Borderwalk is a charity walk from Cardiff South Wales UK to Cardiff New South Wales Australia and I've been on my journey now for over 4 years. The Idea is about trying to inspire young people, no matter what gender, colour or background into taking on adventures of their own, however big or small and not buying into the idea that you have to be born with a certain gift to achieve something spectacular. Kieran and I were and still are, two normal, lazy guys who enjoy unhealthy food and sitting around, who one day had an idea about changing the way people think about outdoor adventure. You don’t have to be an ex-military, wilderness expert or an outdoor professional to achieve something like this. In fact a few minutes into a conversation, there’s normally a realisation on the part of whoever I’m talking to that I’m a normal guy. They assume I must be an extreme outdoor enthusiast with interests in military equipment, barefoot running and a history of doing things similar to Borderwalk. And I’ve lost many possible sponsorship opportunities because of it, just because I don’t fit into people’s idea of an adventurer.
But it’s important I think to have people like me there in spaces such as outdoor adventure, people of my background and ethnicity, to help show people things like this are accessible to them too. Since Kyrgyzstan, getting out of jail and going solo, I’ve met people along the way who have joined me, whether it be in India, Myanmar or Malaysia. People who thought the idea of walking across a country was something they physically couldn’t do. I’ve watched them as they go through a microcosm of what my entire journey has been, I’ve watched as they step out of their comfort zone, pushing past limits they thought they had. Sometimes it’s not pretty, there’s often blood, blisters, tears, even at times lost toe nails, and illnesses. But each time I’ve been proven right, whether it’s for a week, month or over a year, people who thought they couldn't, actually achieving it.
I’m aware to other people that it’s just walking, but to people who actually go through it for longer than a day or listen to the stories either from me or the blog, they find that along the way it transcends just travelling by foot and becomes an internal battle of will, and in many ways a psychological journey rather than a physical one. One of adapting to your surrounding and pushing of the boundaries you thought you had. A rule I thought I had during Borderwalk was that if a gun was pointed at me at point blank range I would go home. It happened nearly every day in Afghanistan. Or in Kazakhstan where the 52 degree heat and lack of shade was causing nose bleeds, panic attacks and periods of drifting in and out of consciousness due to extreme exhaustion. Its lessons that I’ve learnt from situations like those, that I and the people who have joined me will carry far beyond just walking, whether it be their day to day struggles or the struggles of fighting for a cause they believe in.
We knew we always wanted to raise money for charity along the way, the charity I chose was WaterAid and Kieran chose his, the Marine Conservation Society. These charities address issues that affect us all, no matter what country we live in. With many countries, such as India, already reaching peak water and the marine life around the world being massively effected by our consumption and pollution by plastics and chemicals, we will all soon, if not already start to feel the strain. India, more than most already know the consequences of such problems, with local farmers unable to access water for crops and what little water is available, heavily polluted from private industry and bad practises. Charities like the ones I’m raising money for are important in order to not just help communities around the world access clean sustainable drinking water, sanitation and to clean up our oceans, but in the case of both charities, help the global push back against harmful legislation that some governments look to push through at the behest of private companies. In regards to clean water access, the assumptions that governments are protecting water resources is unfortunately incorrect and in certain places there can be a general preference for privatisation in one of its many forms, which often means harder access, extortionate rates (sometimes up by 90%) and damage to local ecosystems and whole communities through mismanagement.
I’m lucky enough to be given the opportunity to regularly talk to people around the world on various platforms, whether it be in universities, on international channels like CNN or in print. I get to talk about Borderwalk and the issues faced by these charities. The level of engagement I receive during and after is amazing, I’m always surprised by how curious people are and the questions they ask. So looking ahead I'd like to carry on telling the story of Borderwalk in as many countries as I can, in whatever form that comes in, be it a documentary, book or more talks. And not only speak about the charities and the global issues we face moving forward but also hopefully encourage the type of thinking and ideas we need to overcome them.
Published 20th August 2016