Zoe Langley-Wathen 00:20
Well, hello lovely people! Welcome to the HeadRightOut podcast. In today’s episode, I’m going to be talking to Julia Goodfellow-Smith, and we’re going to be talking about her need to adventure, and how it was spurred on by the death of her mother just before retirement, and a personal health scare. And we discuss how it took her 25 years to realise that there were many things on her bucket list. But one thing in particular that she really needed to conquer, and that she could actually do it. My goodness me the resilience of this woman is incredible. And we talk about our superpowers and how we should harness them to use to our advantage. And for me, I could really see a direct link with work ethics and routine and just think about how you operate in your own work life. I’m pretty certain you’ll find your superpowers there, lurking somewhere. So Julia recently published a book and we’re going to talk about her book as well. So without further ado, I am going to launch into our conversation to HeadRightOut.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 01:37
Well, hello everybody, and welcome to the HeadRightOut podcast. Today is the 7th of July 2021, and I have with me today a very special lady. Her name is Julia Goodfellow-Smith, and she is going to talk to us, all about making your dreams a reality. So there’s some very exciting things that she has been up to of late, so I’m going to just read you a little bit about Julia and what she’s what she’s been doing. So Julia Goodfellow-Smith is an ordinary person who is doing something extraordinary. Living her bucket list, she would like to help others do the same, which is why she has written this book. She has held a variety of management and consultancy roles in a range of sectors, including conservation, volunteering, banking, and construction. She is currently focusing her attention on adventure, writing, and presenting. Julia lives close to the Malvern Hills with her husband, Mike. She spends a lot of time either wandering on the hills or working in their small woodland nearby. She is a member of the Women’s Institute and Toastmasters International, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a senator of Junior Chamber International JCI.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 02:53
Wow. That is amazing. So, Julia, thank you. Thank you so much for agreeing to come on the podcast that is quite a list of things that you’ve been up to there, and that you have attached to your name? Where do we start? I think before I just dip in and allow you to tease out some of that I would just like to start with a quote from your book. And I believe it might even be the first quote. It’s on page nine of your book. And this just absolutely resonated with me, because I did get a pre-copy to read for Julia. So it says “life is to be lived as a magnificent adventure, or not at all”. And wow. Was that…? I didn’t actually write down who wrote that quote. I think it was… it was a lady.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 03:44
It was Helen Keller.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 03:45
Helen Keller. Yes, I was. I was about to say Helena Bonham-Carter but I know that’s not right!
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 03:50
No that’s not quite right.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 03:51
No it’s not is it?!
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 03:52
So? Well? Yeah. I mean, that just absolutely sat with me perfectly. Because that’s that’s what I’m about. So where did this come from this need to adventure and this realisation that if life is about adventure, you’ve got to just grab it. What was that all about?
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 04:09
Well, there are two things that have happened to me that have had a big impact on my desire to adventure. The first happened quite a long time ago now – twenty years ago, and it was my mum, she died from cancer at a very early age, she was only 59. And I was in my thirties. And I thought to myself, I can’t wait for retirement to have adventures, because she died six months before she retired. So that got me really thinking about how I was spending my life and what I was doing for work and things like that. And my life did change radically after that moment, but more recently, I had a bit of a health scare. I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but I was told that I had a lung condition. That means that as I get older, I’ll be more susceptible to respiratory disease when I found that out, the words that I heard were actually, “if you want to have adventure, you better go and do it now, while you can”. So, I took that to heart and decided that having a long commute into Birmingham to a job that I really wasn’t enjoying that much, was not the best way to spend my life. And I thought about what I could do next, that would be more adventurous. And I made a list of all the jobs that I could do. And I got a bit stuck on the word adventurer, which sounds quite ridiculous to me, even now. But that was all I wanted to do. I wanted to go out and have adventures. So that was really what kick-started it in the more recent past.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 05:40
Wow, yeah, I totally get that. I’m so sorry that you lost your mum so young. That was a really significant moment for you, and obviously very painful. But it’s amazing, isn’t it how, something like that, then filters through into our decision-making and our choices later on in life. And we start realizing the connection when we’re faced with our own potential mortality, or as in your case, your health scare. I think my big decision started to come to fruition when I lost my dad. And so it’s a very similar situation in that I started thinking, ‘okay, life is too short, I really got to think about doing those things now before age starts creeping in’.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 06:27
But Wow. Okay, so the word adventure just stuck with you. How did that then… because that’s obviously a seed that’s been sown. How did that then start growing and blossoming and then eventually fruiting? What happened there?
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 06:44
Well, I started looking online, at how to become an adventurer. It’s a great search term,
Zoe Langley-Wathen 06:56
Great for SEO!
