Red River Gorge Hiking Maps

I lacked confidence when I was younger. With no idea where my life was heading, not having a clue what career path to take and feeling I had to appease everyone else, I struggled. Instead of sitting behind the wheel of life in full control with rock ‘n’ roll blasting out of the speakers, I boarded a bus with somebody else driving and I tagged along for the ride. If the driver told me to get off, I did.

I carried on like this until my thirties, when I decided to undertake a 1,000-mile hike on El Camino de Santiago in France and Spain.

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My longest walk to that point was 100 miles. It opened my eyes and, over the course of two months, I felt liberated. I discovered a key to the lock and chains I had been dragging, and as strange as it may sound, I found freedom, realising the only person who had control over my life was me.

For most of the journey, despite making decisions as simple as where to eat and sleep, and being aware that I could make them, my life seemed to be on autopilot. If ever there was a time when fate had complete control, it was on El Camino. Yes, I could decide what to do, where to go, who to talk to – but whichever decision I made, whatever choice I settled on, it seemed fate had already decided for me. Circumstance relaxed back into a chair, arms clasped behind its back, smiling and watching with amusement and pride, as I progressed, learned and grew.

I still don’t know what happened on that walk, but I emerged a changed man. I hadn’t merely disembarked from the bus, more told the driver to stop straight away, ripped my travel pass in two and jumped off screaming “I’m free! I’m free! ? Leaping into my car, I turned the Chilli Peppers up loud and raced off up the road with two fingers sticking out of the window.

The realisation I could follow a path in life I wanted, that I need fear no ridicule from, might seem obvious to you. But for me it wasn’t, and the new-found freedom, the desire to chase the unorthodox.

And to appease no-one but myself, changed my life.

My second important lesson in life was realising that, no matter how difficult, unconventional or risky a choice seemed, if I was confident enough to make that choice, to work hard at achieving it, and to acknowledge my heart suggesting I take that path, then I could make it work.

It is a mantra I continue to live by. Fuelled by exercise, aided by the great outdoors, encouraged by my beliefs to pursue the aspects of my life that make me happy.

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