Former soldier’s flash of inspiration that led to unbelievable 12,000-mile journey

Former soldier Christian Lewis was battling despair and going through homelessness when he had a flash of inspiration that led him on a 12,000-mile journey on foot

The life-changing epiphany that might take Christian Lewis on a 12,000-mile ­journey on foot from ­despair ­to pleasure by way of an uninhabited Scottish island­ ­occurred on a surfboard.

Whereas battling despair and going through homelessness, the previous soldier would discover respite from his suicidal ideas by browsing at a close-by seashore.

And it was whereas driving the waves that he had a flash of inspiration to aim to stroll all the shoreline of the UK, a problem that to date has taken him practically six years.

On that mammoth trek, he has discovered the companionship of a canine, the love of a fellow ­traveller, fatherhood as soon as extra… and he has raised £280,000 for a charity near this coronary heart. That’s one big joyous wave to trip, all because of the smaller ones he tackled that fateful day on ­Llangennith seashore on the Gower ­Peninsula in Wales.

Now Christian has written a guide, Discovering Hildasay, which is known as after a distant island off the Shetland mainland the place he spent three months through the first lockdown.

Picture: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock) Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

The guide, written on a notepad whereas travelling, has his personal psychological well being journey because the driving drive behind the story of his journey.

“I believed it might be one thing good to look again on in years to come back, and attempt to get as most of the experiences down as potential.

“It was additionally vital to me to speak in regards to the psychological well being aspect of issues and present which you can come out of a darkish gap, there may be hope for everyone that issues will get higher,” he says. Christian, now 42, left the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment in 2005, after successful custody of his daughter Caitlin.

However he struggled as a single dad or mum, and it was Caitlin’s choice to go away house when she turned 16 that drove him on to make a change.

Christian had mounting payments, debt and the tenancy on his rented flat was coming to an finish, after which he come across his huge thought.

On August 1 2017, he set out on his stroll from his house metropolis of Swansea with simply £10 in his pocket and tenting provides. At first, he struggled, going days with out meals and attempting to sleep in a leaking tent.

Picture: PA) PA)

However he refused to surrender, deciding to fundraise for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, as that they had supplied him assist when he was unwell.

He usually relied on the kindness of strangers who helped him as he took on his fundraising mission. Properly-wishers purchased him a brand new tent when his outdated one received destroyed by harsh winds and supplied him meals and locations to remain.

Regardless of the assist, he admits he typically felt lonely.

However issues modified in March 2018 when he adopted Jet, a lurcher cross who would develop into his devoted travelling companion.

“I knew she hadn’t been effectively taken care of, however we appeared to recognise one thing in one another and we hit it off instantly,” he says. “Trying again I can see that I used to be nonetheless somewhat bit damaged and she or he was too. She simply adopted me and that was that.

“After I was within the Military I used to be all the time with individuals, it was very a lot a teamwork factor and I had by no means spent weeks alone in the course of nowhere.

“Having Jet with me introduced a brand new aspect to the stroll, as I had ­anyone to take care of once more. I couldn’t ask for a greater canine, she is so loyal.”

Christian was tenting in Whaligoe, on the North East tip of Scotland, in November 2020 when he met his future fiancee, Kate Barron, 36.

“It was a case of being in the precise place on the proper time,” he says. “I used to be camped on the backside of cliffs and she or he seen my tent so she came visiting and briefly stopped to speak to me.

“Then, an hour later, Kate returned with some fish and chips and a few beers, and requested to camp subsequent to me. We instantly clicked and spent the entire evening chatting.”

Kate had initially deliberate to go on a round-the-world journey, however her plans had been thwarted by the pandemic.

As a substitute, she had been driving and tenting round Scotland.

The following morning, Kate needed to go away to return to her job as a instructor coach. However six weeks later she joined him on his stroll, the place she has remained by his aspect ever since.

His guide, Discovering Hildasay, which is out now, focuses on the experiences Christian had earlier than assembly Kate.

He paperwork how he realized to forage for meals reminiscent of crabs so he may eat whereas tenting on the UK’s rugged coastlines.

And he describes how he spent lockdown on Hildasay, which has no electrical energy or heating, together with a story of how he reunited a message in a bottle with its proprietor after 20 years.

Christian’s journey understandably has modified since Kate gave delivery to their son Magnus final Could.

They now not may keep in tents, so Christian used a number of the cash from his guide deal to purchase a car which he transformed right into a camper van. Magnus is strapped to his dad and mom in a sling whereas they stroll.

And the household’s journey isn’t over but. Whereas talking to the Mirror, ­Christian was about to board a ferry to go away the Channel Islands for Weymouth, Dorset.

He says: “We nonetheless have the South West of England to cowl, then we’ll go as much as Bristol then again over the Severn Bridge into Wales.

“I count on it’ll take one other 5 months to complete. With Kate and I having a child issues are completely different and we’re making slower progress, however we’re actually having fun with it. We need to convey Magnus as much as love and recognize the skin world and nature.”

The pair are planning to marry as soon as their problem is completed.

Christian says doing his stroll, ­estimated at greater than 12,000 miles, has made him the happiest man.

He provides: “If anyone had informed me I’d be crossing the end line as a severely blissful man with a household, I’d have laughed at them.

“Caitlin can also be happy with me. I needed to indicate her that if you happen to put your thoughts to something you are able to do it. It’s been an unbelievable expertise.”

Discovering Hildasay: How one man walked the UK’s shoreline and located hope and happiness by Christian Lewis is out now, £16.99.

To donate to SSAFA, go to justgiving.com/fundraising/chriswalks