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What’s it like to walk across a country?

In our February evening talk, David Atthowe shared his experience of walking 10,000km

What’s it like to walk across a country?

This is what we discovered on a February evening at our BFER Evening Talk with David Atthowe. David, founder of walking organisation Nomadic Lion, shared his experiences of walking across, not just one, but multiple countries!

Through Nomadic Lion, David has walked 10,000km on foot. It all began, when he was working in Australia in a job that required a lot of walking. When a friend commented ‘you walk so far you could walk across a country!’, an idea was sparked! In 2014 David set off with a friend to walk across the entire length of Peninsular Malaysia. With no prior experience of long distance walking, and after spending just one week planning, the pair spent 48 days walking a whopping 1110km from Tanjung Piai, Johor, to Wang Kelian, Perlis.

After the initial challenge of walking across Malaysia, David has walked across several countries, including Borneo, and long distance walks across Norfolk.

His longest walk to date was a 5000km walk from the southern tip of India to the north. ‘Walk of Joy India‘ spanned across 10 states from Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, to Amritsar Punjab. The walk was in aid of supporting Indian farmers during an agricultural crisis. In the talk, David discussed his aim of spreading joy through his walks. He discussed the infectious nature of smiling, and how smiling is a universal language for bringing people together.

Why walk across a country?

David discussed the benefits of walking as a way of transport and discovering a place. By walking in a new place, you have no choice but to absorb your surroundings. By slowing down, you absorb truly every village, town, and landscape, as well as each individual met along the way.

David also talked about how his travels have given him a great faith in humanity, and how the majority of people are truly good. A simple test for this, David explained, was the act of knocking on a strangers door and asking if they could refill his water bottle. David shared a story of one such time when walking across the county of Norfolk. A family in Hunstanton not just filled the bottle, but also offered him and his walking companion a bed for the night. As David left the following day, and was thanking the family profusely, the family stopped him and said: ‘No, thank you for giving us the chance to be kind’.


The challenges

Walking 10,000km is of course not without its challenges, and David discussed some of the pressures faced. From blisters to dehydration to wildlife, the main physical danger that David faced was that of traffic.

Fatigue also posed both a physical and mental challenge. When pushing his body to its limits, David discussed the spiritual sensation of entering an altered state of awareness, when his mind and body were so tired that he entered an almost out of body experience. It was in these moments that the kindness of strangers provided huge support and moral.



David discussed some of his long distance walking inspirations, including the human rights advocate Vioba Bhave, and activist Peace Pilgrim.


Why should we walk:

The benefits of walking are not just found when walking long distances, they can be felt during any distance of walk including a short simple stroll. Since childhood, David has felt the benefits of walking to find headspace.

Here are some of the benefits that David finds by walking:

  • Slowing down
  • Time to think
  • Space to create
  • Relatively low impact activity

To find out more about David’s Nomadic Lion adventures HERE

If you would like to find out more about walking routes to explore, why not visit our Walking in the Brecks page to discover both short and long distance trails.