean a month or two apart from my family, but I think all in all it could be a massively healthy thing.  A kind of return to the baseline, older, (hopefully) wiser, but basically still the same person.

 

When I got there as a boy, I had an innate weather sense that lasted many years later.  I know it sounds bugshit crazy, but I could tell you whether it would rain that day on a clear and sunny morning, and was right without fail.  (Because I was sleeping rough and had a few bad drenched nights).

 

I don't know if my cancer will recur.  And I shudder at the idea of wasting 2 months away from my family if that's a biggish chunk of my time.

 

BUT .. I think I need and want to do this, and I think it will help me survive and press through all these other health and psychological problems that cancer is inflicting on me.

 

What I wanted to ask:

 

1)  Do you think it's just outright crazy ?  None of what I'm saying makes sense and you would urge me to not consider this at all ?  Or does it sound like a wild, but ultimately not crazy idea (tribal and indigenous cultures wind that 'walkabout' instinct into religion and philosophy - not just the health and cleansing benefits).  What do you think ?

 

2) I was thinking to just quietly do it.  Keep in touch with the family daily (if I can find a power outlet to charge up a phone), but it occurs to me I might be able to raise some money for cancer research if I did it a bit more theatrically - updated my position and progress in an online journal or something.  When I was in treatment, my heart broke when I saw kids getting chemoradiation, if I could raise some real money for cancer research (especially if there are entities that focus on paediatric cancer/care), that'd be some kind of legacy I guess, if I don't survive my own cancer, at least I did something useful before the end.  What do you reckon ?  Would people even care to check it out, maybe sponsor a dollar for every mile walked or something ?

 

Thank you for your time and thoughts, I know I probably come across as a bit mental, but I'm a serious minded person (kinda, heh) and I think I still have most of my wits about me.  I'm not 100% .. but I feel this slow welling of inspiration building up inside me that this is something I have to do.

 

All the best.

4 REPLIES 4
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Super Contributor

Re: Pilgrimage: 500 or 1000 miles (could use advice)

Hi,

 

> In many ways I'm a shipwreck of a once seaworthy vessel, if that makes sense. Too many problems to list, any one of them solvable, but all together sometimes they feel insurmountable.

 

It seems to me that the above is the best reason you have to redo this walk again.

 

A journey you completed as a young person, which in hind sight you did not have great odds of completing successfully. But as that young person, you just did it because you probably didn't feel as though you had much choice. You just did it because you had to. And you did it.

 

 

> I don't know if my cancer will recur. And I shudder at the idea of wasting 2 months away from my family if that's a biggish chunk of my time.

 

Obviously you'll want a health checkup before undertaking this.

Maybe, as you mentioned, all of this walking is a healthy thing to do. What if this journey extends your life?

It might not. Maybe, as you say, it might result in a little less time with your family. Noone will every know.

 

> 1) Do you think it's just outright crazy ? None of what I'm saying makes sense and you would urge me to not consider this at all ? Or does it sound like a wild, but ultimately not crazy idea (tribal and indigenous cultures wind that 'walkabout' instinct into religion and philosophy - not just the health and cleansing benefits). What do you think ?

 

At the risk of getting in trouble for encouraging you to do something like this (Hi @Katekat!!) , I'd offer you my guarded encouragement. I shout "Hell yeah!" with a triumphant first pump.

I think that the health and psychological benefits outweigh the risks.

I would encourage you to train first though before you just take off. I have no idea of your lifestyle, but I wouldn't advise attempting this without work getting your body ready.

 

Quick story. My 40 year old body doesn't handle the pounding of my feet on the concrete when I go running, as well as my 30 year old body did.  I manage that by getting the right shoes, investing time on correcting my running technique/gait. Moral - manage the risks to your body. You'll need to be conscious of this. As you say, you're 48 now, not 16 🙂

 

> 2) I was thinking to just quietly do it. Keep in touch with the family daily (if I can find a power outlet to charge up a phone), but it occurs to me I might be able to raise some money for cancer research if I did it a bit more theatrically - updated my position and progress in an online journal or something. When I was in treatment, my heart broke when I saw kids getting chemoradiation, if I could raise some real money for cancer research (especially if there are entities that focus on paediatric cancer/care), that'd be some kind of legacy I guess, if I don't survive my own cancer, at least I did something useful before the end. What do you reckon ? Would people even care to check it out, maybe sponsor a dollar for every mile walked or something ?

 

Either way is fine. Doing it quietly by yourself or tracking it via posts or video, It's entirely up to you. Both are just as valid.

If you did an online journal and/or video updates, this would be an amazing legacy for your children and family.

Any time lost with your family I think would be more than made up for by documenting your journey and sharing this with them.

 

Maybe you could increase awareness (and money) by getting people to do part of the walk with you. Ah hell, I'd walk a leg of that journey with you. Perhaps your family would join you too for part of the journey?

 

Sounds like a win/win situation dude. Be physically prepared, manage the risks and just do it.

