A Walk to Remember

Photo Credit: Melanie Sangwine

On a cold January morning in Edinburgh, when most people are tucked up in bed, the sun begins to rise, illuminating the castle and gently melting the frost. Towards the esplanade, a small group huddled around one man begin a countdown.

As they reach zero, a faint cheer is heard and a bearded figure emerges wheeling a buggy piled high with equipment. The man’s name is James Thomas and he has just begun a walk from Edinburgh to New Zealand.

On a trip that will cover 12,500 miles, through 15 countries and take him two years to complete, he will be crossing hostile territories, Indonesian rainforests and the Australian desert to reach the antipodal point of Edinburgh, Dunedin. With no support team, he is carrying all the equipment he needs himself and intends to spend his long nights camping, couch surfing and staying with friends where possible.

Originally from West Cork in Ireland, Thomas has been living in Edinburgh for the last five years whilst studying film and photography at Edinburgh Napier University. Having graduated last year, he notes, “I was struggling to find work in film and photography so I decided to fulfil this thing I’ve always wanted to do.”

Aiming to walk 130 miles a week- a distance which equates to roughly five marathons- it is undeniable that this will be a very demanding challenge.

However, Thomas remains admirably optimistic, he comments, “I don’t think it is going to be too bad physically. There are people who do physical labour, working on building sites every day and doing much harder things than what I’m doing. I’m just walking.” Already a keen rambler, he has experience trekking in the Annapurna and a couple of months ago made the trip from Inverness to Fort William in preparation for his expedition.

Ultimately, this is not simply a personal endeavour but an effort to raise funds for children’s charity UNICEF. On choosing the organisation, he says, “It’s a very international challenge so I wanted to support an international charity. I wanted a charity that no matter where I went people knew what it was for.”

He has high hopes, with aims of raising £1,000,000 over the course of the trip. But, as he rightly points out, “If David Walliams can get it for swimming the channel, surely I can get it for walking around the world.”

The motivation behind his adventure appears ambiguous. “It changes every day. Most recent is I just turned 30 so I’m saying to myself this is the last chance I can go out and do something as I’m not getting any younger. I’ve always wanted to do this. Travelling to the antipodal point has always been the thing.”

With a keen desire to have something to show for himself, it is apparent that for Thomas this is a very personal ordeal. When asked how he thinks it will affect him as a person, he contemplates for a second before answering, “It is inevitable that it will change me somewhat but I don’t know yet whether it will change me for the better or for the worse.” As the interview draws to a close, we come to a stop and I thank him for his time, already glad that in a few minutes I will be inside and beginning to get warm after what was a bitterly cold morning. However, for Thomas, this is only the beginning, and as I bid him farewell, he turns and begins to walk the long road, alone.

For more information, or to sponsor James, you can visit his website here.

Taken from The Student, published Tue Jan 31st 2012.

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