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I would walk a thousand miles.

Last Saturday I walked the Chehalis-Western Trail; a full 22 miles, with a friend. Unexpectedly, I woke up Sunday morning after sleeping nearly 12 hours with an intense desire to do it again.

Taking to social media to share pictures of our journey, we were met with a mix of concern, congratulations, and confusion. Why had we done it? Had we prepared ourselves adequately - physically and mentally - or was this a split decision made through laughter over dinner and drinks one evening?

I repeatedly stated that I simply wanted to take a long walk. And I'm lucky I had someone offer to join me so I could check it off my non-existent bucket list.

But the truth is, it was far more than just a walk.

I am a wanderer.

When I decided to begin my discovery process in January, learning that I could, in fact, change my mind and reorder my belief system, I quickly got lost inside myself. I was hooked; addicted to ripping apart my faith and venturing into new practices I'd formerly turned my nose up to. I proclaimed I am writing a book - more so to keep myself accountable to the arduous task - and quickly gathered willing souls to share their own journey of discovery so I could keep my words hidden away until it was time to unveil them in the form of a memoir or novel or guide.

I do like keeping secrets.

As I've unearthed and discarded or replanted my beliefs, I've found myself drawn to stories of physical journeys; people who express their internal turmoil or passion or purpose by taking to the road - on foot, or by plane, boat, camel, basically whatever would keep them moving.

The point is to be moving.

Moving through transition is appealing - never staying still or becoming stagnant - and I admire those who have deliberately put their lives on pause in order to heal, to seek, to wander alone with themselves as a means to find themselves.

  • I watched the movie and then captively listened to Wild. It was my first book on Audible. (Having seen Reese Witherspoon at the Portland airport during filming, I felt oddly connected to the story.)
  • Last summer I fell in love with The Alchemist as we traveled across America and I found many pieces of myself scattered throughout, so I captured every bit with my trusty highlighter and then bought copies for a lot of people.
  • Eat Pray Love sat collecting dust on my bookshelf for years before it finally revealed itself to me and pulled me in. It was soon followed by Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It, and I have since fallen in author love with Elizabeth Gilbert. I am going to meet her someday.
  • More recently, coming home from work one afternoon in a haze of temporary depression, I watched the movie Tracks in the dark cave that is my bedroom and cried and ached for my internal journey to become physical. I didn't know Tracks was first a book, so immediately after the movie ended I instructed my husband through red, puffy eyes to drive me to the nearest bookstore so I could buy it. I also stared at the real photographs online for days.

And that's when I knew I needed to take a long walk.

22 miles.

I told my friend and soulmate, Kim (who takes all my headshots, by the way), about my idea and we began the search online for doable day trips. I workout in some form or fashion every day, but I wasn't sure I could endure hours of walking. We picked the date and began walking during our lunch breaks and in the evenings; we focused on strength training and attempted healthy eating most days. We resolved to finish strong but gave ourselves the okay to stop at any point. 

For 21 miles I remained a positive cheerleader. We took breaks to stretch, to eat lunch, made up songs, sang real ones, and attempted meditative breathing when we felt like we wanted to die. Our water ran out around mile 13 and there were zero drinking fountains at the trailheads - City of Olympia, Thurston County, get it together - but I remained positive. However, during that final mile, I willingly sunk into the soreness of my feet and was an immovable grump. I was tired, thirsty, and wanted to eat an entire pizza. 

But we did it. We walked 22 miles in a single day, logged over 51,000 steps according to our Fitbits, in a little over eight hours. And waking up the morning after wanting to do it again made me finally understand why the walk was so important in the first place.

When faith becomes physical.

As I stretch my faith and rewire my brain, choosing my beliefs on a spiritual level, I can't help but translate it to my physical life. I've been pushing myself to the edges of belief, digging to the core, and it doesn't always feel good. I sulk and whine, groaning from the lessons and ignore them altogether some days. But I still find value in the pursuit; in the pains of it and the joy of it.

Now it's time to see how far I can push my actual body. Walking 22 miles was a physical way of manifesting my internal changes. It wasn't something I just thought about, it's something I did - something I'm doing. Much like the way I can't help but read books and blogs and articles about belief patterns and systems and practices, I can't help but daydream about walking longer trails, logging a thousand miles or more, as I seek experiences to interact with my faith. It's not just talking the talk, it's walking the walk - literally.

Being inside myself for so long, it's no wonder I'm being drawn outdoors. I want to expand my beliefs and change my mind, and I want to walk farther, jump higher, run faster, and build muscle, all so I can carry a pack on my back with all I need to survive.

I would literally walk a thousand miles to solidify my beliefs. What would you do to solidify yours?

Amber Cadenas

Leah Janzen