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 07:00
And I came across a few websites, one of which was Bex Band who runs Love Her Wild.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 07:05
Ah yes, I know Bex.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 07:06
And she gives an awful lot of information on her website about how she became an adventurer. And it made me realise that it is actually possible to do this on a full-time basis. So I used that really as an encouragement to carry on. And I started thinking about, okay, the first thing you need to do if you think you want to be an adventurer is go out and have some adventures, of course. So I started thinking about what I wanted to do, what was the first thing on my list? And the first thing that came to mind, and that stayed really strongly on the list for me was walking the South West Coast Path. I’d read a book when I was 25 or so, so about 25 years ago, called 500 Mile Walkies by Mark Wallington, and it was a funny book. He walked around the South West Coast Path with his dog. And ever since reading that, I thought, well, that’s something I’d like to do one day, so it had been on my bucket list for 25 years and I thought it was about time that I actually did it. So I decided that that was going to be my first adventure walking the South West Coast Path. And then of course, Coronavirus hit, which meant that I couldn’t walk the South West Coast Path when I’d planned to.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 08:16
Wow. Yeah, so I’ve got to go back to Mark Wallington. I’ve read Mark Wallington’s 500 Mile Walkies as well. And it was after I discovered the South West Coast Path, because I grew up around in that area. But yes, I totally get that. It was a laugh-out-loud book. I mean, it’s the sort of book you don’t read on the train for fear of snorting. It just had me in stitches, and actually for a while he lived in Swanage in Dorset. I think he was working up in London. But yeah, I think he was either from Swanage, or he lived in Swanage for a while. But yeah, great book. Absolutely loved that. I managed to pick up a couple of copies of his other books. Actually, it was 500 Mile Walkies. And it was a few books together in one book, and I found it in a charity shop in Sherborne. It had been signed by him and stamped with Boogie’s paw print. Oh, this is this is amazing. Yes. So I have that and it’s precious to me.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 09:18
Wow. So you had that moment of ‘okay, this is going on my bucket list’. You said that was about 25 years ago.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 09:26
Zoe Langley-Wathen 09:26
This has taken you ages to get to the point where you then really thought, Okay, I’m going to go and do it. I mean, I was 15 years and I thought that was a long time before going off, but 25 years!
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 09:40
Well, there are a few factors involved in that. There are a number that I can identify clearly. So the first one is the fact that I had done another long distance walk in the past. When I was twenty, I walked the Yorkshire Wolds Way, and I had an awful week. Well, I was young and inexperienced. My pack was heavy, my hips hurt constantly, it rained, I had a new waterproof, that turned out not to be. So I was wet all week, I’d bought some new fuel for my stove that didn’t actually heat the water up. So the dried food that should have had boiling water on it to heat up, never really cooked properly. And it was just a miserable, miserable week. I finished the walk because I’m a pretty determined person, but it really put me off long distance walking. I thought that’s it. So even reading 500 Mile Walkies, and really wanting to walk the South West Coast Path, I still had that in the back of my mind that the pain, the discomfort of that walk, back when I was twenty.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 10:48
So you walked that path before you read the book?
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 10:52
Yes, yeah. So that was one of the factors. Another factor is at the South West Coast Path is 630 miles long. So I thought it’s going to take a long time to walk it. So therefore I was going to need to take two months off work to walk it. And of course, I was completely wrong with that assumption. When you think about these things more closely, it’s easy to find solutions to the problems.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 11:16
So when I was walking, I met somebody called Artie, who I walked with for a while. And he’s now walked the South West Coast Path, I think he’s just finished his twenty-fourth walk of the South West Coast Path. And he has been walking it every year. He started off when he was working. And he did it in two week chunks. So every two years, he walked the whole of the path. And I’ve met various other people who’ve done it over seven years, a week at a time on leave. And if I’d have thought about it as well, you can run it in 12 days. So I could have run it in one year, if I’d have wanted to. Obviously, I would have had to have trained quite hard to do that. But it would have been possible. So this idea of not having the time to do it was a load of nonsense. But it was just something that I accepted as a belief. And that’s why one of the things that I talk about in my book, are these sorts of obstacles to achieving your bucket list that you just assume are obstacles. But when you think about it really well and apply yourself to the problem, you can often find solutions. That means that, you know I could have walked the South West Coast Path twenty years ago and only had it on my bucket list for five years. And I could have walked it four or five times in between quite easily, or walked the Wales Coast Path as well, or what have you. So I’m kicking myself for having had that thought. But there it is. That’s how it was.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 12:36
You do don’t you? We’re all guilty of putting up barriers and you know, I’m definitely a barrier lady. I put up so many barriers and and I now realise I’ve got to face my fears more. But you know, imposter syndrome is a big thing.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 12:51
I’ve got to just digress here. I am actually mopping up tears. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but I know Artie, did you know that? Have I mentioned him before? I’m not sure.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 13:04
I found out recently.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 13:06
Okay, yeah, okay. Right. So, this is so bizarre Julia, but I was sat reading your book; I was sat on the front of the boat in the sunshine a couple of weeks ago, and I’m partway through, and suddenly you mentioned Arthur. And it’s like, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, and you know it when you just want to like squeal out loud. I mean, I was I was squealing but trying to do it quietly because I live on a boat for those people that don’t know that. And you know, there are people walking past on the towpath. And as I read on, you talk more and more about Artie and it’s like, oh my goodness. Ten years ago, I met Arthur, funnily on the South West Coast Path.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 13:46
Zoe Langley-Wathen 13:47
Yes. He is a legend. You’re right. And you talk about him in your book as being a legend. He definitely is. I when I was walking the Wales Coast Path, I met a group of people who said, Oh, yeah, we met this great guy, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Oh, and his name was Artie. I was like, yeah, I know exactly who they were talking about straightaway. Yeah, and actually, it was down to Artie that I met Mike. And so really, if it wasn’t for for him, Mike and I probably may never have met… or we might have done you know what it’s like on the coast path. You know, there are a few people walking in the same direction. At some point you are going to meet. Yeah, Artie introduced us. And yeah, he was at our wedding five years ago.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 14:25
Zoe Langley-Wathen 14:26
And it’s actually Artie’s birthday today!
