On January 1st 2020, I set out to walk 2020 kilometers in one year as a way to ground myself in a world of uncertainty and turmoil. Little did I know how much more uncertain and tumultous the world would become, or how beneficial those kilometers would prove to be.
At first it was a way to connect with people and deepen my anchors in my community. Walking with friends was the bright light in that gloomy winter as we watched the days creep slowly longer. I hitched a few other people to this crazy bandwagon. 178km down.
Then, in March, COVID came and everything shut down. All the shops, cafes, theatres, schools, medical clinics. The choir rehearsals and volleyball games, cancelled. My prospects of visiting or having visitors from Australia, shattered. I was adrift. So I walked, and the walking helped me to appreciate all the things that could never be shut: sunshine, rocky riverbanks, birdsong, and the feel of the ground crunching under my feet. 510km down.
My locum work dried up. I got a job in the COVID assessment clinic. I spent my days walking between patients’ cars and the PPE donning station and tried to smile reassuringly with my eyes. We were going to get through these crazy times together.
The spring came and with it another new job at a brand new, first-of-its kind clinic. And shortly thereafter, the role of its medical lead. 2020 saw me stepping up as well as just… well… stepping. It turns out that opening a new medical clinic in a pandemic in a foreign medical system of which I have a mere 18 months experience is the kind of hilarious nightmare I never would have imagined myself in. Luckily, my new commute was a 20 minute stroll through beautiful parklands where ducklings, families of deer and curtains of wisteria eased my work-worry and helped me tick off ever more kilometers. 600km down.
With the summer came the big hikes through forests and up mountains and to glacial lakes with backpacks and blisters and weary smiles. When you can’t travel far but your backyard is BC, what can you do but get out and explore the heck out of it? Some of those days were tough, but the months of walking made me brave enough to attempt what would have previously felt unattemptable. I learned that the view from the top is always worth it. 1393km down.
The trees put on their autumn coats, the cold winds started blowing and COVID case numbers started to climb ever higher. As 2020 wound down, restrictions tightened up and walking became literally the only activity you could do with someone outside of your household. I thanked my lucky stars that I had trained all year for this one little sliver of permitted social interaction. 1891km down.
Finally, in those first new winter days, the walking became a symbol of persistence and determination and how small steps lead to big things. Of what I could do if I set myself a goal that aligned with my values and brought me joy.
I had never really been one for new years resolutions, and yet here I was with a mere one day to spare on the 30th of December, walking my last kilometre down a snowy road, alone, as the sun set over the mountains. Still in Canada, still far away from home, still in the midst of a pandemic, but somehow doing just fine.