When I headed out here I wrote a post which explained that perhaps more daunting than the obvious risks of travelling alone was the journey of self discovery which would be traversed as a result of doing so.
Over the past few days, an unfortunately timed illness, combined with a few other things seems to be pointing at one of what I presume will be the first of many realisations about who I am as a person and the limits I place on myself, without meaning to, every day.
This all sounds terribly pessimistic, but it is not meant to. Despite spending the majority of the past 24 hours in bed, fighting an unrelenting want to move forwards despite being barely able to open my eyes, I have managed to realise a few things which make me proud to be where I am, and excited about what lies ahead.
But in the usual fashion let’s take it day by day… I’m going back to the number of days since I started as opposed to the number of days on my own – this is both to keep things simple (I have enough trouble remembering which day of the week it is let alone which number to assign to that day) and also because it is about time I recognised that these aren’t two separate events – this whole thing is rundinavia – something which I made my dream and something I am determined to see through to the end.
In the last post, I left you in a small café in Svappavaara, full of optimism about the road ahead and about to find somewhere to pitch my tent for the evening… this was a little more tricky than I had first imagined – a brand new road built and paid for by the local mining company (we’ll get to them later) meant that brand new reindeer fences were meticulously laid on either side of the road – making finding a suitable camping site quite difficult. I did eventually find a spot – in what appeared to be a working lay by. But as it was a Sunday evening, nobody was around, and I took the opportunity to pitch up.
Day 20 – Monday 22nd August – Svappavaara to Kiruna…
6.30 am the next morning, it very soon became clear that this lay by was in fact still in use, and I awoke to the noise of trucks moving, rocks falling and men shouting. Following about 30 seconds of pure confusion, I realised it was probably a good idea to get moving, half hoping they would realise I was there before accidentally dropping something heavy on my tent. Like clockwork I packed everything up – ignoring the fact that my tent really needed drying – and set off down the road just before 7am. My earliest start yet.
It did also involve walking past a group of men dressed in high visibility jackets and helmets – though in all honesty I’m not sure who was more confused and I was definitely still half asleep – so I just threw them a smile and offered no explanation – a good enough tactic it seems.
The day ahead involved a 38km stretch of road into Kiruna, the largest town I was to have passed through so far, with a promise of plentiful food at the end of the day. Nevertheless, 38km along one road is tough and I was glad to see that a couple of stops may be possible on the way – once at a large campsite along the route and another at the ice hotel – which though wouldn’t actually be composed of ice at this time of year – looked to be a cool place to stop off.
I should mention that for the past few days I had been having headaches and feeling a little dizzy every now and then – something which I had been trying to ignore and was hoping would go away with time. Choosing once again to put this down to an early start I carried on, stopping at the 30km to go mark to make adventure porridge (porridge made in a lay by) and then carrying on.
Following through the day – I didn’t feel too bad for the first few hours- and despite the fact that both opportunities for food turned out to not turn out any goods – I had snacks in my bag so wasn’t in too much trouble.
However, by the 10km to go point, the dazed dizziness was hitting me quite hard and the prospect of having to walk 10km further to reach food really seemed impossible. I sat myself down and text a couple of people – with one friend suggesting a nap – however I was reluctant to do so as I knew (thought) I needed food as soon as possible. So I made an agreement that I would keep plodding on – 10km wasn’t too far and I could sit down and rest if I needed to. The following hour passed by and I struggle to recollect any of it – my mum even phoned me during this time and I can’t really remember why, just remembering that it felt exhausting to hold the phone by my ear.
Another 40 minutes and I had reached the edge of the city – taking a celebratory 10 minutes to lie down in a bus stop and taking this picture.
That’s me smiling. I had finally reached my goal – I was going to cover the last few km, grab some food, feel better and head on my way towards Abisko.
However, the next 3km to the petrol station which I had marked as a definite food source was really tough. Even looking back I am not sure how I convinced my body to keep moving. I can only imagine how I looked to strangers – accidentally staggering into the road more than once and pausing to sit on anything remotely seat like. It took ages to cover that distance – at the time I kept telling myself I was just tired, that after some food I would be fine and to just keep trudging.
Safe to say I made it to the petrol station, bought a pasta pot, a sandwich and a large coffee and quickly ate it all.