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 14:29
Oh, is it!? Happy Birthday, Artie!
Zoe Langley-Wathen 14:33
I think he’s either. I can’t remember if he’s 73 or 74. But yes, he is quite the guy and he’s on number 24. He’s not quite finished the South West Coast Path yet. But he’s still on it. And the last time I spoke to him…
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 14:48
Yeah, he’s he’s sending me messages periodically telling me how he’s getting on.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 14:52
Yeah, and I sent him because you came to visit me on the boat a few weeks ago, I sent him a photograph. And I said, do you know this woman? “Oh yes that’s Julia.” Yes, it’s like being in teaching – we’ve always said, you know, it’s such small circles, but it’s the same with walking and adventuring. Long-distance hiking, ever-decreasing circles, you know somebody who knows somebody, who knows somebody. It’s such a wonderful community, and they always support you. And we learn from one another. And I think that’s, that’s the beauty of it isn’t it? You know, you meet someone like Arthur, who’s been walking the path for eons, and has got so much experience, and yet, he will learn from us as much as we learn from him, you know, because we’ve discovered new kit perhaps, or lighter weight stuff that maybe he hasn’t discovered or different routes. It’s just such a wonderfully full and exciting community and experience, to me. T
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 15:57
This is what I’ve been surprised about, actually. I had no idea before I set off on the South West Coast Path and joined various Facebook groups, and what have you as well, just what a community there is and how willing people are to help you. If you ask about a piece of kit, or what to do about your blisters, or which tent to buy or boots, or whatever it is that you need to know about. There’s somebody there who’s willing to help you learn and make the most of your experience. And when I met Artie on the path, I’d already reached what was supposed to be my end point for the day, and I was looking for somewhere to camp. It would have been my first night wild camping. And I just sensed that there was somebody behind me on the path. And I turned around and thought, okay, I’ll just stop and be sociable. And we actually walked together for three and a half hours. And Artie told me all sorts of useful things about long-distance hiking, because I was I was new to the path. And he really helped me out giving me lots of hints and tips. And in fact, I walked with a friend a few days after I’ve met him, and she laughed. She said, I should write a book called ‘Arthur Says’.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 17:00
Yeah, oh, he would absolutely love that. He’d be totally made up that you’d do that. So is that going to be the next book? Maybe? Oh, wow. So actually, that leads quite nicely into me asking about what was your greatest learning from all of this? And because I mean, obviously, you’ve learned from other people you’ve learned from yourself, and your own experiences. But what was your greatest learning practically? And then perhaps, what was your greatest learning about yourself internally?
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 17:34
Okay, so if I’m going to start with the second one, if that’s all right, so that’s the greatest thing that I’ve learned about myself is that I can do things on my own and enjoy doing them on my own, I really enjoy doing. I have been married to my husband for eleven years now. He’s fabulous, and I love him very much indeed. He’s also done an awful lot more camping and hiking and things like that than me. So whenever we go away, he always takes charge. And that’s absolutely fine. I’ve, been perfectly happy with that. And then I realised that I needed to learn how to do that for myself. So I suppose this comes to the practical as well, I needed to learn how to wild camp by myself, I needed to just be that much more confident that I could make decisions and do things on my own without always referring to him. Because we’ve done all of these things together. He’s always been there. And he’s so much more experienced than me. And it made sense to ask him everything.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 18:35
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 18:36
So I had to become more self-reliant, and just realise that I can do these things on my own and when I don’t have somebody there to ask, I can just get on with it, and make decisions and do things on my own, which was a bit of a revelation. It sounds a bit sad. But that’s, that’s the way that’s the way it is.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 18:53
It’s so true for a lot of people though isn’t it? I don’t think it’s sad. I think it’s the way we’re conditioned anyway – you know – to believe that our male counterparts are far stronger than us, and they’re there to look after us. And a lot of women are happy with that. And that’s okay. It’s not, it’s not wrong, if that’s okay for them. Where it becomes an issue is where it’s, I guess, forced upon us. And it’s like, “No, you can’t do that, because you’re a woman”. And, “you need me to look after you”. It clearly isn’t like that with you and Mike and you found that you are stronger.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 19:28
I am beginning to think actually that allowing ourselves to be looked after makes us weaker. So obviously, in a in a marriage or in any relationship, you look after each other. And that’s the idea. And that’s a good thing. As long as it’s evenly balanced. I think if we allow ourselves to be looked after, because we’re women, and because men think they should be looking after us. That reduces our skill levels. It reduces our confidence. And I’d let that happen. And I was perfectly happy letting that happen. And I really don’t think I should have been. So this is not something that I’d really thought about terribly much before walking the South West Coast Path. But I walked for a while with somebody as well who is an older man who thought that he should walk with me because I needed a man to look after me, which I hadn’t quite realised until I was on the path. And about a day into walking together, he turned around. And he said, Today, you don’t need me to look after you do. You know? Exactly. It was a total revelation to him. That here was a woman who didn’t need looking after.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 20:39
Oh wow, go Julia! Yeah. Fabulous. So he he possibly saw you as this vulnerable novice backpacker. And then yeah, I’m so glad that you actually turned that on its head.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 20:57
And he was no more experienced than me either. Just a man.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 21:02
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 21:02
He wasn’t an experienced backpacker, particularly.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 21:05
That is hilarious! So it was just the male-female thing.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 21:09
It was just the male-female thing. And I had no idea really that people felt like that. But that’s what made me start thinking about the whole nature of my relationship with Mike helping me and me being happy to be helped and looked after realising that that, I think does make me weaker.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 21:28
