After a year in captivity, I reflect on a personal pilgrimage in West Africa as therapy.
A 1,000-mile walk through West Africa gave Robert Martineau time to reflect, something he lacked during the pandemic.
It’s strange to recall my walk through Benin.
The events seem so far removed from a life in lockdown London now.
I took a lot of things for granted back then – it was 2013 when I was in Benin – and I still do now.
Being able to fly to a different part of the world and travel carefree with only a backpack, a pair of shoes, and a tent.
Each day should be spent outside.
To be able to walk freely with only the trail ahead of you as a destination.
My journey concluded in Benin.
I’d walked from Accra, Ghana’s southern capital, to the country’s far north, east through Togo, and back south through Ouaké, Benin.
Ouidah, on Benin’s Atlantic coast, was my final destination, a thousand miles from where I started.
I’d gotten lost on the flight to Accra in May and was hoping a long walk would help me.
I was drawn to the idea that going for a walk could be therapeutic, a way to enforce a simpler routine, and a way to find purpose through the discipline of walking every day.
I went and came home a few months later, returning to life working in London, and the journey was over.
It wasn’t until August of that year, four years after I’d returned, that I began to think more deeply about the walk’s impact on me, a reflection prompted by the mental breakdown of someone I cared about and their subsequent recovery.
I began to consider the link between walking and healing, as well as what I’d gained from my previous journey.
I went back to the notebooks I’d kept along the way, as well as the pages of the books that had inspired me before I set out.
I began writing the story of the walk in an attempt to put into words the various ways in which I believe a long walk can heal a person and the potential for walking to transform a life.
Attempting to write such a story has its drawbacks.
Many come from there.
News summary from Infosurhoy in the United Kingdom.
After a year in captivity, a personal pilgrimage in West Africa served as therapy.
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Walking as therapy: Looking back at a personal pilgrimage in West Africa after a year in lockdown