I’m saying it, it’s out there – starting in November, I’m going to solo walk the 3,000km Te Araroa trail down the length of New Zealand.
Yip, you heard right. New Zealand, Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud. Lots of walking.
The thru-hike (or through-tramp as it’s known in kiwi land) will take around six months, starting from Cape Reinga in the north of the North Island all the way to Bluff at the bottom of the South Island.
I’ll be walking along golden sand beaches, across rich farmland, through otherworldly ancient native forests and over imposing and rugged mountains. There will be bustling cities and small lonely settlements along the way, as well as days on end with no civilisation for as far as the eye can see. There will be bridgeless and wet-footed crossings of many little streams and fast-flowing rivers – and even one I’ll have to paddle down. I’ll likely battle temperamental weather extremes, have nights wild camping without toilets and running water, and I’ll be forced to walk miles and miles of mindless road between trail heads.
There is also the inviting prospect of several volcanoes along the way – some more to add to my #40by40 challenge.
So, why am I doing this? Am I crazy?
To be honest it’s been one of those ideas that has been percolating at the back of my head for years. New Zealand is my home country; its landscape and culture calls to me (even though I live in London).
But it was only three years ago – after I really discovered my adventure mojo – that I thought hell yes, let’s do this. Let’s walk the length of New Zealand. Gulp!
And then the same old story raised its head – all the feelings of self-doubt and all the excuses over why I couldn’t possibly walk the length of New Zealand, why I wouldn’t be able to, why I wasn’t good enough and so on and so on.
The first year I put it off because I basically freaked out. The adventure was so out there, so outside my comfort zone. I was unprepared for what I would face and getting my head around trying to plan for something that was so epic within three or four months just made me go gaga. I put it back on the ‘one day’ pile.
It didn’t stay there long. The idea bugged me like an itch that couldn’t be scratched. Fine, I’ll do it the year after.
Yet still I made excuses. I wasn’t ready, I didn’t have any experience or confidence. There was no way I’d be able to do it.
It was almost a relief that I decided upon applying for British citizenship – a brilliant excuse because I couldn’t really travel for six months while the application was being considered (or so I told myself). It was like a get-out-of-jail-free card.
I very nearly put the idea back on the ‘one day’ pile but by this point I was starting to annoy myself with all this self-doubt. My #40by40 volcano challenge was going at a snail’s pace for exactly the same reason. I was getting bored with continually beating myself up and believing I wasn’t good enough.
I needed to prove this wasn’t the case. The most amazing life coach showed me the way.
And so I revved up my volcano-climbing and New Zealand planning efforts.
It was decided – Te Araroa 2018.
Over the past three years the adventure has evolved. At first it was about me, about trying to push myself outside my comfort zone. Then it was about fighting my self-doubt.
Now it’s bigger than that. I’ve spent a lot of time since last year analysing my self-doubt and negativity and understanding how I work.
I thought self-doubt was holding me back. It wasn’t. It was my thoughts about self-doubt that paralysed me.
Now I want to walk 3,000km along the length of New Zealand to raise awareness about the grip that self-doubt and its relative low self-esteem (which can be linked to mental health problems) tend to have over our lives and prove that this negativity doesn’t have to hold us back from achieving our goals and dreams.
(Side note – I should add I’m still totally freaking out – just writing this blog post required me to dig deep and I know there will be a second of self-doubt before I push the publish button. It’s scary putting something like this out there. Every day I question myself and my abilities and some days are worse than others. But I’m learning to not buy in to the bad-vibe marketing going on inside my head. I’m starting to see it for what it is, which is just a lot of noise and bullshit).
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In aid of this cause, I’m also fundraising for Mind, the mental health charity in the UK, so that money can go to services and support systems to help people with mental health problems, some of whom may also have been affected by the debilitating effects of self-doubt and low self-esteem. To lend your support and donate, please visit my fundraising page here.
If you’re in New Zealand and want to support my effort and mental health, I’m also fundraising for the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. To support my cause, please visit my fundraising page here.