Yes, I think you’re right. There’s two things I want to mention there. So I had a chat. I had a walk and a chat actually, a few weeks ago with the lovely Ursula Martin, who’s just walked across Europe, and she was coming back to Wales. She landed in Llanidloes, a couple of weeks ago, and two days before she finished, I was walking up over the Radnor hills with her and had a conversation about my fear of heights and how I was crag-fast on the side of Pen-y-Ghent, on the Pennine Way. And Mike was there, he knew not to say, “you’ll be fine, you’ll be fine”, because I’d have probably growled at him at that point. But instead he was he was above me looking down and just saying, “okay, stick your hand there. Put one hand there. There’s a foothold there.” And he just talked me through the route up. And she said, “What would you have done if he wasn’t there?” Yeah, okay, I probably would have just got on and done it because he was there. I think I automatically switched into, okay, I need help now. I mean, the wind was blowing, it was raining, and I was very high up, but it was a very short scramble. I mean, really, it’s not, it’s not hard by any means. But for me, it felt hard. So yeah, that that was the first thing I just wanted to mention on that. And it was a very similar situation.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 22:44
But also in your book in Live Your Bucket List, you talk about superpowers. And I think we’ve all got superpowers that we may or may not know that we have. And I just wondered if you’d like to talk about superpowers, because that was just like, a light bulb moment when I read that, and, and also a ‘hallelujah’! moment, like, thank you for actually putting this in print. So yes, I’m going to let you explain that.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 23:12
Okay, well, when I was planning to walk the South West Coast Path I planned, so I trained, I found out about tents. I practiced wild camping near home, so that Mike could rescue me going back to our previous conversation if necessary, which wasn’t. But I practiced, I planned I tested kit, I made sure that everything was going to work. And it was Mike actually who said to me, “Julia, you just plan so well”. And it made me realise that planning is one of my superpowers. It’s something that I do really well. And I don’t really think about this. It’s just what I do. And I think so we all have superpowers, and we can use them to our advantage. It’s not always easy, I think to identify them. Because you have to admit to yourself that you’re good at something. And we’re not always very good at that are we?
Zoe Langley-Wathen 24:02
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 24:04
When I think finding our weaknesses and know what our weaknesses are, we’re much better at. But if we have a really good think about what our superpowers are, then we can use those to our advantage. And for me, it was planning and I could use that to my advantage on the walk. For you, it may well be something different. So what’s your superpower, Zoe?
Zoe Langley-Wathen 24:21
What is my superpower? I think I’m a good planner as well. Fifteen years of planning in teaching. Yeah, it’s a superpower. But I think also for me, I’ve started to realise that it can also be a downfall. So I think there’s a way of… it’s like anything, even if it’s good for you, let’s say a superfood, a superfood may be good for you. But if you eat a few blueberries, or goji berries, they might be great for you in antioxidants are whatever they give you. But if you eat, I don’t know, let’s say two kilos of them, you’re gonna be pretty poorly. It’s not going to be great for you. So I think it’s a similar thing. So with planning for a while there, I tended to over-plan, and I think in over-planning, I learned that actually you don’t then have the freedom and the flexibility to just allow things to happen organically, just to go with the flow. So yes, I learned that quite early on. So I still do plan and I’m very, very on it when it comes to weight. I learned that on the South West Coast Path. I am not carrying eighteen kilos of backpack ever again. So now it’s this competition between Mike and I to try and carry the lightest pack. So yeah, anywhere between nine and twelve kilos, nine kilos base weight that’s without food and water..
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 25:42
You know what?
Zoe Langley-Wathen 25:43
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 25:44
I heard Paddy Dillon talk recently. He’s the man who wrote the Cicerone guide to the South West Coast Path.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 25:49
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 25:49
And he was saying that the base weight of his backpack is four and a half kilos.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 25:54
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 25:55
That it looks like a day pack. People don’t realise he’s backpacking.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 25:58
That’s insane! I love that. I need to hear more about what he’s carrying. And I’m sure, yeah, and I’m sure there’s things in in my pack that I still probably don’t need. I mean, I’m always of the belief that everything or as much as possible has to have two uses minimum. That’s the key. But you know, there’s obviously some things that can’t have that. But yeah, very, very interesting. I was going to ask you something, then it’s completely gone out of my head. I kind of just went off on a tangent there.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 26:26
Sorry, I’ve thrown you.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 26:27
No, no, no, that’s, that’s, that’s fine. Yes. Because I was just thinking, What’s my superpower?
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 26:34
I agree with you completely on the planning, and I can over-plan as well. Yes, sometimes you just have to get on with it as well.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 26:41
I know what I was going to mention to you. You certainly mentioned it in your book. And I think you’ve alluded to it in our conversation, but you talk about in your book about being an introvert. And this has actually come back to me time and time again, just in the last few months on podcasts and books I’ve been reading and your own book. And I’ve realised that, actually, I am an introvert too. And I never knew that. I mean, I would have said, ‘No, I’m the most social person out there, and how could I possibly be an introvert’, but I definitely recharge and gain my energy from being on my own. Absolutely, definitely. So that’s why when I come home from a day in a school supply teaching, I almost need to go and sit in a darkened room for two hours. It’s like, my head buzzing. And then I’m fine after that. Yes. So this is interesting, from my point of view, to hear how you discovered that you were an introvert. And if you found it difficult talking to people whilst you were on the path, or if you are a social bird… or you know what, what is it that… social butterfly, not social bird! Just realised. We’ll leave it in, it’s fine. So just I’m wondering how you handled that, and how you discovered it Really?
