|Your time is limited,
so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.
At my parents New Years dinner 2007, I casually mentioned that I was considering walking the entire length of the Great Wall of China. My parents temporarily stopped eating, and looked up having heard similar messages before. My sister was more therapeutic, saying it sounded like an interesting experience…
It is never easy to break the expectations of ones surroundings, and perhaps more so for family and close friends. Therefore, I wanted to let them know early on that I was seriously considering this walk. Being open had the additional bonus that they hopefully wouldn’t call me absolutely raving mad behind my back, since they knew I had spent a considerable amount of time making the decision.
They asked how long time the walk would take, and I answered probably about a year. Someone asked early on if I couldn’t ride a horse, or cycle the wall instead. I have little knowledge of horses, and the Great Wall is a defensive structure always built close to the highest ground for the defensive advantage, so cycling was out of the question.
As 2007 progressed, I devised an imaginary percent-o-meter. How likely is it that I will walk the Great Wall, in percent? After all, I have worked almost all my career in the banking and financial industry. It gave me a clear way of communicating the chances of leaving the shores of Norway.
In the beginning, the percent-o-meter read 20 % which felt a safe place to be. No proper commitment, but still I could spend time dreaming about the trip. As 2007 went on, I started dreaming more and more about the walk and experience. This was day time dreaming… But soon, I was unable to fall asleep for hours just thinking about the adventure of walking the Great Wall. I also followed fellow Wall Wallker Mark Scholinz on the internet as he laboured along the Great Wall of China. So the prospect of following this dream kept me up for hours several nights.
I interpreted the sleepless nights as a percent-o-meter wake up call, I was soon at 50%. So – you may think – why is 50% any better than 20%? Still no commitment right? Perhaps not, but it brings up a lot of interesting conversations, because people that know me, know that I don’t just talk the talk, but potentially could walk the wall at this point.
A friend called Fredrik and I share the strange interest of camping outdoors in the forests surrounding Oslo when the temperature is at its coldest. At this time, Fredrik was more interested in the percent-o-meter than many, and he was probably one of the few that supported me in exploring even higher percentages!! We had many talks about how the trip could be, and Fredrik also introduced me to the wonders of lightweight hiking. So Fredrik – many thanks for helping to push me across the non-committal 50% border!
Many thoughts went through my head at this time. On the one side was the forsaking of a really good life in Oslo. Good friends, and family. A great job, and good colleagues. Charming girls… I was asking myself if it was right to leave all these good things and security, for the unknown and a year more or less in solitude. On the other hand, I kept reminding myself that life is not a rehearsal. We have this one go at it, and it had better be good! I thought that if this dream has stuck with me for more than two decades, I would never forgive myself if I didn’t give it my best go.
As 2007 progressed, the sleepless nights didn’t stop, and I followed Mark on his hike, the percent-o-meter kept steadily increasing. When October came, it was as far as it would go, and I slowly started preparing for vacating my logical and physical place in Norway for a year or two in the stead of walking the Great Wall of China.