I could never do that. Where on Earth will I find the time? I don’t think it’s even possible. These are the things we tell ourselves when we set aside our dreams and march on in our perfectly normal everyday lives.
Are you guilty of holding yourself back this way?
Zoe Langley-Wathen was until she found the spark she needed to embark on an incredible journey.
Zoe came on the Tough Girl Podcast to share her story of finally going after her decades-old dream of walking the South West Coastal Path. She is a fantastic teacher of what it takes to overcome your fears and set off on the adventure you’ve craved for years.
Read on for her advice on taking the steps to achieve your adventure dreams.
Find Motivation in Meaning
While Zoe’s family wasn’t a particularly athletic, sporty one, they did do a lot of walking thanks to their car-free lifestyle. From the beginning, getting somewhere was an adventure. After years of walking from place to place and being outside, Zoe’s passion was strong. When her daughter came along, Zoe started going on more walks. Taking her daughter for a walk was an excuse to explore a new area.
“I always knew I wanted to do something bigger, but I was too immature to understand what that was,” Zoe explained. While living in a small village on the coast, Zoe began to dream of walking the coast but never thought she’d be able to do it. Her dream stayed dormant for years while she put off the huge undertaking. Walking the entire 630 miles seemed impossible. How could Zoe go away for long enough to complete the walk? She would have to leave her family and her responsibilities.
With her 40th birthday approaching, things changed at last. Zoe was trying to decide how to celebrate her birthday and wanted to do something meaningful. She thought about Machu Picchu or Kilimanjaro, but they didn’t resonate with her. Then, while visiting a coastal town bookshop, she saw a South West Coastal Path handbook on a bookcase and it all came rushing back. She had grown up near the start of the path, spent years holidaying on the coast, and lived within minutes of it at that time. Walking the South West Coastal Path was far more meaningful to her than any other adventure would be.
Zoe was able to motivate herself to embark on this adventure because of its meaning. Choosing a meaningful adventure or time can help you overcome self-imposed obstacles.
Don’t Be Afraid to Go it Alone
Before leaving for her adventure, Zoe wondered if there were women who walked the path alone. So many friends and family had questioned her decision to go it alone that she had to ask. She called the South West Coastal Path association and they assured her that it was perfectly fine for a woman to walk the path alone.
For women interested in walking, Zoe says to not worry about going out on your own, even just for a day. She sees plenty of women walking on their own. While some worry about going out without a dog or walking partner, Zoe says there’s nothing wrong with it. You’re going out to connect with your surrounding, get exercise, and soak in vitamin D. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Many people tell Zoe they couldn’t even walk a mile, let alone hundreds of miles. Her reply is that it’s only walking. “You’re not training for a marathon. You can walk yourself fit,” she explained. Before Zoe knew it, she was walking 22 miles with ease. It happens almost automatically over a period of weeks. If you want to get out and walk, just go and do it.
Mind the Dynamics
While walking down the South West Coastal Path, Zoe called up an old friend’s parents who lived along the trail and asked to stay for a night. Who could pass up a shower, right? Zoe had a fantastic time catching up and chatting. The couple offered to let her stay longer and Zoe agreed.
Although Zoe had a wonderful time with her hosts, she later realised that she missed out on a lot that the adventure had to offer her. She lost out on sunsets and wild camping. Plus, she had the added pressure of making things work with someone else’s schedule. This really changed the dynamics of the walk.
This was a lesson that Zoe took with her on her next adventure. When you’re making decisions on a trip, even if something seems great, it’s important to think about what the opportunity cost may be. Sure you’ll get a hot shower, but what about that sunset?
Be an Inspiration
To give herself the accountability she needed to actually embark on her dream, Zoe, a teacher, decided to announce it at a school assembly. That way there was no taking it back.
When she returned from the expedition, Zoe felt more confident at school. Students wanted to listen to what she had to say and trusted that they could be inspired by it. Later, when Zoe ran into a former student, she shared she was so inspired by Zoe’s story that she did part of the walk herself.
“The walk not only gave me the confidence to know I could do something like this, but it’s given others the confidence,” Zoe related. Working in a girl’s school and hearing ‘I can’t do that’ and ‘I’m frightened of failure’ made building up resilience an important area to Zoe. Chasing your dreams can inspire others in surprising and life-changing ways.