After the walk / Philosophising / The blog

Going for a walk could save the world

Living outdoors so quickly puts everything in perspective. It reminds me what is precious and important (people, time, landscapes, muscles, chatting, simplicity, lunch) and what is extraneous and best cut down or cut out (commuting, labour-saving devices, clutter, morbid news stories, jetfuel, landfill, women’s magazines) . It strikes me as so obvious that the things that are good for me are also the things that are good for the planet, and so the desire to confront environmental issues on an individual basis can just as well – or better – be motivated by enjoyment and self interest as by guilt. So I wrote a poem…

IF, or maybe WHEN

If you can stand on Aber’s smashed-up seafront
Or hear about the freeze or the typhoon
And feel the boiling sea and not feel guilty
But be spurred on to dance to a good tune

If you can walk and camp right through two seasons
And move through dark and silence, slow and gentle
See that the ratio of carbon footprint
to best year ever is not coincidental

If you can look at travel not as milage
But marvel at the world right by your door
Dispense with jetlag, novelty and contrast
Swap the culture shock for culture awe

And when you lift your bundle of belongings
And load them on your back, or on your friend
You soon lose interest in shopping and acquiring
And choose not choice but things that meet an end

And on that note with only one detergent
For pans and clothes and hair, and then but rarely
No comb, no mirror, just one change of outfit
And yet I looked more well and tanned, and… hairy

An appetite that for the first time ever
Took food as fuel, delicious, simply cooked
I loved my body for what it’s doing for me,
Not constant finding fault in how it looked

Be entertained by hearing people’s stories
But not of horror, taught mistrust and fools
Learn to look for help and open kindness
Stop seeking proof of how the world is cruel

Take joy in the most valued things of living
The precious people, and the creatures too
And learn to recognise and love a treasure
And prize what oil and plastic do for you

Don’t be inspired by guilt, but fired by wonder
Wonder for the people, earth and water
Then there’ll be a world and life here for you
For you my future son, and future daughter

Pictures: Globe picture by Nasa, huge wave in Aberystwyth by Keith Morris, Chicago freeze by Edward Stojakovic, and typhoon by Hong Kong Red Cross. All the rest by me or Rhys Thwaites-Jones. Rhys put the film together, good man.

Big thanks to Rudyard Kipling for the cadence!


Chico and Hannah on the Gower

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  1. Thank you for sharing, I like walk

  2. Carl Craven says:

    Heoric! Well done.

  3. Yvonne Bruner says:

    You’re brilliant and inspiring! Thank you!!

  4. I’m sooo happy for you :-)

  5. Shelly Arbuckle says:

    Well Hannah..where to start!? Well done for one! I am completely jealous that you can spend an entire 6 months doing that kind of travel in your beautiful country as my piece of Norh=thern Alberta Canada gets FAR too cold for any kind of adventure past 2-3 months sadly. I live in an area aptly named “Cold Lake”. Having just celebrated my 50th birthday (yesterday) I am hungry for a life altering adventure, doing something that is a challenge but that I know I can rise to. Your adventurous heart and actions have sparked a fire in me! I plan to do something akin to your adventure boyfriend be damned! Thank you for being “one of those people” lol who grasp life by the hair and take it for a tear! Best wishes from the “great white north” all the best in the completion of this project and all of your other persuits! Byth Mae camau ysbrydoledig yn cael ei wastraffu weithredu! ( I do hope that translates correctly! Cheers

    • Hey Shelly!
      To be honest, 2-3 months is a perfectly decent amount of time for an adventure! I had the distinct impression when I hit the two-month mark that i should stop – it was just the right length!
      Happy birthday! I hope you hit on just the right thing for your adventure. What I’m finding amazing is that after doing it once it seems impossible to me not to plot doing it again. Living outside and travelling overland, with little money and simple needs – it’s just so clearly a good idea! Life begins at fifty! Boyfriend be damned (or invited?). Hx

  6. Hannah what a great project! Please put me on your mailing list.

  7. Casha Shoemaker says:

    Very inspiring. So beautifully said and written. Maybe one day I’ll be brave like you. The idea of doing all that sounds amazing and scary. Did you do it alone? We’re you with anyone but your lovely donkey?

    • Thanks Casha! My dear feller Rhys joined us for about half of the walk in chunks, and both parents and my sister came for weekends here and there. Sometimes we met people on the way who’d come for a day’s walk too – it was pretty sociable! We were even joined by a little tiny pony called Tim at one point!