I waited five minutes. Nothing felt better.
I waited another 10. I was just getting more and more cold, sitting on the ground outside the garage, but feeling no better. I struggled to my feet and went back inside, asking them to point me in the direction of the nearest hotel, which luckily was just a ‘3 minute walk’ away. Off I went, and about 25 minutes later I arrived at the E10 hotel and checked into a room.
Once in the room, clockwork kicked in again and I found myself washing and hanging up all my kit. Once I had done this I showered. My mind was out of it but my body knew there was stuff to be done. After showering I sat down on the bed, before being hit by a wave of nausea – finding that sandwich and pasta pot being rehomed in the following few minutes.
That’s when I broke down. Tears filled my eyes, my throat became dry and I collapsed onto the bed. I felt awful. Really awful. And I felt like there was nothing I could do. I phoned both of my parents, trying not to cry as I did so, and apologising to them both that I had to spend so much money on a hotel room (once I run out of funds they become my go to). Unsurprisingly neither parent was worried about the cost of the hotel – urging me to rest up and get better. So feeling a little less guilty but equally awful – I did the sensible thing and got into bed.
A couple of hours later I felt slightly better and ventured down to the bar for a snack – being tempted even into a local beer – suddenly feeling like a good nights sleep would be the answer and in the morning I would be ready to go. And I went to bed thinking little of any illness and hoping for that good nights sleep.
Day 21 – Tuesday 21st August – Kiruna…
The night of good sleep hadn’t exactly gone to plan. A throbbing headache, combined with incredibly itchy mosquito bites made for a bad combo. I really tried hard to sleep which in turn made it more difficult to do – with the ibuprofen I was taking seeming to do little to numb the pain in my head. Nevertheless, I must have drifted off some time around 4 because the sound of my alarm awoke me at 8am – reminding me if I didn’t get out of bed soon I would miss my breakfast.
I took a couple more ibuprofen and headed downstairs, feeling a little groggy but putting this down to a poor nights sleep. Breakfast was good and I made the decision to stay one more night, giving myself a day off walking. I asked the staff in the hotel what there was to see/do and was recommended to take the bus tour to the mine – which set off from the town centre just 2km away.
Deciding this was a great way to spend my rest day I went for it – both enjoying the feats of human engineering, but also building a resentment towards this huge company who were tearing up half of Sweden out of what they called ‘necessity’ with little thought for the natural environment or the local people within it. This resentment grew when they tried to label themselves as a sustainable organisation and turned a little to pity as I saw the employees genuinely seemed to believe it. I think there will be another blog post about this soon… but for now I have not the energy.
Either way I went on the tour which lasted a couple of hours and found myself needing to sit down for a rest when getting off the coach. I then convinced myself to stop being silly and walked home, via the church, which I was promised was a must see… it looks a little like the pictures below and if you ask me – it’s not that much of a show stealer…
I made it back to the hotel, feeling more awful than when I had set out and again hoped that the headache would miraculously disappear.
I went to dinner that evening and struggled to eat, breaking down once again afterwards and speaking to my mum on the phone again. She reassured me the only way to get better was to rest and told me to stop beating myself up. I knew that she was right but couldn’t help but be frustrated with myself. Why was I not getting any better? Why were the pain killers not helping?!
Reluctantly we said goodbye and after a quick trip out to the supermarket for more pain killers, I hopped into bed and prayed for a better nights sleep. Fortunately this time I drifted off, and slept better than I have done for a while, albeit still not as well as I would have hoped.
Day 22 – Wednesday 24th August- Kiruna…
And that brings me to today – where I have moved about 3km across town to access a slightly cheaper hotel – but other than that have done nothing but rest – even taking a nap this afternoon.
I still have a headache and I still do not know why. I still feel dizzy when I stand up and I can still hear ringing in my ears. I have no idea why I feel this way, only that I do and it is driving me mad.
But I know there is nothing I can do.
Nothing more I can do.
Nothing more but continue to rest and hope I feel better. I have improved today – I think there were a couple of moments where I didn’t feel too bad and maybe even smiled. The pain killers also seem to be working better today – always a positive sign. If I wake up with a headache tomorrow I will be seeing a doctor. I am giving my body one last go at fixing itself before calling in a professional.
