I had been leading the group for about a mile, since we had stopped in a small town for a much-need pub lunch. Starting back up again after the juicy burger and delicious “chips” was more difficult than I anticipated. Everyone in our group, even those who had taken care to wear waterproof outer layers, was soaked from the first six miles, our pre-lunch warm up to the eighteen total miles that were on the agenda for the day. Four students had decided to return to the hotel already, tired of the muddy trails, thick fog, and wind burnt faces. Their leaving only made the eight of us that were left more determined as we set out for the last two thirds of the journey.
Why were we willing to face such rough conditions? Simply because we had been looking forward to the longest walk of our program since our arrival in England! We had started with five and six mile walks, and slowly build ourselves up, until the final, eighteen-miler. The creative writing program just wouldn’t feel complete without it. We walked because studies have shown walking creates a rhythm that increases creativity. We walked because the authors we studied did, following the footsteps of Virginia Woolf, Rudyard Kipling, William Wordsworth, and so many others. And, at least in my case, I walked because I wanted to prove to myself that I could always reach the next bend or get up the next hill.
So, fifteen days after arriving in England, I found myself, leading the remaining group, at the base of a hill. And it wasn’t just any hill. It reached steeply towards the sky, the narrow path only visible for about thirty yards before disappearing into the fog. I turned around to make sure everyone was caught up, and began what seemed like an impossible trek. The path was slick with mud and the droppings of the cows that freely roamed the countryside, and recent rain made it more difficult than usual to gain steady footing. The fog was so thick, and the hill reached so high that when we got to the furthest point we had been able to see from the group, the top was still invisible. On my left, the ground fell away from the path so steeply that I had to remind myself not to look down for nausea and fear of falling. After what seemed like forever, with quads burning and sweat and rain rolling down our faces, we made it to the top. Not only did we make it to the top of that particular mountain, but we climbed two others of a comparable height that day. We finished the hike the same way we had started the trip all those miles ago–smiling.
Going to England to hike and write for sixteen days taught me more about myself as an individual than I ever could have imagined. In that short time, I maturely dealt with losing my luggage, I read my poetry aloud to a group for the first time, I hiked more than 125 miles in total, and I successfully navigated the English rail and underground systems.On a deeper level than any of those things, however, I made great friends, and realized that I was capable of a lot more than I initially thought. I am beyond thankful for all the the experiences I had on the trip and I can’t wait to see what opportunity Rutgers throws at me next!