  8. jacky Ridlington says:

    totally fab xx

  9. Beautifully written and lovely images.

  10. Anna Mangus says:

    Incredibly moving, thanks.

  11. I loved the poem and the video. :) You are an inspiration and I am thankful. I am thinking now about how I can do something similar here in Canada.

    • Thanks Regan!

      Get donkey. Learn about donkey. Assemble camping kit. Walk out of the door!

      And if you don’t take a donkey, just the last two instructions! I was blown away by how easy it was, in some ways! Do it! (Although I guess you need to stick to the summer months over there?!)

  12. Justin Kenrick says:

    wonder (-: full xxx xx x !

  13. Dina Laquaglia says:

    So beautiful and inspiring! Thank you!

  14. Beautiful, inspirational, thought provoking! You set a true example for us all! x

  15. Very, very touched. Love your poem, so insightful. So many questions about donkeys!

  16. Thanks for all your kind words – glad you like it! Now work begins on the mega film, hopefully due in October. Pre-sales here:

  17. Hi Hannah,

    Love from India. It’s very inspiring and wonderful to see someone going on a journey like that. The present day capitalism is consuming our society at such a fast pace that we don’t see it and live in a world of comforting illusions. God bless you!


    • Umair! It’s true, but everywhere people are rejecting it too – there’s lots of hope! Not least, for me, because of this most overwhelming response to this little project! It seems to have resonated with a lot of people and that is heartening!
      All the best back to India, from Wales!

  18. Just received and resent your video on my facebook account.

    The content touches many of us who travel for self experience, self expression, adventure, the unknown and to find great people (to name a few).

    I’ve been on the road myself for the last 5 years and loved your report of life and how to cherish it. I don’t have a complete answer to the best way in life, but I do know the difference between “greed” and “simple”.

    congratulation on a great video, keep up sharing your voice, you have wonderful views to share

    Phil :o)

    • Thank you very much Phil – kind words! Greed is so obviously a bad thing, but it doesn’t manifest itself that obviously in oneself, I find. In me I find myself buying things I don’t need because I am biding time in a lunchbreak, trying to balance earning with spending, on something – anything! And advertising messages – I’m not at all immune. I know I don’t want fried chicken, but sometimes I begin to worry about my aging undereye region, etc!
      Where have you been passing through, on the road?
      Take care! Hx

  19. Hannah – I am blown away by your adventure. Totally wonderful! And I LOVE the poem – thank you.

    I can’t wait to see your film and read your book. Surely the BBC would serialise it? I hate the thought of 200 hours of filming being edited down to 1 hour! Timothy Spall’s barge trip round Britain and programmes like 3 men in a boat seem very well received – I will hope that YOUR story will be snapped up.
    I too am totally hooked on walking and taking in the world around me and enjoying those I meet on the way. I took early retirement and moved to mid Wales 6 years ago with my husband – partly to spend precious time with my big sis who had bone cancer.
    When she died I pledged to raise money for Nightingale House Hospice in Wrexham and, for my 60th birthday, I walked from Wrexham to Barmouth (64 miles) over 4 and a half days with friends and family in support. That was my first BIG walk, though I love walking in the hills and countryside where we live (see our website)

    In 2013, I walked 100 miles of the Welsh Coast Path from Caernarfon to Porthmadog, mostly alone, staying in bunkhouses or camping at night. I took 5 days to do it. My sister had always had a very special fondness for the LLeyn Peninsula. Hannah, I felt I FOUND myself again on that walk – I found strength, independence and confidence again and the ME I am at the core. I felt very close to sis too and often chatted to her as I walked – I must have been a strange sight!
    I loved meeting – however fleetingly – strangers along the way, and being so much more aware of my surroundings. One day I waited for a couple of hours for the tide to fall back so that I could continue my walk along the beach – that was a very special time – and the rhythm of all my days was mostly ‘ruled’ solely by the hours of daylight.

    This year I am planning to do the coast to coast walk – from the Lake District to Robin Hood’s Bay – approx. 200 miles over 12 days or so.

    Part of the draw to YOUR story for me was definitely, Ghico. Donkeys have always held a special place in my heart. We have the land here at home but, sadly NOT the funds, to keep a couple of rescue donkeys. I shall enjoy learning more about how your ‘friendship’ with him grew.

