Recently, CAFOD volunteers participated in the Share the Journey campaign by walking a 70 mile trek from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral. Julia describes the walk she shared with her friends Eleanor and Jack.
On the first day, we left Southwark Cathedral and walked to Erith in 30-degree heat. We completed our first part of the journey by walking 14.7 miles, my feet were doing remarkably well bar one small blister.
The following morning, we set off early to walk to Gravesend. It was about 45 minutes before we got there when I ran out of water. I knew when we reached Gravesend I would be able to fill up my water bladder, but I started to think about refugees who have to make these journeys and may not have access to water. They may not know where their next drink will be. I started to think about how welcomed we had been at places and how many who are forced to flee are treated with suspicion.
From Gravesend, we walked to Rochester Cathedral, where we made the mistake of sitting down straight away. After trying to stand up again our muscles had become stiff. We waddled down the high street and I started to think about what I needed to do so I could continue to walk the next day. All I wanted to do was take off my heavy walking shoes and rest my feet – I even considered walking barefoot down the road! In that moment I realised how much a pair shoes can mean. For me I had shoes prepared for long walking, for many though, how often do they walk long distances in shoes with lack of support and comfort?!
The next day we left in the rain, which continued for the rest of the day. We walked to Charing via Aylesford Priory, where we were warmly welcomed for lunch. At this point in the journey, the walk was about putting one foot in front of the other to finish the journey. There were a few low points during that day such as extra and unnecessary walking while wearing wet clothes in the wind, keeping us cold. At one of my lowest points in the journey, I was playing some music and a song came on about laying your problems at Jesus’ feet. I realised that this walk was about getting to Canterbury in time to reach our goal, but for Jesus on his walk to Calvary it was about walking to his death. I understood that for many who walk long journeys, they could be fleeing to the unknown, and for many they may not finish.
Monday morning was the hardest day to overcome for me, the other two had gone on a head and I was walking a mile every 30 minutes. The soles of my feet were in shreds, my toe nails were purple and felt like they may fall off. At this point, I wasn’t sure I could walk another metre let alone the 6 miles after lunch. My parents met me on my journey, and thankfully my mum had bandaged up my feet. I knew I wanted to make it to Canterbury which was a couple of hours away. This journey really helped me understand the real meaning of “not far”. It was a mental battle more for me than a physical one (even though physically it was pretty tough at times). I’m not sure what got me through the final two hours- I think prayer and those bandages but the three of us made it to Canterbury together! At our arrival point, loved ones greeted us, we were welcomed into the cathedral, and were blessed in one of the side chapels. For us, our journey of solidarity was over. For many, reaching their arrival point is where their journey of the unknown really begins.