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 27:55
Well, I’ve really discovered it during lockdown. Because I’ve always been, I am a sociable person. I join clubs, I see lots of people, we have parties. But at our parties, I’m going to be the one in the kitchen. Even though I’m surrounded by my friends. I’m the one in the kitchen hiding away from everybody just talking to one person at once. It was during lockdown when all of that pressure I suppose to be with other people disappeared. So I’d been working in an open plan office, which meant that all day every day I was with other people, and commuting on a train with other people there. And the absolute relief when I could work from home, I realised how tiring it was spending all of that time with other people. And it really made me realise that I get my energy from being by myself. And when I’m with other people, I suppose I’ve always known this, but I’ve not really related it to introversion. When I’m with other people, I need time to recuperate. I go away for weekends with friends, for example. And by Sunday morning, that’s enough. So I’ve had a lovely Saturday seeing people that that I love, that I enjoy being with. But by Sunday morning, I need time on my own again, I need to have that space. And that’s what introversion is for me. On the path, well, always I find it difficult to talk to people or to strike up conversation. And I find it stressful talking to people as well. But I decided before going onto the path that I would talk to as many people as I possibly could and just see where it led me. And it was a fantastic experience. It was sometimes a little bit stressful, of course, for all of those reasons that I’ve said already. But the relationships that you build, even with people that you just spend five minutes with, that social interaction really gives you a boost and it helps you along your way.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 29:55
Well, I’ll give you an example. I’ll give you the example of Maggie who I write about in my book. I should say Maggie and Ian, but it was Maggie who started the conversation. I was at Starcross, I just crossed the river at Exeter, the River Exe, and again, I was beyond my end point for the day, my planned end point. But I had another three miles to walk to a campsite because my accommodation had fallen through. I was tired, because mentally I should have finished in Exeter, and I had another three miles to go. So I was tired. I was a bit fed up, feeling sorry for myself, got off the ferry at Starcross, and Maggie said, “Oh, how far are you going?” and started up this conversation with me. And at the time, I just thought, ‘I just don’t want to do this now’. Because it is difficult for me to talk to people. But within about five minutes, I’d warmed up to the conversation. And we walked together for almost the whole of the three miles because they lived near the campsite that I was going to. And it turns out that Maggie and Ian are long-distance walkers as well. We had a fabulous conversation, and Maggie particularly has stayed in touch with me through the whole of the rest of the walk. She puts encouraging posts on Facebook. She’s always encouraging me on. So it’s really valuable. Just talking to people, even if you feel a little bit uncomfortable doing it, you never know where that wonderful person is going to come from, who really gives you a boost. And her timing has been perfect all the way through the process. That just when I’m beginning to feel a bit tired and a bit low, she pops up and says how well how well I’m doing. And it’s just fabulous.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 31:32
So this is like your guardian angel arriving, isn’t it? What an opportunity and you could have missed that. So did you have any strategies then to, other than that mantra in your head, ‘I have got to talk to as many people as possible on the path’, did you actually have any strategies that you coached yourself through? When you could see somebody coming? You’re thinking, Okay, I’ve got to talk to this person, I got to talk to this person. What did you actually do or say to yourself?
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 31:59
Well, that’s really interesting, because having said I’m a really good planner, I didn’t have a plan in place. Just a matter of ‘Julia, start a conversation’.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 32:07
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 32:08
And often it was how far are you walking? I mean, that’s on the path. That’s a really easy starter, particularly if somebody is wearing a pack.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 32:16
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 32:17
Because you can tell that they’re going a decent distance. They’re not just out for the day. It’s funny, “how far are you walking?” is always a good one.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 32:25
It’s funny. We’ve got a saying now, Mike and I and… it’s Mike and I and Artie and Steve, who was another guy that we met at the halfway point, at Porthallow, with his, now wife. And we had this thing that we would say to people that were all dressed up, you know, looking like they were going the distances. “Are you going all the way?” In a strange accent? I think it’s like a blend of Arty and I don’t know, a Scotsman. But yeah, it was, “are you going all the way?” And now even when we’re walking, like we could just be walking up over the hills, or I could be sat on the boat, and we see people with huge packs walking along the canal, because they may be walking Newport to Brecon and I just have this in my head, I just want to go up to them and say “are you going all the way?!”