    Thank you again for sharing what you’ve done and good luck with the book and the film . . .. and the BBC! Love and light, wend

    • Hi Wendy,
      Huge apologies for taking so long to reply to your lovely message – I have been in London, and now I’m in Scotland, doing a round of visiting and chores that got abandoned as I dropped everything to run for the hills last year.
      Your outdoor forays sound really important – so wonderful that you made the time to be with your sister, and then to make the space to be with her memory. The Lleyn is a special place, isn’t it? In London I kept seeing people talking to their hands-free mobile phones (I assume!) and they looked quite crazy – chatting to your sister on the beach sounds much saner!

      I love that you waited for the tide. There’s this general impression these days that having whatever you want, whenever you want, getting wherever you want, as fast as possible, throwing money at ‘problems’, is a good thing – a sign of strength and success, wielding power over circumstances. Convenience is apparently king! Waiting and making do, reusing and mending and being flexible are all sort of signs of pauperly weakness. I don’t buy it!

      I LOVED the coast-to-coast and would recommend it to anyone. In my past life as a magazine editor I wrote an article about it here: It might give you some pointers! Do send me a message if you have any questions while you’re laying your plans!

      Also, if you ever do think about keeping donkeys I’ll tell you all I know. It’s not all that expensive – I think I’ll have spent about £120 on hay for the two of them for the whole winter, and farriering costs £30-£40 every six weeks. Not nothing, but maybe not as much as you think?

      Take care! Keep in touch! Hannah x

  20. Marvellous! :) I couldn’t agree more, being outside is probably the best way for reflection. Adapting to the pace of nature, surrounding yourself with atmosphere not with things. The photo at the end of your post is fantastic too!
    Best wishes and best of luck Hannah! Kind regards, Oliver

    • Thanks Oliver! It makes so much sense when you’re there, and yet even as a type I am looking at a beautiful, wild and wintery view of a Scottish isle out of the double-glazed window, and NOT feeling like going out there! Do as I say and not as I do! Hx

      • Lol, I love the “Do as I say and not as I do!” saying Hannah! 😀 We probably can’t seek these wee escapes constantly, but as long as the longing for the great outdoors keeps burning like a fire inside us, we only need to make sure to put on a few more logs every now and then…
        On which of the Scottish islands do you stay if I may ask? Just curious since I’m living in Edinburgh at present and just returned from a wonderful wee road trip to Loch Voil in the Trossachs and we also have travelled at least some of the islands off the west coast like Skye, Mull, Iona and Arran…
        I hope you enjoy the wintery view and the time will come when you enjoy soak up the atmosphere from the other side of the double-glazed window again… 😉 Take care and speak soon, Oliver

        • Yes, Oliver – what a waste to sit inside feeling bad for not being outside. Do, or do not do! But do not worry about not doing… ha!
          I’m on the east edge of Mull, with a view across the sound to the mainland. I have family here, and it’s great to have cause to come here every so often, but it does mean that I forget to explore much further. I went to Applecross and Skye, and Canna too a few years ago, and am very keen to head to Knoydart one day! Yesterday I went over to Glencoe, right across the most wonderful wild Ardnamurchan – just breathtaking!
          So much of the world to see, and such a kick when it’s my very own rock I’m exploring! Hx

          • Hehe… I really love your sayings Hannah! :) “Do, or do not do! But do not worry about not doing…” – I just had to scribble it down into my wee journal, thanks for that!
            Mull is lovely indeed! But I totally feel with you when it comes to exploring your home. There must be something in the nature of human that at some point we stop “turning stones” in our own backyard or in front of our own doorstep. Glencoe is massive too and I’m sure you enjoyed getting lost in the vast remoteness for a while.
            Btw, I appreciate your time in getting back to me! Any chance to subscribe to your sayings!?? 😉 Otherwise I will just stick to the Feedly subscription.
            All the best again and keep exploring! No matter if with donkey or without… 😀

  21. Thank you so much for opening my eyes to the importance of living with only the essentials. You inspire me to live a joyful life that is full of memories from the people around me, from nature, from creatures, from practically anything under the sun which society somehow overlooked.

    Your beautiful words moved me.

    All the love from the Philippines!


  22. Love this:) A couple of years ago we met a lovely couple (here in France) walking the Aveyron and Cantal with their donkey; happy, joyous and very beautifully healthy … all three of them! It’s true, we should all take more time to slow down and look at what is around us.

    • Thanks for the sweet message, Liz! Painting is a good way too, I’m sure! Judging by your web address, you already know the way! Hx

  23. I’m a bit late adding a comment here! This journey has a purity that I find hard to describe. It does pass on some envy so I’m off to do something in the same vein!

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