 

 

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Regular Contributor

Re: Pilgrimage: 500 or 1000 miles (could use advice)

Thank you, mate, that was an excellent response and it's been really helpful to me.

 

The urge yesterday afternoon to just hug and kiss the people I love and GO was really strong.  The inspiration came on me hard and all of a sudden yesterday afternoon, and it hasn't left me since then.

 

I think what I'm going to do is plan it out very carefully, and see if I can also use it as a way to help a cancer charity.  I think as I reach inside (by going outside) to revive my hope, it might help other people, or at least raise a few dollars to help with research.

 

Right now, my wife (an accountant by trade) is doing a nursing diploma, which will finish up at the end of next year.  That coincides with my 5 year diagnosis/treatment anniversary, so I'm thinking I'll actually defer the Quest until then.  I may escalate in the interim if I can't deny the call - but I think I'll hold off until then so I can support her and not leave my fam (adored with all my heart) in any kind of bind.

 

The idea that others might want to join in is a fine one.  When I did it as a child, I started out averaging 10-20km per day, but toward the end I was doing 15k in the morning, 15k in the afternoon, and sometimes a bit more in the evening.  It kinda snowballs, I think as your body vibes onto the fresh air, filthy living, and constant exercise.  I don't want to undermine the raw freedom of it, that sense of new beginning, adventure - but also being older and wiser, I think recording it I could plan my travels a bit in such a way that people in an area could join in if they wanted to (if nothing else, by doing a daily diary and uploading it, I can talk to my children, leave them thoughts and musings from a very loving (missing them) spiritual (tired) place)

 

I think I will contact one of the cancer charities and see if they want to use it as a fund-raising vehicle.  It's probably a crazy enough thing to do that it could be used to get a bit of media attention and therefore promote donations into research (or help for families affected by paediatric cancer, maybe).

 

You know what, mate - regardless future comments and replies, I think your remarks were really enough to nudge me over on this.  I'll do it.  Currently undecided on waiting until next year - but I'll do it.  And I'll look to share the experience, in the hopes that it might:

 

a) show someone in the same boat I was (stage 4 cancer, grim prognosis) that you can survive, and even find ways to push through, give them a little hope

b) raise some money for cancer research

c) allow me to plug into the infinite, have some kind of spiritual outcome

d) get me physically and mentally healthy again

e) maybe get so dog-tired that I'll actually get to sleep for more than a few hours at a time

 

Thanks SCH, I appreciate the comments, and don't worry about getting in trouble.  I completely indemnify you from any present or future action or remedy with regard to any negative outcome.  I waive for all time any future right to legal remedy if your bad advice results in my injury or death  😉

 

 

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Occasional Contributor

Re: Pilgrimage: 500 or 1000 miles (could use advice)

My advice

Get yourself a pair of Nikes and Just Do It, but be smart and don’t do it in the middle of summer, just imagine how hot the bitumen will be.

I have lung cancer stage 4and was given 6 months to live. I bit the bullet and left a 30 year relationship. Everyone but me could see I was being totally controlled and isolated by a domestic bully. I have now passed my use by date by over three years and I can honestly say they are the best three years of the past 30 years, because I am living not dying or wishing my life away.

I understand your need to break free and just be you for a time. I have done it and it is well worth the sacrifices and in my case has certainly prolonged my life in a good way.

best of luck ...xxxx

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Regular Contributor

Re: Pilgrimage: 500 or 1000 miles (could use advice)

Thanks so much for the wise words, but I might disregard one small bit - I'm actually thinking of travelling in high summer.

 

For me, it's either a summer or winter thing - main logic being that autumn and spring are the worst times for snakes, but summer they're hiding from the sun & heat, and winter they're sleeping.

 

When I walked down as a kid, I slept under a bridge and woke up with a large carpet snake (at least I think it was, I got out of there quick-smart?!) lying right next to me.

 

This go-round, I'd still plan to sleep rough, but I'g do snake-smart, bug-smart and sun-smart. 

 

My approach will look something like this:

 

- light pack, few clothes

- good pair of shoes, replace on the road as needed

- 2 days worth of food / 2 days worth of water

- a light hammock, maybe even weather resistant if I can find one

- a good book (thinking of taking the guitar, but I think it's too much of a hassle, maybe pick a lighter instrument like a flute or something to keep me chill and occupied while resting in the shade

 

I had less than that the first time I went down, from memory I think I had about $30 when I left Brisbane, and a budget of about a dollar a day for tinned homebrand baked beans (x3 - it was the 80s things were cheaper)

 

I'm going to resist the call and stage it though, I've decided to go the day after my 50th birthday (so December 2021), because my wife is studying nursing at the moment and won't finish until then, if I hit the road now it would be really selfish and cruel, she and the kids need my support.

 

I'm going to reach out to a kids cancer charity and see what I can do about using it as a fundraising vehicle as well, but regardless that, I want the freedom to just gather my kit, hug and kiss the people I love .. and then walk.

 

Blows my mind that I probably won't be able to get out of Brisbane on the first day, it'd probably be 2 days before I'm clear of the Gold Coast.

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