Zoe Langley-Wathen 33:13
But no, that’s really great to hear you found ways around that. Okay, so we’ve talked about you using your superpowers to sidestep your Achilles heel. So we’ve had various, various one of those, as I do, too, were there ever any contingency plans that you had, because you’ve planned a few contingency plans, I know. But did you ever have any that didn’t actually back you in the way that you had hoped? And did you ever have a plan C? I know you had a plan B.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 33:45
I tend to have layers of plans. So I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to think of an example. No, that’s all right. One of my contingency plans was I carried a tent repair kit around with me. And when my tent broke, my tent repair kit wasn’t up to the job. So that’s one contingency plan that didn’t work. And the reason for that, I think was the nature of the way that my tent broke.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 34:14
Would you like to share that experience? I know it’s it’s quite a highlight in your book, and I know you possibly don’t want to give away any spoilers, but it was quite an experience that not many people would expect to encounter.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 34:29
Well, it was a surprise because as a lone female hiker, wild camping sometimes, I had thought that my risk on the path my risk of attack would be when I was wild camping on my own on the path. The day that my tent was trashed by somebody else was actually in a holiday park. So I had thought that I was completely safe, totally safe space. I pitched my tent. I went and showered came back went to the bar. It was October by this point, so it was getting dark early, and I thought I’d spend the evening in the bar, have some dinner and just stay warm and in the light for a few hours. So I was sitting in the bar and somebody else who I’d seen earlier actually and had a little chat with, came running into the bar and said, Julia, Julia, somebody is trashing your tent. And I just didn’t understand. I really didn’t understand. I said, What do you mean, trashing my tent? She said, “there’s a man trashing your tent”, and she and her husband had seen it happen. And essentially what happened was that this man had taken umbrage about the fact that I’ve pitched my tent quite close to his caravan. And that and that was purely to keep it out of the wind, but I’d chosen a caravan that didn’t have a window overlooking the campsite. So from his caravan, he couldn’t see my tent, even though I was quite close. Anyway, he took umbrage at this, and it turns out in the end, and I didn’t know this at the time, but he’d grabbed my tent pole, and pulled it, he’d yanked it to try to move the tent. So he broke the pole and pulled it out through the sheath that the pole goes through, which made my tent unusable. my tent repair kit was designed for the tent breaking in the wind. So there was a pole connector, that you could put a broken pole through. But it wasn’t really designed for a pole that was broken in the way it was. So it didn’t fit through the connector.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 36:27
As it happened, it didn’t matter desperately because I was at a caravan park, the staff at the caravan park were just brilliant. And I have to say, I was absolutely surrounded by wonderful people that evening, who looked after me. That was a good time to be looked after. And they put me up in a caravan on a neighbouring caravan park, so that I wasn’t anywhere near him, so that I felt safe. And I only had one more days’ camping planned on my trip anyway. So it didn’t, it wasn’t terrible that my tent got broken. But it was quite a shocking experience. And particularly there, where I thought that I would be completely safe.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 37:05
Well, the sickness I felt in my tummy when you told me about that when we met, and when I read about it again in more detail. It was absolute horror. And knowing how precious that tent is to you, as a long-distance walker, that is your lifeline, that keeps you sheltered, keeps you safe. It’s your survival. And also you build up a relationship with your tent. And it sounds weird to people that don’t know, but you really do. And so yeah, I was horrified to read that. But so how did that leave you afterwards? Has that left feelings of doubt that you can do it again, has it left a negative taste?
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 37:44
That’s really interesting. Because the next day, I got up, we reported it to the police, I got up and I carried on walking because that’s what I was doing. What else was I going to do? And I met some really nice people in the next cove and had a chat with them about something completely different. They’d seen an octopus in a rock pool on the beach there years ago. And so we talked about the octopus, and it was just a wonderful distraction from what was going on in my head about about this man and my tent. A couple of days after what I think of as the attack on my tent by Angry Man, I was walking up Great Hangman, which is the highest point on the path on the South West Coast Path. It was a cloudy day, and it was windy. And there’s a cairn at the top. And I was brooding on the attack a little bit, which I think is perfectly reasonable because you need to allow your emotions to go through all of the phases that they need to go through. But I was thinking back to some of the other people that I had met during my adventures this summer. So on that summer, on the Malvern hills. I’ve met somebody called Julie La, and she blesses litter when she picks it up. And she also blesses the person who threw the litter. Because she says they just don’t yet know not to do it. They had they don’t understand inside themselves not to do it. So she blesses them. And I thought back to a man called Johnny who I met when I was camping, we’d spent an evening with him telling me his tales of going to India and finding himself and concluding that ‘everything is love’. And I thought too about Margot, who I’d also met on the path or seen on the path who believes in the power of karma. And as I got to the top of Great Hangman, I just I literally I sat at the top in the lea of the cairn and I shouted out blessings in the wind to Angry Man. So I figured that it wasn’t my tent that was making him angry. There was something else going on in his life, and I would prefer it if that wasn’t happening to him in his life, regardless of what he did to me. He was suffering somehow and I would prefer it if he wasn’t. So I called out blessings into the wind and I wish that the sun would shine on his face and a gentle wind would blow his back, and that he’d find happiness in life. And I sent those blessings out to him and I willed the wind to take them to him. And to have an impact on him. It’s not necessarily that I believe that that will work. But for me, it was an absolute release. And afterwards, I felt no real negative thoughts towards him at all. I really, whenever I meditate, I think about sending blessings about him still, and I think more in terms of hoping that he’ll heal rather than what he did to me.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 40:38
I still had a slight little nagging doubt at the back of my mind that when I next got into my tent, I might not find it a safe space. Because one of the things that you alluded to earlier is that you build a relationship with your tent, don’t you? This is your safe space. This is where you crawl in at the end of a tiring day. And it’s got your stuff exactly where you want it. And it’s the thing that keeps you safe. And I was just a little bit concerned that I sent my tent away to be fixed, which actually the Holiday Park owner paid for, which is fantastic.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 41:09
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 41:09
