Starting in late August 2017 Alex and I will be walking the Way of St James beginning at our house in south west France and ending in Santiago in north west Spain 1340 km and 65 days later. We will be carrying everything we need in our rucksacks: just above 10kg for me.
The Way of St James - also known as the Camino de Santiago - is a collection of ancient pilgrim routes travelled since the 1st millennium. Our journey ends at the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela where western Christians believe that James the Apostle was buried.
My reasons for doing this pilgrimage are several. I am hoping the experience will provide me with a period of reflection; a time to consider my place within the natural world; an opportunity to challenge myself physically and mentally; a chance to live with few material possessions and no social media (except this page and my blog); and a celebration of the fact that I no longer have ME/CFS.
In 2003 I became ill with what I later learnt was ME. I was exhausted all the time; I suffered from blinding headaches, nausea, dizziness and a sense of dislocation from the world. I couldn't walk for six months; I worked very part-time for the next 18 months; and it was only many years later that I felt confident enough to take myself out of my comfort zone.
It took me a year before I received a diagnosis. Various doctors I saw - from GPs to different specialists - were not aware of ME/CFS and were unable to link the dots. The best the neurologist could offer was that I "should throw away my walking stick and get a boyfriend". Once I did get a diagnosis, everything changed, but only last year one of my of students waited six months before an enlightened doctor recognised his symptoms were those of ME.
It seems fitting, then, that I should walk my 1340 km partly in order to raise money for the ME Association, a charity that is promoting awarenes within the medical community and the general public, encouraging research into the illness, and supporting those who have it. If I can raise enough money to make a difference to one person I will be pleased; if I can raise more then that is a bonus.
You can read a bit more about my experience of ME here on my blog.
In the meantime, please consider looking at my fundraising page for the ME Association; even better, please consider donating! I have set a high target but my walk is ambitious, so why not?!
Over the next 7 weeks I will be writing some pieces for this blog about our preparation, the history of the Camino, our route, and more about why I am doing it. Do keep checking in. While away, although I will be off email and most social media, I will be writing an entry in my blog each week and shorter entries on my fundraising page. Sorry for those of you who have read all this on the fundraising page already - a new entry will be up in the next few days!