So where am I going with all this. This is not some attempt at generating a pity party so that people feel sorry for me. This is me finally admitting a weakness and giving in to the fact that this one is out of my control. A weakness that I can’t magically cure or get over – something which is just happening, it is fact and that’s that.
And that’s how this essay links back to what I was saying at the start about learning something about myself.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a ‘yeh, but…’ person.
This has affected me positively – allowing me to not focus entirely on a negative. But also negatively – never allowing me to focus fully on a positive.
Think about it and you realise people use this ‘yeh, but…’ thing all the time – whether it’s in response to a meaningful compliment, a refusal to take up a challenge because you are scared to do so, or even just a reluctance to admit that maybe you are broken, and that it is time to stop fighting.
I can think of hundreds of times I have used this attitude. When I got results at school I would think ‘yeh these results are good BUT what if I had worked just a little harder’, then when I did a canoe race and perhaps finished 6th in the country I would think, ‘yeh that was good BUT what if I had trained a little harder’. When I start thinking like this I realise I apply this style of thinking to everything I do.
Then I realised that if I continue to think like this then I will never be able to appreciate fully anything that I have achieved. Not just that, but thinking this way towards future decisions, ‘yes I could go for that dream job BUT what about all these other things’ etc. And you start to realise that you are imposing limits on what you can do just by the way you think about things.
So I have made a decision to try and drop this ‘Yeh, but’ attitude. I imagine it won’t be simple but I think it is about time I started to credit myself for things I do, and have confidence that there is so much more out there for me to achieve.
What’s more I hope that in saying these things I can help other people to drop this attitude too.
For example GCSE results day is tomorrow and a lot of children/parents will be nervously waiting to see if they have achieved what they wanted. On my results day, I had high hopes, having been predicted a good set of results IF I put the work in. I did work pretty hard – but I knew I could have done more, perhaps due to a ‘yeh, but’ fear of putting lots of work in and not getting the results I worked for. Then results day came, I got a pretty good set of results, but not as good as I wanted. Still this ‘yeh, but’ attitude which had probably stopped me from a clean sweep of (A*’s) then gave me comfort by reminding me of all the things I had been doing (largely swimming, canoeing, playing hockey etc.) instead of studying. This gave me a little reassurance, but did not change the fact I had not got the results I wanted.
With hindsight I can see that this is how I have approached everything through life. Part of me wants to yell out here – saying that if one does everything possible to get what you want you will achieve it. But is this really true. Is there ever a guarantee. Hours and hours of hardwork can be brought down by things entirely outside of one’s control, and that is nothing to be ashamed of.
I think what I am trying to say is ditch any notion of the word ‘but’. Things happen. They happen all the time and the best we can do is prepare as well as possible, make sensible decisions and learn to reward the efforts we put in, without looking for a way to discredit them in any way.
Easier said than done maybe, but this is my way of starting to ditch this attitude.
My name is Sophie Rooney. I am 23 years old. I have a lovely family and beautiful friends. I have a Masters degree with merit. I once got a county record in 50m freestyle. I have represented my country doing a sport that I love on a number of occasions. I set my bars high and I work hard to get as close to them as possible. And now I am running the length of Scandinavia, raising money for charity and pushing the limits of what people can achieve.
I am proud of each and every one of those things.
I would before have stumbled, finding reason why anyone could do any of those things.
But now I see it differently, yes anyone could do any of those things, and many people will do each of them and more. But that doesn’t mean I should be any less proud of the fact I have done them.
I’m putting an end to the ‘yeh, but’ attitude and I hope that I can inspire others to do the same. Already I have been amazed by people saying I have inspired them to take up new challenges, this makes me feel an even greater sense of pride in what I am doing. To every one of those people – make sure no matter how big or small that challenge is, you look back on it and say you know what, I did it and I am proud. No buts. Just be proud.
That goes for anyone out to get results tomorrow too. You’ve worked, you’ve put the time in, you sat the exams, be proud of that fact. There is nothing about anything on a piece of paper which will hold you back from reaching the places you want to go, if you can look back without questioning, and just be proud about what you have done, before deciding what more you can do tomorrow to be proud of in future.
And on that very emotionally driven note – I am going to take some more pain killers and eat some dinner… I hear salmon is on the menu this evening.
Heads up everyone, and from now on, no buts.