Echoing with the sound of thunder, a wave collided with the cliffs below; loose rocks tumbled away from the jagged walls like stale breadcrumbs. My lips quivered under it’s power, or was it the ground trembling beneath my aching feet? In exhaustion, I questioned my ability to continue walking; we had now walked over 210km with a few days remaining. The wind tousled my hair and sea-spray caressed my cheeks in encouragement.
Despite the distance we had walked across the desolate sand dunes and rugged cliffs, we were not alone. We walked past the burrows of sleeping weasels, past hares dashing away in fear, past stalks resting in nests longer than their slender legs, and past fishermen sitting precariously on the cliff’s edge. Unique flower species scattered the earth, the same earth that was being corroded by the wave’s touch. It was inevitable that with time, this same ground in which we stood would collapse into the hungry ocean. There was a beauty to the landscape’s unforgiving wildness; it was humbling.
I had never before hiked more than 15km and perhaps in ignorance, I committed myself to a challenge of walking 280km in 13 days. Although I anticipated walking Portugal’s Atlantic Coast, Rota Vicentina, to be uncomfortable; what I was not prepared for was the pain, but also, how rewarding such a feat could be.
What many do not know, is that there is more involved than the physical challenge of achieving such distances; there is a physiological element as well. In my journey I faced myself with absolute entirety; during my internal dialogue, I observed my strengths and I was also confronted with my weaknesses. I have walked away stronger.
I am grateful to share with you my Lessons from walking Portugal’s Atlantic Coast.
Strength is not when you are running up a mountain with stamina;
STRENGTH is when you are broken on the ground and you make the choice to get back up.
On our 10th day of walking 210km without rest, I collapsed in teary exhaustion and I considered quitting. My body had never before experienced such fatigue. I was limping and my body hurt more than I was ever prepared for. At some point during our lives we will be faced with a moment of weakness where it is difficult and we want to quit. Strength is not during our success, strength is in our weakness and how we choose to overcome it.
You may not like everybody you meet on the trail but that’s okay;
The one thing that should remain is RESPECT.
During our adventure we meet a great number of people; some we connected with immediately and others we did not. Although we share differences in views and opinions, we are all united by the same journey, life.
Our paths may be different but we are all going through this challenging adventure together, with integrity and mutual respect.
JUDGE yourself by your own journey and not through others;
Comparison is the death of joy.
It is easy to compare our performance with those completing a similar task. After I had walked 180km, I was physically struggling and I felt disheartened when I was overtaken by a lady in her 70s. I reminded myself that this comparison is unfair. I was making an assumption of my performance without knowing the lady’s circumstances (who could have been a professional athlete.) Most importantly, it failed to celebrate my own accomplishment; my first time hiking such distances. Rather than compare ourselves with others, it’s important to focus on our own journey and successes.
Be KIND to yourself.
Although it’s important to push ourselves to achieve our goals; it’s equally as important to give yourself permission to ground yourself through self care and kindness. During this journey, I discovered the power of self-talk and how powerful its influence truly is.
Your body can go further than you ever imagined, but it only becomes difficult when you catch yourself in a loop of negative self talk.
It’s important to practice positive affirmations, to forgive and massage your aching feet, to dip your toes into cool water and to dance amongst the waves. Be kind to others, but also to yourself.
Achieving your GOALS begins with a single step.
We were never going to walk 280km with one giant leap. It took a lot of steps, 490,000 to be precise. There were days where walking was effortless and others where it was difficult; but it just took one small step after the other for us to achieve our goal! It’s just like any goal in life.
The JOURNEY is just as important as the destination.
When you’re walking every day for 13 days straight, it is so easy to focus only on the final destination. What made this experience absolutely incredible however, was not arriving at the final destination; it was the journey as a whole. Life is to be enjoyed and cherished; every footstep of the way. Each moment has its own unique beauty and it’s so precious.
You are CAPABLE of so much more than you realise.
I was a packet-a-day smoker for nearly 10 years who was incapable of walking up a flight of stairs without struggling to catch my breath. If you told me that I was going to not only embark on this journey, but that I would also succeed; I would never have believed you! If there is something that this adventure has taught me, is that you are capable of achieving absolutely anything you set you mind to.
I would love to hear about one of your greatest achievements and what you learnt from your experience! 🙂
* Thank you to those individuals who left comments on my blog and for your patience with my replies; I can assure you that I have since responded!