Most walls are fairly innocuous installations. Coming across one won’t normally pose a problem – you can unlatch a gate and carrying on your merry way, perhaps follow the signs diverting you around, even scramble over the top.
But what to do when the latch won’t budge? When the signs are bent at the wrong right angles? When the wall’s too high? Some walls are less innocuous.
When not purloining ideas from the blogosphere’s round the world packing list examples, pre-trip I was heeding the forewarnings of hitting ‘the wall’ – a place of doubt and danger for the weary traveler. The treatments most commonly prescribed all sang from the same hymn sheet: don’t panic, rest, recharge, carry on, weather the storm. Sound counsel when the barrier you encounter resembles a manageable three foot high picket fence rather than a wall per se, as happened after touching down in Australia four and a half months in. But what of a more substantial wall, one that shouts “proceed with caution”, one I’ve failed to scale?
The singular slice of advice which resonated most before I took off from Heathrow’s tarmac back in August 2013 was to know when the wall you’ve hit is robust and reinforced. Acknowledge the situation. With this in mind I asked myself some frank questions. If I had to fly home tomorrow would I be happy with what I’ve seen and done? Has a slight edge been lost off the travels? Am I questioning whether the thrill is still there? Does the thought of sleeping in another dorm room make me shudder? Have I worn my underwear for more consecutive days than is hygienically acceptable? As I could answer ‘yes’ to all of the above I knew it was time to start making the necessary arrangements. And so I advise any budding backpackers to do the same.
The kind of wall Paula Radcliffe hits has a limited shelf life and will probably be conquered within the hour. The traveler’s wall on the other hand has no clearly defined end point, so things shouldn’t be left to fester. Be honest in your dealings and never experience fear, as there is nothing to fret over about calling it a day. There’s always tomorrow. There’s always tomorrow to fulfil the desire for further edification and appreciation of the cultural chasms that can exist between home sweet home and abroad. Time to start planning for the next adventure.