Why did I walk to Brighton?

17th January 2019

I walked to Brighton a couple of weeks ago. I live in London, so that’s 100km door to door.

Two of us walked together. Me and my friend Tim.

It took three days. You can do it quicker, but we took three days.

Pretty much everyone I told before and after about the walk have been amused by the expedition.

Why Brighton? Why not a more scenic walk? Why not a more challenging walk? Which charity did you do it for?

And I haven’t really been able to answer these questions. It felt odd to tell people that it was pretty much entirely for my mental health.

If you’ve read my other posts, you’ll know that for years I’ve been wrestling with anxiety and depression.

As you can read here, I began to win the battle with my mental health about a year ago.

I filled my life with Action Cures — the idea of doing a lot of things to crowd out the negative stuff that always finds a home in my head.

I was running, eating better, making more music and all the stuff that makes me happy.

But I needed something bigger than the immediate relief of those activities.

I needed a long-range plan.

An adventure that was all about planning and then doing.

Something that would metaphorically fill the cracks between all the other stuff I was up to.

The idea of walking from my front door to somewhere else seemed the most natural, simple, uncomplicated thing I could do.

Walking to the sea felt symbolic in some way and a decent reward for my efforts (and also a sensible place to stop walking!)

And it turns out the walk was a total blast. It was exactly what I needed it to be.

I know a good few of the folk that read my posts are tussling with their own stuff, so I want to share what I learned in the hope that you will find some Action Cures inspiration.

Planning is an Action Cure

Working out the route, taking a highlighter pen to the map, figuring out what to carry and what not to carry and deciding where to stay were all great ways of keeping my mind occupied.

Random chat is an Action Cure

Over the years, I’ve realised I’m a massive introvert and an over indulgent internaliser. This is not something that makes me happy, but a fact I’m beginning to understand and live with.

But three days of utterly random, sometimes meaningful, sometimes meaningless chat was a truly wonderful Action Cure (also useful as reality checks in the moments when either of us lost perspective).

Applying my brain differently is an Action Cure

My day job involves a lot of head scratching, which can often be a source of great anxiety when I don’t seem to be able to get anything good out of it.

Spending three days focusing hard on the route felt like I was taking my brain for a refreshing swim in a cold lake. I was using the same tool for a different job.

Exercise is an Action Cure

When you’ve got 30 miles ahead of you, you’re working up a sweat, your feet hurt, and you’re not entirely sure if you’re on the right path there is little space for anxiety to get in.

Ending is an Action Cure

Our families joined us in Brighton. They made us feel like adventurous heroes. Whilst it wasn’t the greatest achievement of human kind, it felt great.

And now…

In the week following the walk I felt low. The big adventure that had been on my horizon for over a year was gone. The lesson: always have another Action Cure lined up.

I don’t have a replacement for it yet. I’m sure there will be one. I just hope I figure it out soon!