There is a misconception about being an ‘adventurer’ that you are always living on the edge, facing dangers at every corner. This has not been my experience. What I do is actually pretty safe. In my opinion, driving down the M25 is far more perilous than trekking in the Hindu Kush. Admittedly, I am a very bad driver, but that’s beside the point. Indeed, on all my travels, I’ve never had a single item stolen.
I have very few survival skills – but then my life has never really been in danger. I am no Indiana Jones. If I was, I would have been squashed by that giant, rolling boulder in the opening credits of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Pancaked within seconds! Splat! Game over Player One! My hat would have been peppered with arrows, the ark would have stayed conclusively lost and there’d be Nazis everywhere…
But to be serious, people often ask me if I have a ‘death wish’. A death wish! Pah! I love the road but, trust me, I am a complete coward and love life far more. I always dream of getting home again. How else can I can bore everyone with tall tales on my return and soak up England’s ‘mountains green’, ‘pastures seen’ – and even ‘those dark satanic mills’.
On the road, for all its delights, I often dream of home: the day I can hug my daughter, laugh the night away with friends, eat Sunday roasts and Crunchie Bars, drink pints of Mole Catcher, play tennis and pub quizzes, witness everyone light up as spring is sprung, watch the rugby, listen to Desert Island Discs and Just a Minute, sing Christmas carols at full bore. These things keep me going. I may be an irresponsible fool walking around the world – but those I love are my centre of gravity, spurring me on.
During this walk, I hope to show, without wanting to sound unbearably naff, that we can trust each other more, fear each other less. As I’ve got older I’ve become more cynical and judgemental, forgetting that on my previous journeys I’ve been overwhelmed by generosity – whether on the Tex-Mex border, in the Nigerian boondocks, the high passes of Afghanistan, the jungles of Indo-China or the streets of London. I want to put my trust in strangers again.
Of course, the world can be unspeakably grim – just look at poor, benighted Syria and Yemen. I don’t want to trivialise this, or the daily struggle of so many people – but it’s good to be reminded too, that on this crazy, wondrous planet we all call home, there is often kindness, and always hope.