Friday, 18 October
I woke up the next morning with the sun streaming into my room, and I got out of bed to look out the window and check out the surroundings which I hadn’t been able to see when I arrived well after dark the previous evening.
When I had checked in, the manager apologized that he was short on available rooms, and asked if I’d be okay with him upgrading me to a suite at the regular dorm room price. My room was larger than any house or apartment I had lived in before. It had beds I wouldn’t even need to use, and couches I’d probably never sit in. And to think that a mere 24 hours earlier I had woken up in the dirt in an abandoned pear orchard!
I walked over to the balcony doors and flung them open to let the breeze from Lake Beysehir blow over my face. My room looked out to the west over the lake, and I could see the hills on the other side.
I began to get dressed to go downstairs for the hotel breakfast. I was starved! After breakfast I planned to go out and scout around for some supplies, and then I would hurry back and relax in the room and take in the surrounding scenery while handling some administrative details—emails, photos, and the like.
But suddenly I doubled over. An old familiar piercing cramp began to grip my abdomen. I had felt these every couple years since my mid-20s, and I knew I would be completely disabled on the floor for three or four days beginning right now, and then they would go away as if nothing had ever happened. It was a good thing I’d followed the premonition that I should walk a two days’ journey in one day and get to Beysehir. I definitely wouldn’t want to have these cramps while on the road. I’d probably be lying on my back next to the road somewhere.
So, though I had one of the most amazing locations of any hotel, I spent most of those four days in Beysehir writhing on my back on the floor, looking up at the ceiling, groaning. The staff at the hotel were very good to me during this time, taking pity on this strange tall skinny American who had thought he’d walk across their country, and now just over a quarter of the way through, lay flat on his back on the floor of his suite groaning day after day. They brought me food and drink when they could and drove me to the pharmacy so I could get medication.
I was at a low point. I was ready to quit and do something else. My online followers began writing me after a day or two wondering where I was. They told me where they were and what they were doing. One was doing a spoken-word performance. My dad was was planting a garden in his backyard. My brother and his wife were going to have a baby. What was I doing? Lying on the floor hoping my insides would get moving again, so I could get rid of whatever was causing this cramp. I hadn’t even been able to get to the window to enjoy the sunset over the lake.
Not only was I in pain, I was lonely, despondent, and bored with myself. I always got bored with myself. I had a job in Seattle. I got bored and quit. I bought a house in Seattle. I sold it when I was bored with that. I was 42, and I’d done a lot of things. I’d gotten bored with a lot of things. I’d quit a lot of things because I was bored. Now I was seeing the things people got when they pushed through the boredom, and I wanted those things!
I needed help!
I emailed Rory Stuart, a Scottish author who wrote The Places In Between, about his trek across Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and who had been one of my inspirations for doing this walk across Turkey. I asked him what he did during his low moments. He emailed me back right away that day, saying, “During my low moments I found it was important to concentrate on the spaces in between my breaths. Breathe out and then breathe in. Then live in that space. Think of nothing else. Just concentrate on those spaces and let time pass. The bad feelings will pass.” This is what he recommended for me. And that was some of the best advice I ever got.
My breath was very shallow because of the abdominal cramps so I had a lot of spaces to live in. I lay on my back for about three days and each day let them know at the reception desk that I was going to stay one more day.
I used to think it would be a fascinating thing to walk across an entire country. I had followers who thought it was a fascinating thing I was doing, walking across an entire country. Turkey, nonetheless! Not just the US, or England, but Turkey! Behind the scenes, though, it was really boring. I walked, and I looked for places to sleep. Today I was waiting for my bowels to move.
I had 74% of the walk left to go. What would I find there? Now, in the spaces between my breath, I knew that my job—my mission—was to overcome my nature, and to engage in something so boring and tedious that I couldn’t help but want to quit, and to finish it anyway.
I vowed that when these cramps passed in a few days, I would push through whatever boredom came after that, and finish what I had started.
On my last day in Beysehir I began feeling better and hadn’t had cramps for the whole day. I figured that the next day I would start walking again. So I went into town to do some exploring and pick up some winter clothes. It was starting to get pretty cold.
I walked around in some of the markets and found a sweater and a scarf that I could use and then just walked around the market again. I saw a stall with thermal underwear and stopped to buy some. I was ready to leave and then found a wool hat. I figured that might just be the most important purchase I’d made that day. Then I was ready to continue walking the next day.
All that day I felt the old vacillation between wanting to hang on to the comfort I’d had the last few nights and would be having this one last night and the dread of not knowing where I would sleep the night after that and that I had a huge project I needed to get done. The pole between the two was ever-present, even when I was laid up and unable to walk.
So I finished my time in Beysehir,—not a bad place to have fallen sick. It had some friendly, helpful people. There was food nearby. I was staying in a large suite with a nice view. And that evening I did get to watch the sunset. Now it was time to move on.