A Story of Failure
It has been a week since I set off onto the journey for which I prepared myself for the past eight months. However, even after months of careful planning, nothing could prepare me for the real trip.
It all started well the day before, when I was packing my clothes and gear into my backpack. I felt ready and confident about the walk that lay ahead of me. On the seven hour train ride via Cologne to Vaals in the Netherlands, I had a lot of time to contemplate. It all seemed so easy beforehand. Walk, eat, rest and repeat that cycle for a month. Arriving in my hotel in Vaals, I explored the starting road that would lead me south into Belgium and onwards to Luxembourg.
On the morning of the 12th of July, a good friend of mine from Germany came to visit me on my first step. It was a short visit sadly, but I was really glad having seen a friend before taking on this immense challenge. He and his girlfriend dropped me off at the trijunction of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, where I could cross off the first three countries on my list within five seconds. Afterwards I turned southwards and started walking down the road and into Belgium. Already that day the sky was full of darkgrey clouds that announced bad weather to come. It wasn’t a storm, not even a proper rainfall, but an unnerving and demotivating constant drizzle, soaking me and my backpack within minutes, were it not for the raincoat I brought. At midday I entered the High Fens Park, a large nature park situated in both Belgium and Germany. Most of my way through there consisted of long, straight roads that looked exactly the same for more than ten kilometres, one of the things I dislike the most about walking long distances. Everytime I walk such roads, I get the feeling that I’m not making progress, even though I might have already walked many kilometres.
At the end of the day, I had covered 45 kilometres when I tiredly walked into the nearest camping place and pitched my tent.
The beginning of problems
The next day continued as the previous had ended; with continuous drizzle. Thankfully it stopped for a short time, long enough for me to pack the tent and not get soaked in the process. Unfortunately, around an hour into the second day of walking, I started to feel an increasing pain in my right knee. Consequently I did more breaks and hope it was just a misstep I took, that I somehow twisted it or bent too much. I continued with a hurting knee for 25 kilometres but had to call an early finish for that day, since I did not think it wise to strain it further.
The next day started with some sunshine, which would return throughout the day several times to dry my raincoat after the continuing rainfall. My knee was still in pain, but I carried on, hoping for it to accustom to the permanent strain. That day I set up camp in a small village called Hosingen, where I considered aborting the journey for the first time. The knee was quite swollen and hurt every time I bent it, so I was walking with a stretched right leg.
But every morning, after a good nights rest, the knee felt okay again, only to become aching again after a couple of kilometres. On the fourth day I passed through Diekirch and on until Larochette, a bit more than 140km into the trip. I could hardly put weight on my right leg, so in the evening I heavy-heartedly decided to stop this and prevent long-term damage to the knee. After only one tenth of the way, I had failed.
I stayed another night in Larochette and prepared for my way home via Luxembourg City. All those months of preparation and anticipation, all my talking of how I’m going to break a world record, all that was shattered within mere four days. On the other hand, those four days taught me a lot on long distance walking, perseverance and my body. I have always known that the challenge is extremely hard to achieve, yet I decided to take it up. Since the beginning it was my intention to aim for an elusive goal. I simply did not want to attempt something I knew was easy for me to do. That was one of the reasons why I kept pushing myself for such a distance, even though my knee already hurt early on. In most cases, the body is limited by the mind, saying that things are too hard, but this time it was the other way round. My body failed me while my mind was still going.
It surely is sad having to abandon months of preparation, but I am certain that it was the right decision. After all, there are plenty of opportunities for big adventures and I have a lot of ideas for my next ones.