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Tue 11 Aug 20
In the summer of 2019, Essex computer science student Joshua Meads walked solo from the UK to Rome, raising money to combat climate change. So what does the future hold for this committed globetrotter?
“This time last year, I think I was in Switzerland. No, probably in Italy by now.”
For computer science student Joshua Meads, the summer of 2019 was far from restful.
Having completed his Foundation Year, he was “looking for something to do”.
That "something" turned out to be a solo trek from Canterbury in the UK to Rome, raising funds to plant trees and combat climate change.
“I just put one foot in front of the other, 2.8 million times."
Joshua walked alone for up to twelve hours a day, following the Via Francigena through England and France, then across the Alps into Switzerland, then Italy.
He endured blisters and some of Europe’s hottest weather on record, but - a year on - is still focused on the generosity of those he met.
“I met some really lovely local people who took me in and cooked for me, but I also spent a lot of the time very tired, sometimes running on four, five hours of sleep.”
After 92 days, he reached the gates of Vatican City, raising over £5000 – enough to plant 5000 trees.
“It was really amazing. My dad got this amazing picture of the moment I sat down when I arrived in Saint Peter's Square. I was like, ‘I made it, yeah?’”
After such an overwhelming experience, it was inevitable that returning to university would require some adjustment.
“Being back at Essex was a little rough in the beginning. I was just finding it hard to be inside, working. The doctor said it was basically because I'd been outside so much, been so active. But I turned it around.
“When the coronavirus struck, though, I didn’t want to get stuck. We were allowed to return home, so I left campus a week before the end of term.
He thinks his experiences trekking across Europe may actually have helped during the initial period of lockdown.
“Fortunately, I have a high tolerance for boredom. I mean, walking from Canterbury to Rome, I did the same thing every day for three months. Doing things like that, you generally build up a tolerance for boredom.
“So, being at home has been alright. I tried to try to do a couple of online courses, but it was difficult to focus.
“I had my PS4, my computer games and, for most part, I just played them.”
“I can’t pretend I’m not anxious about the new term.”
“I'm just kind of going to go for it and see what happens. I hope I can hang out with my friends because me and my friends, we support each other. If one person understands something and another person doesn't, that person explains it to them.”
Looking ahead, further fundraising is definitely part of the plan.
“I was going to do the Camino de Santiago with my father. It’s about 900km and I was going to try and get as many people as possible to walk with me and raise money for climate change, but I want to see what's going on with the coronavirus first.
“Further ahead, I'd love to do this walk called Te Araroa. It's from one end of New Zealand to the other.
“I spent a couple of months in New Zealand when I was younger and it’s a really amazing place. The walk is 3048 kilometres of pretty wild trekking. It's a massive undertaking, but maybe some day.”