So my tent is functioning again as a tent, but I hadn’t been in it. And I put it up the other day, in preparation for walking Offa’s Dyke, which is my next adventure. I put it up just to make sure that everything was working properly after it had been repaired. And I crawled inside and I felt that sense of peace and comfort still going inside it. So I was really pleased that there there are no nagging doubts, I’m perfectly comfortable with going back out there and cracking on with it.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 41:37
I am so pleased to hear that. I am so so pleased. And what a poignant moment that time upon Great Hangman, I also had a poignant moment on top of Great Hangman. But perhaps that’s one for another day, it was just relating to losing my grandmother the day before. And I had tears, tears up the steps all the way to the top and I threw a stone onto the cairn and I heard a skylark at the same time. So now whenever I hear skylarks, I always think of my grandmother.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 42:07
It’s obviously a special place
Zoe Langley-Wathen 42:08
Yeah, it was a very special place. And I was walking up there and floods of tears. And yeah, so reading that and hearing that story is obviously I understand that the specialness of that place, but what a poignant thing, to be able to release all of that energy, that negative energy that you held, because of that attack. Because it’s not about the man it’s about, it’s about you and what you carry around with you. And if you can release that, then you’re free of the fear of it happening again. And I think having empathy and compassion and understanding about why that happened, knowing that it wasn’t directed at you has a BIG part to play. And I love what you were saying about, remember the lady’s name, maybe it was Margot. Can’t remember. But anyway, Maggie, that was it. The lady that sends blessings to the people who threw litter.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 42:58
Oh, Julie La, Julie La.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 43:01
Julie La. Yeah, so I have an issue with people who leave dog poo outside the boat. And, even in dog poo bags, they just leave them dotted around like the dog poo fairy is going to come and collect it. So yeah, I obviously need to turn that on its head and think Well, obviously, they just haven’t understood yet, why they need to pick it up. And yes, I’m going to work on that. But thank you for sharing it.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 43:29
It might make no difference to them. Who knows it might, but certainly to the person that’s feeling that and thinking that it’s much better to have that positive thought that’s right, and to just get angry about it every time.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 43:42
No, I understand that. It’s not a woo-woo thing that you’re casting a spell and something magical is going to happen out there. But it’s the magical thing that happens within you, isn’t it?
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 43:52
Zoe Langley-Wathen 43:53
That’s great. Okay, well, we’re coming to the end now Julia, of our conversation, and there’s a couple of things that I do want to ask you. You’ve already answered my question, my next question about what is happening next. You’ve said you’re going off to walk Offa’s Dyke. Is that this year or next year?
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 44:07
This year. This year.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 44:10
Fabulous. Okay, that’s good news.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 44:12
Yeah, yeah. I’ll be up on there soon. Yes. Needed to get the book published first. south to north.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 44:21
South to north. So you’re going Chepstow to Prestatyn.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 44:23
The way most people do it. Yes, that’s right.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 44:25
Yeah. Yeah, I um, I went the opposite way. I started at Prestatyn and walked south. And that was back in 2013 now. But yes, amazing, wonderful, wonderful walk.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 44:35
I think I think it might prove challenging at the end, because I will. I’ll want to just continue around the rest of Wales.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 44:41
Yes, well who knows, watch this space there. You’ll have to. I’m sure on the couple of hundred miles that you’ll be walking you’ll have plenty of time to consider whether that’s a viable option or not. A couple of hundred miles and then add another 870, then you’ll have circumnavigated the whole lot.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 45:03
I do know somebody who did that this year, walked the Wales path, and then decided to just finish it off by going up Offa’s Dyke and getting back to the beginning.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 45:09
Wonderful. Yes. Oh wow, yes the Perimeteers is a good good club to be in. And what a wonderful experience as well being able to say that you have walked the whole perimeter of a country.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 45:23
Zoe Langley-Wathen 45:24
I just wondered if you could, bearing in mind that this podcast is called the HeadRightOut podcast. And it’s all about encouraging women to step out of their comfort zone and do something that scares them, do something that they perhaps felt that they were previously unable to do. And I wondered if you haven’t covered this already, if perhaps you could describe a HeadRightOut Moment for you.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 45:49
Okay. I think the first one that springs to mind is when I was preparing to walk the South West Coast Path, I walked the Worcestershire way. The Worcestershire Way, if you’ve never done it is the most beautiful footpath. It’s just fabulous. It’s only thirty-one miles long. And I was using it, as it has a similar ascent to the South West Coast Path. So there’s lots of up and down. And it’s a short path. And I wanted to practice wild camping, on my own, not too far from home so that it felt safe. So this is me taking things in fairly small steps. My HeadRightOut Moment was when Mike walked with me for the first mile or two on the path and then headed back to the car. And then it was just me, my backpack and my tent, and it was going to be like that for the next two or three days. And I set off. And I just thought,’wow, I hope I can do this’. And then, “of course you can do this. Come on, Julia, you’ve got this’. And I haven’t looked back.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 46:55
And how long ago was that? Julia?
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 46:57
That was summer last year.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 46:58
That was last year, last year? Wow. Yeah. I mean, it’s really telling, isn’t it? Because we’ve gone through all of these years, wondering if we could ever possibly do things like this. And then when you do finally conquer it. You think, ‘why did I wait so long? Of course I can do it, I’ve just shown myself I can do it.’
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 47:20
Yeah, I’m not sure. I even wondered whether I could I just assumed I couldn’t. I just never even crossed my mind that I would be able to hike or camp on my own.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 47:28
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 47:30
It didn’t even occur to me. And then one day it did.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 47:35
Yeah, I totally understand that. And I think for those fifteen years that I was wanting to walk the South West Coast Path, I think it was, again, it was an assumption for me that I wasn’t athletic enough or fit enough. And it was big, strong burly men that did that. Not people like me. You’ll have to excuse the noise. We’ve got boats going by suddenly, suddenly getting dizzy. I deliberately drew the curtain to avoid having people waving at us as well.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 48:03
Julia, do you mind sharing your age?
