This book came to me in the free bin at the community cafe.
The cover was of a peaceful young woman, looking into the sun as the wind rippled through her matted blonde hair. It was an image that resonated with something subconscious, and, although becoming less and less attached to the “young woman finds herself” adventure book genre, I unzipped my backpack and put it in, to save for a day when I needed a spark of adventure.
I tucked the book alongside my hammock one bright sunny Wednesday, and biked to Point Chevalier. I set up my hammock under a delightful birch tree in an isolated spot overlooking the lapping waves; and proceeded to follow Ffyona Campbell through her articulated life for hours and hours as I swayed in the wind.
It didn’t inspire me; it challenged me. Challenged me, and gave me the perspective I didn’t know I was craving when I picked it up from the Cafe Korero book exchange box.
“I started to walk then, really walk, trying to sort out what was true from what was screwed up, gathering my armor, reassuring myself that I had what it took to return and face the situation. When I did and felt stronger for it, it struck me that the longer I walked, the more I could work out what was going wrong.”
“I wondered at the time what happened to people who spend more than a year traveling, but since I didn’t know any oldies, I couldn’t tell.”
No, he was just going a kilometer down the road. That’s fine by us! It was terrific! I wanted more of this; I wanted to feel scared and to get out of it. And it was very real, a real need not a twisted one.”
“It was good to know that if we fell, there was no safety net to catch us.”
“I liked these times, when I’d look at the situation quite objectively and say, ‘Look where you are. Now get yourself out.’”
“This other person in my head calmly reminded me that every decision you make must be accountable for, not to others, because they’ll have their own reasons for undermining your confidence, but as evidence when you wake up at 4 a.m. and the courtroom drama begins.”
“It dawned on me that in severing our link with the land, we had cut off our ability really to be alive. You can be whatever you want to be in the Western world except one thing: you cannot be what you really are, you cannot be animal.”
“To me, that was the very height of a home: to be the complete opposite of everything outside. A capsule you suddenly came across when in dire need.”
“If they were so miserable and drunk and lazy, why were they dancing? If she was so perfect, why wasn’t she?”
“At times when I felt the onset of the ‘poor me’s’, I just took me by the hand and said, ‘what’s the alternative?’”
“In those times, if I’d just stopped and realized where I was I might have panicked. Instead, I put on the blinkers because it’s frightening to be aware of the enormity of danger. If I had been, I’d just go to pieces. But you rein in, and put on foot in front of the other—and this is something the critics just don’t understand—the hard edge of this isn’t during the pretty mountains. It’s the dangerous times. Instead of pretending I am smaller than I am so that others don’t feel inferior, instead of apologizing for it, I see this now as a very positive attribute I posses.
When it happens, I get that certain strength, a calming voice, a relaxing of my facial muscles. A core growth, andI can feel it in the pivotal parts of my body, my lower back, in my abdomen, a strength which reaches up to my neck . . . and I feel like a mother, capable of taking care of anything. That’s what I know is the beginning of my true self and my own strength. And that’s the nature of women.”
“I knelt in the sand and drew a circle around me, turning anti clockwise til I came back to the beginning. But I didn’t close the circle to form a ball, that I could bounce away and begin my life afresh. Instead, my finger continued on past the start, forming the beginning of a spiral which I will keep with me, adding to as I grow.”
Read Ffyona Campbell’s A Walk Around the World: The Complete Story.