Preparing to Walk and to Get Lost on England’s South West Coast Path

I am two hours from leaving on a journey that I have spent two years planning.

On the bed in our spare bedroom I had laid out all my clothes I’ll need for my vacation, a month-long walk along England’s famed South West Coast Path. I’ve been hoping for and planning to go on this trek for years. I’ve spent this time researching the path, getting in shape and booking all my accommodations, restaurants, and tours. I am ready to go!

I think.

I’m feeling a tad anxious and that anxiety wasn’t helped by a bureaucratic snafu that delayed the delivery of my new passport. With just days to spare and only with the help of our state Senator, it finally arrived.

It’s here – my passport to new adventures

While I impatiently waited for its arrival, I read and re-read my guide books but – their suggested routes added to my anxiety,

Case in point, here’s an example of the some of the directions from my books-

“….Climb steeply up a flight of steps, then up another flight, followed by even more flights, to continue along…”

Or this 

“…Follow a track to a building and turn right, then turn left and climb 40 steps up a wooded slop.”

Or this

“…The path is sometimes inside the woods and sometimes runs alongside….”


These are the directions I’m supposed to follow for some 400 miles on England’s oldest and most famous trail? These are the directions from the land of writers – McCartney, Lennon, Shakespeare!!!!?!!!

I’m supposed to turn right, turn left, climb AND COUNT steps, find a trail that may or may not be in the woods?

And what the hell is a slop? Is it like a slope? Is it steep? Are there pigs? 

I went on a Facebook group to ask for better directions and in fabulous British humor I was told – “keep the water to the right.”

Somewhat more helpful.

I admit it. I’m GPS challenged. I never know where I’m going, I always ignore that annoying woman who voices directions those Google maps. But I always seem to get where I’m going. I don’t mind asking for directions, or getting a little lost – I love giving up some control in exchange for a little adventure.

When I was a kid of 21 starting my career I took off from Denver for my first job in Fort Wayne, Indiana, armed with $150 to pay for gas and hotels. Since this was the early 80s, I didn’t have GPS, I didn’t have a phone, a credit card, a debit card, a pager, or a paper map. I just knew I had to head towards Chicago and then get directions from there.

My 1963 Plymouth Rambler broke down twice – once on the highway in Nebraska where a stranger wearing a T-shirt that read “COACH” helped me, then again near a truck stop outside Chicago. That coach helped me – and so did about a half dozen truckers. 

It was on that cross country road trip where I first learned how to deal with anxiety. I was fresh out of college on my way to a job in a state I’d never been to where I knew no one, but strangers helped me find my way and so did Kool and the Gang.

Celebrating with Kool

I remember crossing the Colorado state line and pulling over to the side of the highway to steady my nerves. 

I was in a state of panic-absolutely terrified of what lay ahead – the open road, my new job, my future. I was convinced I wasn’t prepared for this adventure called “adulting.” 

And then divine intervention by way of the best dance song in history. “Celebration” came on the radio and slowly as the song played, I got my groove on and found my inner strength.

It’s known to all my family and friends that somehow every time I’ve been really low, “Celebration” comes into my orbit. This despite the fact that I’ve never added it to my song list or downloaded it. I don’t want to abuse its power! That song has propelled me forward more than any reassuring words uttered by my huge well-meaning corps of supporters. 

And last night as I was trying to prepare for yet another journey, “Celebration” blasted – this time through YouTube. 

So this I know I may (and probably will) get lost, but I know Kool and the Gang and probably some lovely strangers will once again, help me find my way!


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