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 48:06
Not at all. Sorry, I’m looking a bit dubious. Because I have to think about it. I’m fifty-one.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 48:10
Fifty-one, okay, great. And you do not look 51. But it’s not that that comes into it. But Wow. So yeah, so this, this has been a lifetime of perhaps needing to do things then and not realising that you could do them. And now you’ve discovered that that you are a resilient, strong, capable woman that is capable of so much more.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 48:36
Absolutely. And I can do things on my own and thoroughly love doing things on my own. And I’ll survive. Yes, it’s so freeing. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful feeling. It’s liberating.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 48:50
Well, Julia, thank you so much. This has been such an uplifting conversation. And yeah, I’ve really enjoyed it. And I’m sure the listeners will do too.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 48:59
Thank you Zoe. I hope so, thank you.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 49:00
And now, obviously, that we’ve got some places that we would love to be able to send the listeners so are there some social media contacts where people can get in touch with you, where they can buy your book, Live Your Bucket List?
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 49:14
Well, it’s available on Amazon so you can search Live Your Bucket List, or go to my website, which is juliags.com. So that’s it for Goodfellow-Smith, juliags.com and I am juliagsadventure, across social media. So have a look for me, Instagram and Facebook.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 49:36
Brilliant. Well, I will I will be directing everybody there. I’m going to put all of those links in the show notes.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 49:42
Thank you very much.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 49:43
Thank you, Julia. That was an absolutely cracking interview, and yes, I look forward to chatting to you again sometime. But good luck with the Offa’s Dyke and with all of your future adventures, and happy HeadRightOut-ing.
Julia Goodfellow-Smith 49:56
Thank you very much, Zoe.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 49:57
Zoe Langley-Wathen 50:06
How wonderful was that? Well, I hope you got so much from that conversation with Julia, because I certainly did. I felt such a strong connection with so many things Julia had said to us, and in particular, the need to rethink the way you see a bad situation. Gosh, she really turned that on its head for me. And that was a real eye opener. It’s a positive and healthy approach. It’s fabulous. Now, whether you’re an experienced adventure or about to plan a first trip, I would seriously recommend that you go and buy Julia’s book. It’s available on Amazon, and the link will be in the show notes. I absolutely enjoyed it and value the methodical way she that she structured it, I like systems too, just like Julia. Everything was just so well explained, and I loved how she connected each way of organizing and planning for your bucket list dream, how she then related it to a particular story on her South West Coast Path adventure. It wasn’t in chronological order. So I really liked that.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 51:06
Okay, so next week, we have Sarah Williams joining us for a special birthday episode. Is that a special birthday, or a special episode? It’s both. So it’s a fabulous conversation, and I cannot wait for you to hear it.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 51:30
This is the section where I invite listeners to share a HeadRightOut Moment with me to celebrate with everybody else. Now it can be really hard doing scary stuff. And I understand that. Taking risks and feeling brave is so difficult for some people. But the benefits from having a go are massive. Even if you don’t succeed fully in the outcome, the positive impact from having a go at something, even if you haven’t succeeded is going to be massive for your mental health. And if you’re doing something active, especially in the outdoors, that’s great for your body as well. So this week’s HeadRightOut Moment has come from Annie. She’s on Instagram, TheBotBeyondTheBrainz, that’s with a ‘Z’. And she contacted me after I requested some HeadRightOut Moments. And this is what she shares.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 52:23
So every November right before seasonal depression hits hard here in Berlin, Germany. I grabbed my bike and cycle off to the sea. It started because of a song I love by Laura Marling, ‘I Speak Because I Can’, in which she sings she wishes she’d taken her bike out to the sea, but she never did. And seasonal depression makes me feel all kinds of hopeless and well, sad. So I took my bike one Saturday morning at 6 am and went to the sea… 220 kilometres away. I arrived in the dark at around midnight, and could only hear the water. Not see it. But the memories got me through most of the winter. And now, every year, come November, I take my bike up to the sea. It’s cold. It’s glorious and highly recommendable. Oh, that is just beautiful. Thank you so much Annie.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 53:25
So Annie is a writer and comic artist. She’s a climber and an endurance athlete. She’s a cyclist, and a scientist. I just checked her out on Instagram. So I suggest if you want to check out more about what Annie is up to, particularly with her cycling, you can head over to Instagram. Her grid is thebotbeyondthebrainzz. That’s with a ‘z’ and I will put a link to that in the show notes too.
Zoe Langley-Wathen 53:50
So we’ve come to the end of the show. Please join us next time for the HeadRightOut podcast, and I’ll look forward to hearing some HeadRightOut Moments from you. Remember, aim to do something that scares you every day. Build your resilience by trying new things, tell yourself you can instead of you can’t. And don’t forget to hit follow or subscribe please just tell your friends about the HeadRightOut podcast and help me to grow, grow grow. I’d love for as many women as possible to hear the messages that me and my lovely guests have to offer, and will be offering over the course of the next few episodes and seasons, as it develops. Okay, don’t hide in. You go out there and HeadRightOut. You know you’ve got what it takes. HeadRightOut hugs, love to you all.