It has been an interesting couple of weeks here on our personal tour of Britain. For the first time there has been serious discussion of whether or not we will complete the full circuit. I suppose it started with the recognition that we were both very tired and in need of a break but the simple solution of stopping for a week didn’t completely fix the problem and that’s when it got a lot more complicated.
After our lovely break in Brighton we both set off expecting everything to be fixed and we were quite surprised when we found that it wasn’t. OK we did have strong blustery winds to contend with and Gill’s problem with her hands hadn’t gone away but it was both shocking and a bit depressing to find that after just fifteen miles of that first day back on the road we were both really down in the dumps. We sat on a bench by the seaside and talked about the consequences of simply throwing in the towel and heading back home to Lancashire.
It was a difficult moment. Gill was teary, I was bitterly disappointed and underlying these feelings was the terrible fear of the potential damage this might all do to our relationship and our future. Looking back with a measure of perspective I can see that this was a pivotal moment and the point at which all kinds of things about this trip changed.
Before we left lots of people referred to how brave we were to give up everything and set off on such a daunting journey but we never saw it that way. For us it was anything but brave. We were simply, finally, doing something that we had wanted to do for a long time and bravery didn’t come into it. We were fulfilling a dream, not facing our fears as many people seemed to think. All that changed in those five minutes on that seaside bench. Suddenly bravery was absolutely what it was about. Facing the question of carrying on when things had become difficult or giving up and going home was about as daunting as anything gets and the more I thought about it the harder it became. Now was the time for facing our fears. We had had three months of having a good time. No work, pleasing ourselves, drifting along on a wave of happy emotions. It really hadn’t been difficult at all. Yes there were tough days of wet and cold weather. There were rubbish campsites and never ending hills but on the whole we had just been having a ball. Now, all of a sudden somebody had moved the goal posts and our endless holiday had turned into a very real test of strength and courage.
Over the next few days we stayed with friends and family and we talked the whole thing through which helped a lot.
I spent many hours unable to sleep as I wrestled with my own selfish perspective. Gill had always been enthusiastic about this project but deep down I think we both knew that it probably meant more to me than to her. I knew Gill would push herself to ensure my dream could continue but I was also aware that pushing herself to breaking point was not a solution for either of us. Something had to give.
We always talked about this experience being life changing but to be honest, up until this point I was beginning to have my doubts. I know that our lives are constantly changing in small ways, mostly so small that they aren’t even noticeable but we were expecting something a bit more spectacular. Now I am starting to understand how such a paradigm shift might come about. We are finally being tested. Really tested, in a way that will change the way we think. The way we understand ourselves and each other and the way we want to live our lives at the end of this process. It’s scary, exciting and challenging but now I know that this is what this trip is really all about.
As somebody posted on Facebook just this morning, “nobody changes inside their comfort zone”. We are so far outside our comfort zone right now that change is inevitable. We both think we may have turned a corner and we are both determined to finish what we started but we now understand that it isn’t a party anymore. This is when the hard work starts. This is when we find out just how much we really want this life changing experience. There is no easy way out from here. To go home would feel like a massive failure (I know, I know. It’s not really a failure but it doesn’t stop it feeling that way). Continuing is going to be tough and may test us physically and mentally. It will almost certainly reveal any weaknesses in our relationship and in ourselves. It’s dangerous but I think it has to be done.
We are both enormously grateful to everyone who has supported us and encouraged us so far, we really are. Don’t go away just yet. You are as much a part of this journey as we are and we need you now more than ever before.
And so to Devon and Cornwall. Something of a nemesis for us. We’ll see you on the other side.