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One man and his dog: from Budapest to London

Written by Wes Masters

Society’s perceptions of hard and easy are interesting; my experiences throughout my life have shown me what human beings are capable of in times of adversity, my time as a medic in the army especially.

That’s not to say I haven’t come across obstacles, physical or mental, to challenge my strength, in fact two years after leaving the military, the cracks were beginning to show. Depression had forced me to isolate myself so much that my girlfriend at the time finally moved out. I felt like I couldn’t go on anymore, there was what felt like a physical force crushing me, and it had reduced me to a fraction of the man I was. In a moment, one Sunday morning, I fully gave up and planned to jump from Tower Bridge. Luckily, I was with a friend at the time who refused to let this happen and I owe him everything.

The next day I was at university and saw a fundraising rowing event for CALM and that was the moment I thought “I should probably speak to someone”. It was 20 minutes into a free counselling session that same day and I could already see a way to fix my problem and overcome this obstacle, and I haven’t needed to return since. Now, I finally trust people around me with the stories of things I’ve seen and how it makes me feel, and I feel stronger than ever.

I planned a trip, an adventure or a challenge, however you’d like to label it: I was taking my dog (Reg) to Budapest in Hungary, with everything we needed to live in the wild, and we were walking back (after veterinary advice of course). People’s reaction to this news was interesting, depending on their perceptions of what was hard or easy to them. But for me it was an easy decision to make, and due to most people’s perceptions of it I decided to fundraise for CALM.

Hungary was the biggest challenge for me and Reg, as instantly the mental obstacle of being alone dug its claws into my determination. But only months before, through counselling, I had learned to rely on people in my life and after two phone calls we were back on track.

Physically it was demanding: temperatures were around 36 degrees, my pack was nearing 30kg, we had to average 20 miles a day, and Reg wouldn’t eat. After six days like this we were offered a lift to Slovenia and after what I’d recently learnt about allowing people to help me in times of need, we took the ride and I swear Reg thanked me with his eyes.

Slovenia was the most incredible country I’ve ever been to and we spent a week in the mountains of the Triglavski National Park. It was a tight squeeze in the tent at night, and the bond between the two of us was indescribable as we spent almost every minute together. We also came to realise it was no longer about the physical test of ‘head down, crack on’ but more so just being out there in nature.

Meeting new people, learning new languages, and the amount of love we were shown in so many ways began to flush everything I’d seen out of my system. We were washing and bathing in lakes and rivers and as a result I had pushed a stone into my foot, so after resting completely for a day to squeeze it out we headed for the border with Austria, and into the Austrian Alps. We were running out of money, and on the final day of walking Reg’s feet had started to bleed.

A month had passed since we left England, we’d walked around 325 miles and I called a stop to the adventure. We hitchhiked from central Austria to central Germany, where we caught a train to Rotterdam and reunited with the lovely Dutch couple who were waiting to take us to the ferry port.

If you ever travel with your dog just make sure you get them wormed 24 hours prior to attempting to get back into the UK, something I did not do. So, after getting Reg to the vets for some tablets and finding out he’d lost 6kg in weight, we had 24 hours to kill and the Dutch couple were kind enough to invite us back to their campsite. What they did not say, however, until it was too late, was that their campsite was completely nudist! But that’s a story for another day…

“Don’t hesitate or allow yourself to make excuses. Just get out and do it. You will be very, very glad that you did.” – Christopher McCandless

Love, Wes and Reg.

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